The Wartime Memories Project - The Second World War



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F/O Kabbash .     Royal Air Force navigator 101 Sqd.



Pte. Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe MID.     British Army 5th Btn (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade   from Sri lanka)

Private Kanchana Senerat Kadigawe was the only Sri Lankan to win the Oak Leaves

This is a tribute to SSP Senarat (K.S.) Kadigawe who passed away recently at his ancestral home in Kandy after a distinguished career in the Sri Lanka Police. He was the only Sri Lankan to win the ‘Oak Leaves’ in the British Army during World War II. His death took my mind back to 1976 when for the first time he revealed to a journalist his World War II experiences as a paratrooper in Nazi-occupied Europe. He was then SP (Transport) and I was doing the 'police beat' for the Sunday Observer. At the time Kadigawe was residing at Police Quarters, Keppettipola Mawatha, Colombo, with his family. It all began when he told me that he liked to know the whereabouts of a Greek family that had befriended him during the war. Responding to his request, I had a short news item published on the Sunday Observer front page stating that Kadigawe wished to contact the family of Constantinades who lived in the city of Piraeus. But there was no response to it from anyone, though all details were given. This story is how Kadigawe came into contact with this Greek family. Born in the Wanni, he was one of many young Sri Lankans who had enlisted in the British Royal Army Service Corps at the outbreak of WWII. Having arrived in the Middle-East as a RASC soldier he applied to join the Red Berets. After rigorous training he earned the paratrooper's `wings' thus becoming the only `colored' combatant in the Fifth Battalion (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade.

On July 31, 1944, the now defunct Times of Ceylon ran the following news item under a picture of him in the uniform of the British `Red Berets.' CEYLON MAN AS PARATROOPER SERVING IN THE MEDITERRANEAN THEATRE Pte. K. Senarat Kadigawe is, if not the only Ceylonese parachutist fighting in this war, one of the few. He is the only coloured man in the 5th Battalion (Scottish) 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade,doing service with the Central Mediterranean Forces… Around this time Greece had fallen to the Germans following a Nazi `blitzkrieg' (lightening attack) in April 1941. By the middle of May, the country was under joint occupation by three Axis powers: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Kingdom of Bulgaria. They brought about terrible hardships for the Greek civilian population. Over 300,000 civilians died from starvation, thousands more through reprisals, and the country's economy was ruined.

In 1944 the Red Berets were ordered to go on a mission to Piraeus. Their target was a power station which supplied electricity to search lights that helped German anti-aircraft gunners to spot British and American planes over Greece. The soldiers including Private Kadigawe boarded a Dakota C-47 transport plane, which took off from their base in North Africa with its lights switched off. The night was pitch-black and the plane was now flying over the Mediterranean. Soon the aircraft was over the `drop zone' in Greece and the green light inside the plane came on. From the open side door the paratroopers dived into the darkness one by one. After landing they studied a map that showed the power station and set off separately on different paths to reach the target lest the enemy captured all of them together. Even so it was no easy task to avoid being caught by German army patrols looking for curfew violators. Destroying the power station however turned out to be easier than the Red Berets had anticipated since it was lightly guarded. Probably the enemy did not expect a ground attack on it and assumed that anti-aircraft defences were sufficient to protect the installation. Two army engineers among the paratroopers cut an opening in the high barbed fire fence and entered the premises while Kadigawe and others covered them, ready to open fire if the two German soldiers guarding the place spotted the intruders. But everything went smoothly and the engineers succeeded in planting two time bombs inside the station. They were set to go off within 24 hours giving enough time for the attackers to flee from the place – or so Kadigawe thought. He and his comrades had been ordered to reach the Greek coast and meet at a designated spot from where a British Royal Navy ship would pick them up.

The real fireworks – both literally and metaphorically – however began when the bombs went off completely destroying the power station. The enraged Germans began combing the entire area like mad dogs looking for the attackers. But the Greeks, except for Nazi collaborators, were thrilled. They were willing to give whatever assistance the British paratroopers required. And it was Kadigawe who needed it most since he was on the verge of being captured. But luck was with him. A Greek Bank official, Constantinades residing nearby came to his help and asked the Sri Lankan soldier to quickly move into his house. Kadigawe was then taken to an upstairs room where he was told to hide. The room belonged to one of Constantinades' daughters. The girl's father told her to pretend to be very sick, get into bed and cover herself with a sheet. Bottles of medicine were placed on a small table near the bed. Kadigawe was then told lie motionless on a very narrow stretch of the floor between the bed and the bedroom wall. A bed sheet fully covered both sides of the bed so well that anyone peeping under the bed could see no soldier between the bed and the wall. The Sri Lankan soldier asked Constantinades why he and his family were risking their lives to protect him. If he was captured the Germans would very likely send him to a POW camp under the Geneva Convention rather than shoot him. But the fate of a Greek civilian found giving shelter to a British soldier would be quite different. The Germans would execute the civilian and perhaps his entire family on the spot in as a `lesson' to others. But Constantinades would hear none of it. He firmly told Kadigawe that it was their patriotic duty to protect all foreigners fighting to liberate Greece from the Nazis. So the paratrooper had no alternative but to follow his instructions.

