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Free passports for WWII generation hit 500,000

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The UK government has announced today that it has just issued its 500,000th free passport under rules which offer free travel documents as a reward to senior citizens who were adults during World War II.

"It gives me great pleasure to announce this milestone in a scheme which honours every adult who helped defeat the evils of Nazism," said the security minister, Admiral Lord Alan "U-turn" West*.

"This is a generation which faced incredible hardship and loss and demonstrated tremendous bravery both on the battlefield as well as on the home front. It is entirely right that those who endured these times to guarantee our liberty and security should be given the privilege of free passports."

Passports nowadays cost £72, due to the introduction of biometrics, so the freebies for our heroic ancestors have now cost the exchequer up to £36m. Highly as successive British governments have valued the wartime generations' efforts, the privilege was not introduced until 2004 when the arrival of biometrics was imminent. Many saw it as a sop to weaken protests over the new security measure, rather than any genuine attempt to honour those who carried us through from 1939-45.

When introducing the scheme, the government estimated that around 4.5 million valiant old-timers remained alive and eligible. Even allowing for a certain decline in numbers since then, it seems that a majority of the wartime British feel they've already done all the travelling they really want to - or perhaps they don't fancy getting onto a biometric database at this stage of the game.

"I am pleased the Government has thought to recognise the hard work and sacrifices my generation made during the war in this way and would encourage as many people as possible to take advantage," said James Woolley, recipient of the half-millionth booklet, after meeting Lord West. ®

Bootnote

* The former First Sea Lord says there is now a firm of London chauffeurs which refer to the act of making a sudden U-turn as "doing an Admiral West", as a result of his swift change of heart following an interview-without-coffee in Downing Street regarding extended detention powers. While not old enough to take part in World War II, the admiral did see action in the Falklands. He commanded the frigate Ardent, which was sunk by Argentine bombs.

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