D-Day veteran rushed to hospital after returning from 80th anniversary commemorations

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Jim Belcher was taken to Salford General after returning from Normandy.

A Wigan war hero was rushed to hospital just hours after returning from the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in Normandy.

James ‘Jim’ Belcher returned to the Normandy beaches for the first time since being part of the first wave of troops to take part in Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. During an action-packed 24-hour trip, Jim attended events at Bayeux Cathedral and at the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach, where he met visiting dignitaries including the King.

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Along with four other veterans from the Lancashire area, Jim – who will be 99 next month – was then flown back on an aircraft which had been specially provided by BAE Systems Warton Aerodrome. However on returning to the centre where he was being cared for, staff became concerned about Jim’s condition and he was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital suffering from dehydration and tiredness. This meant he was unable to attend local D-Day events taking place over the weekend, including a service at Blackburn Cathedral.

Retired Royal Navy commander Charlie Neve, who accompanied the veterans to Normandy, said: “It was a big event and Jim really wanted to go. He still lives on his own in Goose Green in his own council house in and is fiercely independent. He is currently in the emergency admissions unit and hopefully will get discharged soon.”

Mr Neve said Jim, who uses a wheelchair, was accompanied on the journey to the D-Day commemorations by himself and a nurse from Broughton House, a veterans’ home in Salford where Jim had previously been treated. He said the expedition to Normandy had been a great success, with Jim rubbing shoulders with royalty and visiting dignitaries.

Mr Neve said: “At the event at the British Normandy Memorial, the King turned to Jim and asked him what his thoughts were as he looked out over Gold beach. Jim replied, ‘it looks a lot bloody calmer than it was on the day I went in.’”

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He said that Jim had feared he might not make it for the commemorations because he was suffering from gout in his right knee, but Mr Neve told him “you’ll make it even if I have to carry you.” He added: “It meant the world to him.”

Retired Colonel David Waters, president of the Lancashire Armed Forces Association who also accompanied the veterans on their visit to Normandy, said: “Jim is such a modest man. He was determined to go and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Jim was a crewman of an Landing Craft Assault (LCA) landing craft from HMS Glenroy on June 6, 1944. He made numerous trips from ship to shore, delivering the troops onto Gold beach.

Mr Neve, who is now a director of the Armed Forces Community HQ in Molyneux House, Wigan, said: “Jim never talked about it with his family, but as soon as he was with the other veterans the old camaraderie came out. The mood was one of absolute elation.”

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