Fears that red tape may put Norwich Normandy veterans’ D-Day pilgrimage at risk

PUBLISHED: 14:30 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:30 22 April 2014

Jack Woods, secretary of the Norwich branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association.  Photo: Bill Smith

Jack Woods, secretary of the Norwich branch of the Normandy Veterans' Association. Photo: Bill Smith

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A Normandy veteran has raised fears that a 70th-anniversary pilgrimage to the site of the D-Day landings could be put in jeopardy by French bureaucracy.

Jack Woods, secretary of the Norwich and District Normandy Veterans’ Association, is planning a coach trip of 15 former servicemen to France for what could be the final major commemoration of the June 6 landings, which signalled the start of the Allied liberation of mainland Europe. However, French authorities have said only people with the necessary passes will be allowed into the area on the day.

Mr Woods, 90, filled in dozens of forms for veterans, carers and other members of his coach party by the April 19 deadline, and returned them to the national Normandy Veterans’ Association to pass on to the Ministry of Defence. However, he said he had a “gut feeling” that something could go wrong, and raised concerns that passes may be restricted to a limited number of veterans who were “cherry picked”.

He said: “We have been over every year for five years building up to this, going on pilgrimage. We are still going on pilgrimage, but we are clashing with all these heads of state, all these people who will take precedence.

“The Normandy veterans are survivors of the battle and fought in France, Holland and Belgium and Germany and won the war for them. They are virtually the liberators of Europe and should be treated as such.”

He added: “Nobody stopped them going there in 1944. No one is going to stop them now.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “These restrictions have been put in place by French authorities in accordance with practises used in previous years. We are working closely with the Normandy Veterans’ Association and the Royal British Legion to ensure that all veterans wishing to attend the commemorations have all the information and support they need to register for the key events.”

Will you commemorate the D-Day anniversary? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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