Page last updated at 23:50 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Veterans reject D-Day cash offer

 D-Day landing in Normandy, France
The D-Day landings in 1944 heralded the end of World War II

A veterans' association has rejected an offer of Lottery funding for a trip to mark the 65th anniversary this summer of the D-Day landings in France.

The Normandy Veterans Association said it would not accept the money at this late stage.

It said it had almost raised enough with the help of a national newspaper.

The government has said it will provide support for those wishing to travel, but has not clarified exactly what help will be available.

Earlier on Friday, the Big Lottery Fund announced it will pay for veterans to attend the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy in June.

But Peter Hodge, honorary general secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association, said it was too late.

I hope it will give us the chance to thank and remind ourselves of the sacrifice that was made by so many people
Gordon Brown on a possible service at Westminster Abbey

"There is no way in the world I am going to agree with the National Lottery standing up and saying they sent our veterans to Normandy in the 65th anniversary," he said.

"The people of this country have put the money together and the veterans this year will be going to Normandy with the blessing and the appreciation of the British people and there is no way, that 10 weeks before the kick-off, that they are going to take the credit for this."

'Appropriate attendance'

On Friday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wanted to be "very much part" of this year's commemorations of the landings in Nazi-occupied France, which marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Brown said he hoped there would be a commemoration service at Westminster Abbey.

"I hope it will give us the chance to thank and remind ourselves of the sacrifice that was made by so many people who are part of a great generation of heroes for our country," he said.

He added: "President Sarkozy and I have been talking about what we can do together to commemorate this important occasion not just for Britain but for the whole of Europe."

His comments came after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) went back on a previous decision and said it would provide support for veterans who wanted to mark the anniversary.

The MoD said it would provide support so that veterans could participate and ensure there would be "appropriate British attendance".

Minister for Veterans Kevan Jones will be meeting the Normandy Veterans Association's leaders next week to discuss the issue.

The MoD had previously said it was policy to provide funding only to commemorate 25th, 50th, 60th and 100th anniversaries of nationally important events.

Last chance

For many of the D-Day veterans, the 65th anniversary will be their last chance to remember the sacrifices made on 6 June 1944.

It is estimated 500 UK veterans are still fit enough to make the journey to Normandy.

The Big Lottery Fund said it would offer financial support to any veterans who wanted to attend 65th anniversary events overseas.

"Our offer includes Normandy veterans wanting to attend events in June of this year," it said in a statement. "But we want to extend our offer to all servicemen who saw action in other theatres during the Second World War.

"Full details will be announced next week."

Five years ago, every veteran received a grant of £330 from the Lottery Fund to pay for their trip to commemorate the 60th anniversary.

The Allied Forces' landings on France's Channel coast in 1944 spearheaded the campaign to liberate western Europe from the Nazis.

It proved successful, although thousands of lives were lost, and within a year World War II in Europe was over.

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