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Give free passports to Britain’s heroes: On the eve of D-Day’s 80th anniversary this week we launch a campaign to widen a little-known scheme to give EVERY ex-serviceman and woman aged 75 or over a free passport

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As the nation commemorates the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday, The Mail on Sunday launches a campaign to honour and reward military veterans for their wartime efforts on behalf of the country.

We call on the next government to extend a little-known scheme that provides free passport renewals for British citizens who served during the Second World War and before. 

Currently, free passports are given to those veterans who were born on or before September 2, 1929 (a date set to include those aged 16 or older at the end of the Second World War). 

But given that the concession, introduced by the Labour government in 2004, now affects fewer people – applying only to those aged 94 and over – the MoS believes it should be widened.

It would also be a thank you to ex-servicemen and women at a time when our Armed Forces have become so depleted and when world peace is so frail as an aggressive Russia poses just one of many threats.

A British Centurion tank of the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars climbs the bank of the Imjin River after patrolling Korea

A British Centurion tank of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars climbs the bank of the Imjin River after patrolling Korea 

The MoS’s Passports for Heroes campaign asks for free passports to be offered to those now aged 75 or over – which will include those who played their part in conflicts such as the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 and the Falklands War in 1982.

Extending the concession would make it easier for the veterans to travel overseas for commemorative events and holidays.

Our campaign has been welcomed as an imaginative and patriotic move by a host of leading figures, from military chiefs to politicians and figures from the world of entertainment.

Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who introduced the original concession, backed our campaign. 

Writing on these pages, he calls it a ‘small but significant’ gesture. With the cost of renewing a passport now up to £100, he says this could make a ‘massive difference’ to veterans.

Last night, former Labour Defence Minister Kevan Jones threw his weight behind the campaign. 

He said: ‘I think this would be fitting reward for the contribution these members of the Armed Forces have made. I hope that whichever party takes over after the Election does every thing they can to implement this plan.’

The daughter of Britain’s wartime sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn said her mother would have ‘wholeheartedly backed this tremendous campaign’. Virginia Lewis-Jones, 78, said: ‘Mummy would have absolutely wanted this for all her boys and girls.

The Royal Marines in San Carlos during the Falklands War, raising the Union Jack

The Royal Marines in San Carlos during the Falklands War, raising the Union Jack 

‘When you think of how veterans in the United States are looked after, with things such as veterans’ hospitals and all kinds of care, the way we treat ours in comparison is quite appalling. I am all for these passports – it is a splendid idea.’ 

Falklands hero Simon Weston said the campaign was a ‘marvellous’ tribute.

The 64-year-old former Welsh Guardsman, who was severely burned when his ship Sir Galahad was bombed by Argentine fighters during the Falklands conflict, added: ‘These men and women are the best of British and recognising them in this way is great. It’s a fitting gesture.’

Asked to comment on the MoS campaign last night, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey vowed that if a Labour government was elected, ‘we will continue to work closely with veterans’ groups to make sure their needs are best met’. 

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: ‘We are the party of veterans and as we have done in the past, will continue to listen and provide support where it’s needed.

Liberal Democrat Defence spokesman Richard Foord said they ‘will examine’ the passports proposal ‘in our fair deal commission for veterans’.

The celebrities who have already given their backing

Some of Britain’s leading artists and entertainers have also added their weight to the campaign.

Oscar-winning lyricist Sir Tim Rice is among those who are backing Britain’s veterans.

Call The Midwife star Jenny Agutter said: ‘I really want to support this campaign. Clearly these soldiers need to be recognised for what they have done for our country.’

Gyles Brandreth, author and broadcaster, said: ‘This is a good will gesture and a way of saying thank you to veterans – it will also contribute to their long-term mental health and quality of life. Sign me up!’

Oscar-winning lyricist Sir Tim Rice is among those who are backing Britain's veterans

Oscar-winning lyricist Sir Tim Rice is among those who are backing Britain’s veterans

Julian Fellowes, Oscar-winning dramatist and Downton Abbey creator, said: ‘It seems the least we can do for people who have risked their lives for our country’s good.’

Nicholas Witchell, former BBC royal correspondent, said: ‘They did their bit, the UK should do its bit: this is a splendid way of showing our support for our veterans.’

Jeffrey Archer, best-selling author, said: ‘No more than common sense that we should support those who gave us our freedom and upheld our democracy.’

Dame Janet Suzman, actress, said: ‘This is a wonderful idea – I am all for treating people who deserve our thanks with respect.’



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