JAVEA resident Geoffrey Bannister has received the French legion d’ honneur, the highest award the French military receive and a rare honour for foreigners.
Geoffrey received the honour for his part in the D-Day landings. He was a young marine, aged just 18, when they landed on the now infamous Juno beach in 1944.
EWN spoke to Geoffrey about his memories from 72 years ago. “The first thing I remember is being terribly seasick. The vessels being used to transport us across the channel were called landing craft tank and were flat bottomed, ideal for beach landing but terrible to sail in. The other thing we all remember was the incredible noise. Weapons, boats, men, everything really, but mainly the machinery and guns.”
Geoffrey actually had his hearing damaged in one ear while in Normandy, an affliction with him to this day, but was otherwise unhurt. He also celebrated his 19th birthday while in Normandy.
“We were able to get hold of some red wine on the day for a small celebration, but I’m not going to tell you how!” said Geoffrey, still smiling at the memory.
Due to the prestigious nature of the event the French Defence Attache for Spain, Olivier Fabre, was there in person to award Geoffrey with his long-awaited and much-deserved medal.
Olivier is normally based in Madrid but has been in San Javier at their military academy, and when he heard about a recipient of the medal who lived in Javea, he decided to make the trip along the coast to Geoffrey’s home especially to make the presentation.
A number of friends and family attended the event, organised by Geoffrey’s wife Jackie.
In an emotional ceremony Geoffrey dedicated the award to the 1,200 fellow soldiers who failed to return from Juno beach.