UK

D-Day Veteran Bernard Jordan Leaves Entire Estate To RNLI

29/01/2015 08:32 GMT | Updated 29/01/2015 08:59 GMT

A war veteran who slipped away from his care home to attend last year's 70th anniversary D-Day events has left his and his wife's entire estate to the RNLI, the charity has said.

Bernard Jordan died aged 90 on December 30 - six months after he was nicknamed the Great Escaper following his cross-Channel adventure last summer.

His wife Irene then died seven days later, aged 88. The couple's entire estate, worth around £600,000, has now been left to the RNLI, the charity's officials said in a statement.

bernard jordan

Bernard Jordan

RNLI chief executive Paul Boissier said: "This is absolutely wonderful, unexpected news.

"Bernard's story charmed the nation last year when he journeyed from his Sussex care home to France to commemorate the D-Day landings.

"That spirit, that determination, is embedded deep within the psyche of our volunteer lifeboat crews who go to sea to save others in peril on the sea.

"I am delighted that the couple chose to leave us this sizeable donation, and their contribution, like those of Bernard's veteran peers, will never be forgotten."

An RNLI spokesman said the legacy came as a "huge surprise" but believed the couple's admiration stemmed from Jordan's time in the Royal Navy in the Second World War.

Guy Rose, the legal admin manager for the RNLI, said: "This is a wonderful gift from Bernard and Irene.

"He really made a name for himself last year and there can't be many who weren't touched by his story.

"Gifts left in wills are so valuable to the RNLI and they ensure we can continue our life-saving work for people in, on or near the water."

Jordan, known as Bernie, captured the nation's hearts when he travelled to D-Day events in Normandy wearing his war medals and grey mac.

His disappearance sparked a police search last June 5 and his whereabouts emerged only when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Jordan and he was safe.

Jordan, an ex-mayor of Hove, told reporters on his return that his aim was to remember his fallen "mates".

He had decided to join British veterans, most making their final pilgrimage to revisit the scene of their momentous invasion, to remember the heroes of the liberation of Europe.

Some 156,000 Allied troops landed on the five invasion beaches on June 6 1944, sparking an 80-day campaign to liberate Normandy involving three million troops and costing 250,000 lives.

Jordan had hoped to return to Normandy this June. Brittany Ferries, which carried him across the Channel last summer, offered him free crossings to D-Day events for the rest of his life after learning of his exploits.

Following his death, the Royal British Legion said Jordan's decision to go to France highlighted "the spirit that epitomises the Second World War generation".

On his 90th birthday, days after he returned from his escapade, he was inundated with more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world.

Jordan was later made an honorary alderman of Brighton and Hove in a special ceremony at Brighton Town Hall.

He joined an elite list to receive the honour, including Burmese democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, former Olympic champion Steve Ovett, and First World War hero Henry Allingham, who became the world's oldest man before his death aged 113 in 2009.

A funeral service for the couple will be held in East Sussex on Friday.