‘I’ve no plans to slow down’

Best - - BEST FOR AWARDS - says CYRIL BANKS

Cyril Banks was just 18 when he joined the Royal Navy in 1943. His first months at sea were spent in the harsh Arc­tic con­voys and on North Sea pa­trols, be­fore his ship was de­ployed to sweep mines prior to the Nor­mandy Land­ings.

On D-Day it­self – 6 June 1944 – Cyril was in the mine-clear­ing flotilla off Gold Beach (code name for one of the five ar­eas of the Al­lied in­va­sion of Ger­man-oc­cu­pied France). The teenager wit­nessed some of the most fe­ro­cious fight­ing of World War II.

‘ We saw so many bod­ies float­ing in the wa­ter. The hor­ren­dous things that were hap­pen­ing will live in my mind for ever,’ he says.

Cyril went on to take part in op­er­a­tions in the Far East against the Ja­panese forces.

Like so many men of his gen­er­a­tion, he is a re­luc­tant hero, but this twinkly-eyed pen­sioner charmed ev­ery­one at our awards cer­e­mony, and the fact that he is so highly dec­o­rated speaks vol­umes about his courage and in­tegrity.

Cyril was awarded the pres­ti­gious Lé­gion d’Hon­neur – the high­est dec­o­ra­tion in France – in recog­ni­tion of his in­volve­ment in the coun­try’s lib­er­a­tion.

Fol­low­ing his years of ac­tive ser­vice, Cyril has de­voted him­self to fundrais­ing for The Royal Bri­tish Le­gion’s an­nual Poppy Ap­peal.

Since 1999, he has been in­volved with the Not For­got­ten As­so­ci­a­tion (NFA), which pro­vides en­ter­tain­ment and re­cre­ation for wounded, in­jured or sick ex-ser­vice­men and women.

Cyril’s charm makes him an in-de­mand guest at NFA so­cial events. His fundrais­ing ef­forts have, so far, gen­er­ated more than £30,000.

Noth­ing’s too big a chal­lenge for Cyril, who is from Bishop’s Stort­ford, Hert­ford­shire. He’s ab­seiled down a wa­ter tower three times to raise money!

So, it was dou­bly shock­ing when Cyril be­came the vic­tim of a con last year. Scam­mers pre­tend­ing to be from Scot­land Yard tricked him into hand­ing over his life sav­ings of £9,000.

When his friend An­nie Ri­ley heard about it, she set up a GoFundMe page, and went on to raise £18,000. Cyril do­nated the ex­tra £9,000 to char­ity.

Both An­nie and Cyril ap­peared on TV to raise aware­ness of scams tar­get­ing the el­derly. As a re­sult of the pub­lic­ity, the per­pe­tra­tors were caught and pros­e­cuted.

Cyril says, ‘I might be 92, but I’m not plan­ning on slow­ing down.’

Cyril wear­ing his war medals The teen sailor sur­vived the D-Day land­ings

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