‘I’ve no plans to slow down’
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