Unveiling of Blue Plaque to Sir Donald Banks
Major-General Sir Donald Banks KCB DSO MC TD will become the next islander to be commemorated with a blue plaque, with an unveiling at 43 High Street, St Peter Port on 8 May 2023 at 11:00. This will be Guernsey Museum’s 12th Blue Plaque since the scheme was launched in 2008.
27 April 2023
Thomas Macdonald ‘Donald’ Banks was born in Guernsey in 1891 and grew up living in the High Street, above his father’s bookshop. After an education at Elizabeth College, he left the island in 1909 to take up a position in the British Civil Service.
During World War 1, he rose from Private in the London Yeomanry to Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 10th Essex Regiment. He was awarded the Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order, Croix de Guerre and was mentioned in dispatches twice.
On returning to the civil service, he joined the General Post Office, where he was appointed the first Director General. From there he was transferred to the Air Ministry, where he was responsible for the rearmament of the RAF during the build-up to World War 2.
During World War 2, he was invited by Churchill to establish the Petroleum Warfare Department, which was responsible for numerous innovations, including techniques for fog dispersal at airfields (FIDO) and a fuel pipeline under the English Channel to provide petrol to the liberating forces as they swept across Europe (PLUTO). PLUTO was heralded by Eisenhower who claimed it was ‘second in daring only to the artificial Mulberry harbours’ among the innovations developed for D-Day. He was awarded the US Presidential Legion of Honour for his achievements.
Although he never returned to live in Guernsey, he always retained strong links with the island, particularly during World War 2, when he
• Actively involved in the Channel Islands Refugee Committee in London
• Broadcast a speech, ‘Sand and Granite’ on BBC Radio in 1942.
• Founded the Guernsey Society in 1943 to represent the interests of the islanders to the British Government.
• Organised and chaired the Reunion Conference in Oxford, which resulted in the publication of Nos Iles in 1944 – which became known as the ‘Liberating Army’s Bible’.
• Director of Elizabeth College in exile.
After the war, he became a director of De La Rue and kept a herd of Guernsey cattle at his home in the New Forest. He wrote his memoirs during the 1960s and died in Hampshire in 1975. His obituary in The Telegraph described him as:
‘a man of ideas whose versatility contributed much to the
national well-being in war and peace’.
The plaque will be unveiled by the Bailiff, with a guard of honour provided by the 10th Essex Living History Group (who model themselves on Banks’ WW1 regiment) and the Elizabeth College Combined Cadet Force.
Helen Glencross, Head of Heritage Services, and member of the Blue Plaques Panel said:
‘The Blue Plaques Panel was delighted to receive this nomination for Sir Donald Banks as he is such a worthy recipient. His plaque will be prominent on the High Street and we are very grateful to the owners of the property who have made this possible’.
Steve Foote, Vice-Chairman of the Guernsey Society and owner of Blue Ormer said:
‘It’s wonderful to see this Blue Plaque being unveiled to such a well-deserved and devoted Guernseyman. Although he never returned to live in his native island, his love of Guernsey and the wellbeing of the islanders was never far from his mind. In particular his efforts during World War 2, when he formed the Guernsey Society to keep the plight of the islanders at the forefront of the British Government’s plans.’
About the Blue Plaques Scheme
The Guernsey Blue Plaque scheme recognises Guernsey people who have made an important contribution to the Bailiwick and the wider world. The Scheme aims to enhance the awareness of islanders and visitors about these special people and where they lived or worked.