D-Day war hero who passed away at 99 to be celebrated at Bucks ceremony

George who was known to by friends as Bunny passed away on September 23

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:34 pm

George Avery who served his country during the Second World War passed away at 99 on September 23.

George who was affectionately known by his childhood nickname, Bunny, was on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day, he finished his life at Royal Star & Garter in High Wycombe.

The World War Two hero is survived by his four sisters, daughter and three grandsons.

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George 'Bunny' Avery

To celebrate his fruitful life the British Legion Veterans motorbike escort will accompany George before he is buried.

The wartime hero's body will be carried in a special poppy-decorated hearse, which was designed three years ago to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Back in 2016 George received France’s Légion d’Honneur, recognising the vital role him and his fellow Royal Engineers played in eliminating the Nazi threat in the country.

It will be a private funeral taking place at a small village in Bucks near Aylesbury, attended by family members, invited servicemen and residents of the care home on Tuesday (October 19).

The famous photo in Belgium

Kathryn Balmford, George's only daughter, said: "Oh he was just a fantastic guy. He had a wicked sense of humour. He was one of nine.

"He just loved life. Maybe that comes from wartime, I don't know, you're just forever grateful that you're still alive. And you've got the opportunity to live.

"If you came up to him and said, 'you're a hero', he would say, 'oh no, I'm not a hero, the heroes are the ones who didn't come home'.

"If you asked him if he was having a good day, he would say: 'every day is a good day', and it was that positive attitude which carried him forward.

Kathryn and Bunny

"My mum died in 2005 and he came to live with us for 14 years, before he ended up in care. My three boys who are all in their 20s now, have very fond memories of him, because they basically grew up with him.

"They have a close relationship with him, far closer than a majority of children do with their grandparents. He was really good, he was 83 when my mum died.

"But he was still brilliant, I came home one day and found him in the skip getting wood out for the log burner, he was very capable. I think they gave him a reason to live."

George accrued the Bunny moniker as a child, in the Avery family, he and his eight siblings were all known by their middle names and George's middle name of Bernard was too much of a mouthful, so he became Bunny instead.

a wartime photo of Bunny

Bunny played an important role in the Allies war efforts, he was part of the engineer group tasked with constructing bridges helping soldiers move quickly across Europe.

He was part of the second wave of troops to land on Sword Beach, he was posted in Normandy and spent six weeks there, before constructing more portable bridges in war torn areas.

His military duty included working in a recently liberated Auschwitz, he served his country for five years as a Royal Engineer.

Kathryn added: "I think the Royal Engineers that built the bridges were a little bit protected. What they did was that instrumental to the troops being able to move across Europe.

"They protected them from the frontline and the real fighting so that they could create the infrastructure so that troops could move across."

Recently George made headlines across the country, when he was captured in a photo that was 76 years in the making.

Last October, George was reunited with a man he first met in Belgium in 1944. Bunny was captured holding a six-year-old Belgian boy during the war.

George and his family were able to track Urbain to recreate the image 76 years later with the now fully grown Belgian warmly greeting the then 98-year-old.

Even though George was suffering with dementia at the time, Kathryn explained to The Mirror that he was still able to recollect his time lodging with bakers in Belgium.

Outside of his five years of invaluable military experience, George worked as a butcher both before and after the war.

He retired in his 60s, but worked other part-time roles, for a bit as he 'couldn't bare to sit still, Kathryn says.

On Tuesday friends and family will say goodbye to a wartime hero.