Wigan war hero taken to hospital on his return from D-Day commemorations

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A Wigan war hero needed hospital treatment just hours after returning from the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in Normandy

James ‘Jim’ Belcher went back 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.

James 'Jim' Belcher at the event to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landingsJames 'Jim' Belcher at the event to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings
James 'Jim' Belcher at the event to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings

However on returning to the centre where he was being cared for, staff became concerned about Jim’s condition and he was admitted to Salford General Hospital.

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.

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"He still lives on his own in his own council house and is fiercely independent. He is currently in the emergency admissions unit and hopefully will get discharged soon.”

Jim Belcher meets HM King Charles at the British Normandy Memorial overlooking Gold Beach, Ver-sur-MerJim Belcher meets HM King Charles at the British Normandy Memorial overlooking Gold Beach, Ver-sur-Mer
Jim Belcher meets HM King Charles at the British Normandy Memorial overlooking Gold Beach, Ver-sur-Mer

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.

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"Jim replied, ‘it looks a lot bloody calmer than it was on the day I went in.’”

He said that Jim had feared he might not make it for the commemorations through ill-health, but Mr Neve told him “you’ll make it even if I have to carry you.”

He added: “It meant the world to him.”

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