A 97-year-old Second World War hero caught up in the passport crisis fears he will be forced to miss an “important” trip to Holland to commemorate its liberation from the Nazis.
Peter Smoothy, who served in the Royal Navy and landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, said his old document was received by the Passport Office on April 1 but his application is yet to be processed.
He is one of 25 veterans meant to be travelling in a fleet of London black cabs to the Netherlands on an overnight ferry on Monday to mark the signing of the German occupiers’ capitulation at Wageningen on May 5, 1945.
Mr Smoothy, who lives in Herne Bay, Kent, described the prospect of not being able to travel as “very disappointing”.
He said: “This trip is important to us. It’s all about remembering who didn’t come back when we did and knowing how lucky we are to be still there after such a long time.
“This is a big celebration of Liberation in Holland and they make a terrific fuss of us so it’s a trip we love to go on. We let them know we’re still here and remind them of what we were able to do for them but our numbers are decreasing every month.”
Mr Smoothy, who also served in Italy and Burma, said he was hoping the passport could be processed in time but was worried it will not even arrive before a similar journey to Normandy for the 78th anniversary of D-Day on June 6.
Organiser Dick Goodwin, of the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, said he had been in touch with the Dutch embassy to see if a special exemption could be made for Mr Smoothy — but has yet to hear confirmation.
He said: “The veterans always say to us in these sorts of situations ‘no one asked us for our passports in 1944’.”
An estimated 700,000 people have applications ensnared in a huge backlog of passport processing.
A HMPO spokesperson said: “Given recent interest in passports, we are seeing an increased number of people visiting our website to view appointment availability for urgent services. This has not affected people submitting a passport application.
“We have increased staff numbers by 500 since April 2021, which has helped us to handle more applications than ever before, with more than one million passport applications processed in March 2022.”