VETERANS of the Second World War have returned home from Normandy following an emotional trip to honour fallen comrades.

The Bolton branch of the Normandy Veterans Association arrived back following a visit to France to see the beaches where they landed and the cemeteries where their colleagues are buried.

The group was funded by the lottery-funded New Opportunities Fund as part of the Heroes' Return Scheme.

Mr Ratcliffe, aged 82, who was with the group, has been a regular visitor to France since the end of the Second World War, travelling to the battlefields 16 times.

He said: "It was a good trip and it was important to pay our respects at Bayeux Cemetery.

"We had a parade and used the standards to remember those who lost their lives."

They stopped at Sword, Juno and Gold Beaches, along with Arromanches and Longues-Sur-Mer to pay their respects.

A trip was also made to the cemetery at Bayeux where many of the veterans colleagues still rest.

The visit included a visit to the famous Pegasus Bridge as well as time for shopping and a stop at a Calvados distillery. Many of the coach party took part in the 60th anniversary celebrations of D-Day last year.

It was a trip which nearly did not happen after the hotel in Lisieux booked three years earlier, burned down just three weeks before the anniversary.

But French families in Caen rallied round and put them up in their own homes, and the veterans threw a surprise party at a local hotel to thank them for their generosity last year.

Alan Ratcliffe, secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association's Bolton branch, said: "A lot of long term friendships have been struck and it's a trip looked forward to by many veterans.

"They can often be emotional trips and the tears can spread quickly, it's infectious. And many of the French people have a lot of respect for the British veterans."