Hove: Funeral of Bernard and Irene Jordan

30 January 2015, 13:34

A D-Day veteran who warmed hearts the world over when he “escaped” from his care home to attend the 2014 commemorations in France has left his entire estate to the charity that saves lives at sea.

Dozens of mourners gathered at the funeral service of a war veteran who sprang to international prominence when he left his care home to attend last year's 70th anniversary D-Day events.

Bernard Jordan died aged 90 on December 30 - six months after earning the nickname the Great Escaper for his cross-Channel escapade last summer.

Seven days after Mr Jordan's death, his wife Irene also died, aged 88, prompting tributes to the couple who it emerged this week left their entire #£00,000 estate to the RNLI.

Mourners, including war veterans and RNLI members, packed St Michael and All Angels Church in Brighton, East Sussex, for the couple's joint funeral.

Brighton and Hove mayor Brian Fitch paid tribute to Mr Jordan's exploits in France, saying they showed his "determination, focus, selflessness and commitment'' to honour a cause he believed in.

Around 150 mourners gathered as Mr Jordan's coffin, draped in the Union flag and topped with his medals and a wreath of poppies, arrived at church in front of his wife's.

Assistant curate Father Mark Lyon, who led the service, said: "It's a great privilege to give thanks for the lives of Bernie and Rene.

"Although Bernie made the headlines, it's a testament to the depth of her that Rene would not allow him to make this final journey alone.

"In this we can take comfort, knowing that they make their journey into eternity together, hand in hand.''

Mr and Mrs Jordan, who did not have children, had been married for 59 years and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 2005.

As a former mayor of Hove, the service was told Mr Jordan had been a long-serving community stalwart before his trip to last year's D-Day commemorations.

Paying tribute, Mr Fitch said Mr Jordan "had a flare for being outrageous'' and that Brighton and Hove had "lost two of its dearest souls''.

He said: "Bernie, in what were to be the last few months of his life, became a national and international figure due to his trip to France and his desire to participate in the Normandy Landings commemorations.

"What really captured the public's imagination was not his own scheduled flit from the Pines (care home) but the character of the man - a person determined to honour and value his comrades despite his increasing age and less than perfect health.''

Mr Fitch also paid tribute to Mrs Jordan as "demure and quiet'', adding that "she was the perfect foil for her gregarious and big-hearted husband''.

Dennis Smith, the husband of one of the couple's nieces, told the service that the Jordans were "different characters'' who complemented each other.

Mr Smith said Mrs Jordan took a great interest in the Royal Family, particularly the younger generation.

And she acted as an "assertive'' figure, often keeping her husband grounded during his "flights of fancy''.

He added that her death, just days after her husband, came as she "saw little prospect of a life without him''.

After the Last Post sounded, Royal British Legion standard bearers lowered their flags before mourners filed out of the church ahead of a private committal.

Mr Jordan's disappearance to Normandy last June 5 sparked a police search that led to him being catapulted to international attention.

His whereabouts emerged only when a younger veteran phoned later that night to say he had met Mr Jordan and he was safe.

Royal Navy veteran Mr Jordan 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.

Mr 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.

Following his death, the Royal British Legion said Mr 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.

Mr 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.