British D-Day hero, 98, recreates touching photo with six-year-old Belgian boy he last saw in 1944 – after meeting him again 75 years later
- George ‘Bunny’ Avery last saw Urbain in 1944 when he stayed in Peer, Belgium
- His daughter organised reunion after finding photograph of bakery with address
- Urbain surprised Mr Avery with an image of pair together which they recreated
A British D-Day hero has recreated a touching wartime photograph with a Belgian friend he last saw as a boy during the Second World War.
George ‘Bunny’ Avery, 98, last saw Urbain in 1944, when he lodged with his family at a bakery in Peer, Belgium while building Bailey bridges to help the Allies.
The pair had posed for a photograph during Mr Avery’s stay, with Urbain, then six, seen perched on the 23-year-old military engineer’s hip.
This extraordinary image was recreated last November, when the Second World War veteran’s daughter arranged for the pair to reunite in the very same spot 75 years later.
George ‘Bunny’ Avery, 98, last saw Urbain in 1944 (together left), when he lodged with his family at a bakery in Peer, Belgium while building Bailey bridges to help the Allies. Pictured right: The pair together last November
Mr Avery (pictured), a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, was among the second wave of troops to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in June 1944
Speaking of the reunion, Kathryn Balmford, 55, told MailOnline: ‘We met last year in Peer outside what is still a bakery and Urbain, who was the little boy [in the image], had this photograph with him.
‘It was incredibly emotional, particularly for Urbain who remembered dad well.
‘Dad was one of nine children, he was the second oldest, and so he spent a lot of time playing with the children in the town.’
Mr Avery, a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, was among the second wave of troops to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in June 1944.
He advanced through Nazi-occupied Europe, building portable crossings which allowed troops and vehicles to travel at speed across rivers and canals.
Pictured: The image Urbain presented to Mr Avery at their meeting in Peer. The pair are seen together far left
Last year, Ms Balmford found an image of a bakery with a Belgian address written on the back inside a metal tin her father had carried with him throughout the war. Pictured: Mr Avery and Urbain
Along his way, he passed through the recently-liberated Auschwitz concentration camp in Oświęcim, Poland, where an estimated 1.1million people were killed.
Last year, Ms Balmford found an image of a bakery with a Belgian address written on its back inside a metal tin her father had carried with him throughout the war.
She endeavoured to find out more about the mystery photograph and eventually tracked down Urbain, who Mr Avery had spent time with while living in Peer.
‘I spoke to a friend in Belgium about the address and he said “Let me see if I can do some investigations”‘, she said. ‘He managed to find someone from a Historical Society in Peer.
Pictured: Mr Avery and Urbain at a Second World War memorial in Peer, Belgium
‘The lady there managed to track down the family from the bakery and we set up a meeting between dad and Urbain, who was then a little boy.’
Ms Balmford and Urbain quickly arranged to meet in the town with Mr Avery.
Here, the veteran’s old friend surprised him with a remarkable photograph of the pair together in 1944.
The friends decided to pose for another snapshot 75 years later in the same place – outside the bakery they once called home.
Pictured: Mr Avery during the Second World War
Ms Balmford said: ‘Dad said “yes I remember staying in the bakery” and he remembered the street clearly.
‘Bearing in mind he had stayed in many places and had seen some terrible things throughout the war, this bakery really stood out in his mind.
‘We spent the whole day with [Urbain] and they talked and held hands. It was just incredible.’
Mr Avery, who suffers from dementia, now lives at a Royal Star and Garter care home and cannot remember his meetings with Urbain during the Second World War.
But the grandfather-of-three, who returned to work as a butcher after the war, is said to be particularly fond of fresh bread, which his daughter says could be due to his time spent in the bakery.
Mr Avery, from Birmingham, spent five years in the British Army between 1942 and 1947, serving in Greece, Italy and Palestine.
In 2016, he received France’s Légion d’Honneur for his role in its liberation.
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