Runaway D-Day veteran and former Hove mayor Bernie Jordan has been honoured by Brighton and Hove City Council.
Mr Jordan, 90, made headlines around the world after making his own way to Normandy in May for the 70th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings.
He was reported missing from the Pines nursing home, in Furze Hill, Hove, where he lives with his wife Irene.
Now he has been made an honorary alderman of Brighton and Hove, with the current mayor, Brian Fitch, calling him “a living legend” in a ceremony at Brighton Town Hall yesterday (Thursday 17 July).
Councillor Fitch said that Mr Jordan was “a former Royal Navy officer, former mayor and former leader of the council, a former Conservative and now a former of public opinion in as much as his recent exploits delighted the media and entertained the general public”.
The mayor said: “They worried his friends at the Pines and completely bemused his family.
“Bernard Jordan is the nearest thing to a living legend that our city has. He bears this public title lightly. It is one that is well deserved and has been earned over many years.
“Mr Jordan was elected to Hove Borough Council in 1967 and he stayed right through to the merger in 1997 when he served Brighton and Hove.
“During that time he was leader for eight years and mayor of Hove for the civic year of 1995-96.
“In the year 2000 Bernie changed his political views and joined Labour.
“On his 90th birthday and having found international fame by absconding from the Pines nursing home to join the Normandy landing commemorations, he found himself the recipient not of dozens but around 3,000 birthday cards – not just from Brighton and Hove, not just from the United Kingdom, but from right around the world.
“Not that all the international attention appears to have gone to his head. Still married to the love of his life Irene, Bernie retains a sage and cool world view albeit one with a twinkle and a spry sense of fun.
“During his time on active service Bernie served on a destroyer hunting U-boats, at one point boarding a crippled submarine to recover one of the Enigma machines that proved so vital in changing the course of the war – an act that contributed to him being awarded the Atlantic Star medal.
“It’s his mix of self-effacing bravery and humour, wisdom, warmth, experience and perspective that has prompted me to nominate Bernie as an honorary alderman of the city of Brighton and Hove.
“I’m delighted as the current mayor to be able to reach across the years and offer my hand on behalf of the council in recognition of your years of service and the honour that you have brought our city.”
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “What we see in evidence in today is clearly that being a council leader is one of the secrets to everlasting youth.
“I was very interested to learn of his many achievements.
“Helping recover the Enigma was a huge step in decoding German communications and also all the work around that helped move forward computer science many decades in the space of a few years.
“Thank you for all your amazing contributions.”
He said that Mr Jordan was “highly worthy of this honour”.
The opposition Conservative group leader and former East Sussex County Council leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “As an ex-leader of a county council it gives us all hope as far as age is concerned.
“Bernie has fulfilled all the requirements to be an honorary alderman of this city having served the Hove Borough Council for 23 years – an ex-leader of that council and an ex-mayor.
“I’ve known Bernie for very many years and I certainly remember him when I was leader of the county council and I invited all the district leaders to come for meetings.
“Bernie was always arguing vociferously on behalf of Hove Borough Council.
“Bernie is a man of many surprises. If I’d looked around at all my colleagues at the time, Bernie would have been the last one that I would have suspected to have crossed the floor.
“The other surprise was his exploits to join so many comrades in Normandy.
“That really must have been quite a journey. And I very much hope that he will be able to go next year.
“Already a building has been named after Bernie. There is a Jordan Court. So there is already recognition but I hope Bernie will be pleased with this.”
The opposition Labour group leader Warren Morgan said: “Few people get the chance or have the sense of duty to do something that gives back to their community or their country.
“Bernie Jordan has done that not once, not twice, but three times.
“As a Royal Navy officer in the Second World War, Bernie won the respect of his peers as one of the millions of members of the Armed Services who bravely and selflessly defended the freedoms we enjoy today.
“As a Hove councillor for two decades, Bernie served his ward and the town with quiet dedication, winning him the respect of residents across the political spectrum.
“He led his party, the council and served his town as mayor with distinction.
“Then in June, Bernie’s actions in making his way alone to the 70th anniversary events on the Normandy beaches, where so many members of our Armed Services sacrificed so much, earned him the affection and the respect of the nation.”
Christopher Hawtree said: “When I first read about this on Twitter I thought this was the stuff of an Ealing comedy or a Jack Rosenthal play. It’s marvellous.
“I was incredibly touched to reflect on his time on the North Atlantic convoys.
“It’s unimaginable to us today on a sunny day like this to picture those dark nights in all weathers – who knows what’s beneath the surface.
“What Mr Jordan went through, I don’t think any of us can quite picture.
“I’m enormously grateful to him for his wartime service and all the people he represents – so many of those who didn’t survive the war, so many who have since died.”
His long-time former colleague and fellow former leader of Hove Borough Council Garry Peltzer Dunn said: “I’ve had the pleasure of serving under Bernie and doing what I was told.
“He then had the dubious pleasure of serving under me and totally disregarding what I said.
“Serving with Bernie for a quarter of a century, he never once talked about his military service.
“And I think that is the man. He did the job when it had to be done but he didn’t revel in it and he certainly didn’t boast about it.
“As one of the recipients of what Bernie did, being of the next generation, I’m truly grateful.
“When I first started serving on Hove Borough Council, all the members looked pretty old. And in all honesty, they were.
“I was told to keep quiet for six months. I remember Bernie, after about three months, said to me you’ve kept quiet far too long. You’ve been bursting to say something so go ahead and say it.
“Bernie is the complete example of a Great Briton. And as a Great Briton he really pushed the principle of freedom of movement through the EEC.
“What he did that day and the day after was amazing.
“Mr Mayor, what you have instigated today is long overdue. It took his escapade to wake us up but that’s what Bernie did to a lot of people – woke us up.”
Mr Jordan said: “Thank you for those kind words, Mr Mayor.
“My general feelings are – a short while ago I did the journey from the nursing home where I live right up to the very tip of northern Scotland.
“And I thought what a marvellous country this is and what a marvellous people it is and they’re worth every action you had to do to defend this country. I’m proud to do that.
“Thank you to everybody who’s been saying nice things about me today.”
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