A 98-year-old D-Day veteran has recreated a photo taken with a Belgian boy whose family took him in 76 years ago.
George ‘Bunny’ Avery was a sapper in the Royal Engineers and part of the second wave of troops to land on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, 6 June 1944.
He advanced through Nazi-occupied Europe, building portable bridges which allowed troops and vehicles to travel at speed across rivers and canals.
During his journey he stayed at the bakery in Peer, Belgium, with a family who gave him board and lodgings, and was photographed holding the son Urbain, who was just six.
George’s daughter Kathryn, 55, recently discovered photos of the bakery and with a Belgian address written on the back.
She tracked down Urbain, and George – who has dementia – was reunited with his Belgian friend at the same spot, 75 years on.
George is now a resident at Royal Star & Garter’s Home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
Kathryn said: “When he met up with Urbain and he had the picture of dad holding him, it was incredibly special.”
George spent five years in the army, from 1942-1947, and also served in Greece, Italy
He built Bailey bridges to help Allied troops advance into Nazi-occupied territory, and passed through then recently liberated Auschwitz.
Then aged 23, he became friends with a Belgian boy in 1944 while building bridges nearby, and stayed with his family.
Last year, his daughter Kathryn discovered a photo of the bakery.
The pair often return to France, Holland and Belgium to take part in liberation commemorations, and Kathryn started researching the pic, and found the family.
Kathryn and Urbain arranged to meet in his childhood home town of Peer with her dad, and the Belgian brought along a photo of him being carried by the soldier.
The friends went on to pose for a photo 75 years later on the same spot.
George now lives with dementia at Royal Star & Garter, and can’t remember his meetings with Urbain.
But he made a lasting impression on Urbain, who told Kathryn he remembers playing with her father and him being good fun.
She said her dad is fond of the fresh bread cooked at his care home, and said she thinks the smell might remind her father of his time in Belgium with Urbain’s family.
George was part of the second wave of British troops to land on Sword Beach on 6 June 1944.
He was dropped close to the shoreline by his landing craft, and as he made his way to the beach he said he “just kept running”.
He said he remembers seeing bodies strewn on the sand and added: “I thought, ‘Keep your head down boy!’”
In 2016, he received France’s highest military honour – the Legion d’Honneur – as thanks from the government for his role in its liberation.