Sergeant George Kay

 

Unit : Headquarters Troop, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron

Army No. : 3854428

Awards : Mentioned in Despatches

 

Sergeant George Kay was the Senior N.C.O. responsible for the Signals Section in Headquarters Troop, his commander being Lieutenant Freddie Ladds, the Regimental Signals Officer. He flew to L.Z. 'Z', near Wolfheze, in a Horsa glider (chalk number 355) with a jeep, trailer & 2 motorcycles plus 2 other personnel (Lieutenant Graham Wadsworth and Trooper W. Cooke). They were piloted by Lieutenant G.R.I.N. Stokes and Sergeant J. Taziker of "C" Squadron, The Glider Pilot Regiment.

 

There were only a few gliders that did not make their allotted Landing Zones in Holland. Extracts from "Remember Arnhem" by John Fairley.

 

"One such set back however, was experienced by Bill Cooke, a driver [wireless] operator with HQ Troop, who was with Lt. Graham Wadsworth and Sgt. George Kay. "I was sat," recollected Cook, "at the rear, on the right of Sgt. Kay, and, as we swung out to sea, I well remember a feeling of apprehension which made me reach for the bottle of rum that 'Judd' [Kay] was swigging. The next glance out of the port side turned that apprehension into fear, for I saw part of the wing fabric - a strip about a foot wide - rip off from the leading edge right to the back. At that point, it disappeared, leaving an ugly gaping hole and a wing that started to billow out. 'God,' I thought,' this is It,' and had visions of the whole wing disintegrating. I let 'Judd' into my discovery and somehow we got Lt. Wadsworth, sitting at the front, to understand our predicament; he in turn passed the news to the glider pilots. 'Did we think we could make it?' was the cool delayed response, to which our unanimous reply was, 'Get the bloody thing turned round and put her down!' The result was that they returned to Tarrant Rushton and, after a quick patch up with glider fabric, took off again in just over a quarter of an hour, in an attempt to catch the tail end of the glider force. Failing to succeed in this, they returned to base for a second time. Later that evening, in the deserted billet, Bill Cook heard the radio announcement of the landing at Arnhem."

 

"Following a weather delay, the second lift had at last got under way from England. With it came the Reconnaissance Squadron gliders which had been unsuccessful on the first lift. In one of them were the A-Troop jeeps of Lt. Galbraith's 2 Section; in another, being escorted by Lt. Graham Wadsworth, was Captain Allsopp's HQ vehicle... As on the previous day, Wadsworth was accompanied by Sgt. Kay, the Wireless Sergeant of HQ Troop and Trooper Bill Cooke. They were not unduly concerned about the enemy opposition, for there was confidence that they would be landing on a zone already occupied by their own troops. On this occasion, the flight began without mishap, but there was a lot of 'flak' over the Dutch coast which rattled on the fuselage; at the time, it did not seem to the passengers that there had been any penetration of the glider, although at one point the nose gave a frightening dip. Once over the fields of Wolfheze, however, they speedily realized that their optimism about the probability of a 'cushy' landing had been completely misplaced. Cook's account tells of what happened: "We felt the jerk as the tow rope was released and down went the nose as we commenced the glide in. A scattering of holes suddenly appeared in the fuselage. 'It's just small-arms fire,' remarked 'Judd' in a voice that stayed casual, despite the fact that we were rapidly getting to look like a pepper pot. We hit a raised road cross on, and half-a-dozen bumps later slewed to a halt. Our expectations of the landing zone being under control were quickly shattered when, before we had time to undo the safety belts, machine-gun fire raked us from the right and 'Judd' caught a packet in his right wrist. As I sat on the floor to bandage him up, I looked at the exit door and decided that there was one way out that I would not be using. I then crawled under the trailer and jeep, getting soaked in the process from the damaged petrol tank, and at the front of the glider found that one pilot was dead and the other wounded". [They were both badly wounded]. Cooke's first impression was that the pilots had been hit during the course of the landing, but it transpired that they were victims of the flak which had hit the front of the glider while it was crossing the coast. Notwithstanding his wounded condition, the second pilot had brought them safely into land. The outcome was that, after a short spell of taking cover by the side of the glider, Lt. Wadsworth and Tpr. Cooke were able to communicate with some passing Dutch cyclists, who arranged for a British medical orderly with a jeep to collect the casualties."

 

"At the end of the battle all the wounded were rounded up by the Germans for transportation to Germany. Not everyone, of course, was wholly committed to the idea of completing the journey into the Fatherland. When it was discovered that each truck had a small opening in the roof, through which it might be possible to squeeze, a number of the prisoners took the opportunity to plan their escape. It was a difficult feat, and meant scrambling up, using arms, legs and elbows but, for the most agile, it was a possibility, and Sergeant Kay, who had been wounded on arrival with the second lift, was one of the Squadron men who escaped in this way. He was later picked up and looked after by a Dutch family, before successfully escaping across the river. Despite his wound, Sgt Kay had fought throughout the battle with another unit and received a well-merited MID for his courage."

 

His citation reads:

 

After being wounded during the fighting at Oosterbeek, Holland, on 18th September 1944, Kay was taken to various dressing stations, and six days later he was captured with other wounded. Almost immediately Kay tried to escape into the woods but was caught before he had gone far. He made a similarly abortive attempt the same day. On 26th September 1944 he was entrained at Apeldoorn for transfer to Germany. One of the occupants of the truck succeeded in cutting a hole in the side, thus enabling them to unfasten the door; four men, including Kay, jumped from the rapidly moving train near Teuge. They soon came into the hands of friends and were hidden until their evacuation with other escapers was arranged. Safety was reached on 24th October 1944.

 

Sergeant George "Judd" Kay was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in Norway, on the 3rd June 1945. He was 28, and is buried in the Oslo Western Civil Cemetery, plot 1. C. 3.

 

Thanks to Bob Hilton for all his help with this account.

 

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