Soon the Germans were all over the place. Uttering the usual warning through loud hailers, they began searching the houses in the neighbourhood for the escapees. Kadigawe was lying motionless but the tension was unbearable. He could hear his own heart beat. His real fear was for the Greek family. Constantinades' daughter was on the bed pretending to be seriously ill and moaning in `discomfort and pain.' At the Constantinades home the Nazis first began searching every room on the ground floor. Then Kadigawe heard the sound of jackbooted feet The Germans were climbing up the stairs. After thoroughly inspecting every room on the upper floor, they came to the one where Kadigawe was hiding. As the Nazi officer in charge stepped into the room, Constantinades fervently appealed to him to avoid disturbing his very sick daughter. She was in great pain he said. For moment, the German stood there looking hard at the girl, who turned out to be a good `actress.' To her, Kadigawe and Constantinades those few seconds seem like an eternity. Then the officer turned back saying `okay' and climbed down the stairs with his men. Kadigawe did not know how to thank the Greek family. Soon afterwards he managed to reach the coast where he joined his comrades before the British Navy ship picked them up.

A year later when Kadigawe met the Constantinades family again it was his turn to reciprocate. They were then in very dire circumstances. Following the German surrender and the end of the World War in 1945, Greece found itself in the throes of a civil war between the government and communists who resorted to terrorist acts. Hunger and starvation was widespread. The Allied occupation troops had opened soup-kitchens to serve the hungry masses. The Red Berets were called into assist the Greek authorities in dealing with terrorism. One day, Kadigawe passing one of the food queues was shocked find two very familiar faces. They were the daughters of Constantinades. Talking to them the Sri Lankan soldier learnt that the civil war had made their father bankrupt. They were given prompt assistance by Kadigawe and his comrades in a generous gesture of gratitude.

Kadigawe earned the Military Medal for an act of gallantry by killing two terrorists and maiming two others in the Greek civil war. Seven months after the end of World War II, on November 24, 1945, Lt. Colonel D.R. Hunter Commander of the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade awarded Kadigawe a certificate for having won the confidence of his superiors and for acts of gallantry a distinguished service. But his proudest moment came when he resigned from the army and joined the Sri Lanka Police as a sub-inspector. At an inspection parade of SIs at the Police Training School the then Inspector-General W.T. Brindley, saluted Kadigawe on seeing the Oak Leaves and Military Medal on his uniform.

By Janaka Perera, Asian Tribune Sat, 2008-09-13.



Mikhail Kalashnikov .     Red Army   from Izhevsk, Udmurtia Republic )

Mikhail Kalashnikov who designed the AK-47 assault rifle joined the Red Army in 1938, he began to show mechanical flair by inventing several modifications for Soviet tanks. The moment that firmly set his course was in the 1941 battle of Bryansk against Nazi forces, when a shell hit his tank. Recovering from wounds in the hospital, he brooded about the superior automatic rifles he'd seen the Nazis deploy; his rough ideas and revisions bore fruit five years later. "Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer, I always wanted to construct agricultural machinery."



Pte. Herbert J Kammeraad .     US Army   from Holland, Mi. USA)

Dad did not talk to much about it.The few times I could get him to talk this is what I remeber. They were captured and moved to a guarded barn the US was shelling the Germans he heard 1 shell go long then 1 go short the 3rd shell hit the barn, he was on an outside wall it blew him out side the barn. He said he could not see because of the clay forced up under his eye lids. Not many men survived the blast. He was moved to pow camp stalag 7a from what I can obtain. He said they were forced to repair train tracks that the allies bombed. He told about being chain bombed "he said they chain bombs together so the bombs would lay out in a line to desroy more track " Dad said the Germans would run for shelters and leave them their. He talked about pick axeing the gages in a train engine when the germans were gone.Dad said they made them carry a bucket of grease and a stick to grease train cupplers.He talked about adding a hand full of dirt then covering it with grease.He said towards the end they starved,they fed them hedge leaf soup and bread made from saw dust.I remember him saying they would trade uniforms with us officers so they could go on work detail. Sometimes the locals would slip the bread and food and this would allow the officers a chance to get more to eat.I think i was 25 years old before my dad ever talked about it at all and I was born in 1955. I know it affected him deeply. He was looking for a book called Feet Of Clay, I think it was writen by someone he was captured with.



Barbara Kane .     Timber Corps



Signalman. Henry Kane .     Royal Navy HMS Prunella (d.21st Jun 1940)



Frmn. Robert Kane .     Merchant Navy SS Empire Fusilier (d.9th Feb 1942)

Robert Kane died age 54. He was born in Jarrow in 1887, son of William and Margaret Jane Kane (nee McCauley) of Jarrow. He was the husband of Florence Kane (nee Wilson) of Jarrow and is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial. Robert is commemorated on the WW2 Roll of Honour Plaque in the entrance of Jarrow Town Hall.



Cpl. Ilmar Karvonen .     United States Army Co A. 2831st Engineer Combat Btn.   from Liminga, Michigan)

Ilmar Karvonen served in North Africa (Algeria?), Italy, France, Germany. I am looking for more information on unit and it's history.



Sgt. Eugeniusz Pawee Kasprzak .     Polish Air Force 138 Sqd.   from Lublin, Poland)

(d.17th Sep 1943)



Sgt. William Kastens .     Royal Canadian Air Force w/op 419 Sqd. (d.4th Oct 1944)



Naomi Katz .     Land Army



Renee Katz .     Land Army   from London, East End)

My mother was born and brought up in the East End of London, one of a family of five sisters, one brother and a father. Her mother, my maternal grandmother, had died when they were small children. They lived lives of poverty and deprivation, many children had rickets and every large family had one or two baby siblings in the cemetery.

The sons and daughters of working class families of their generation usually stayed near their parental home and continued to live for most of their lives close to where they were born. That is until the war disrupted the pattern of life for these communities.

My mother and her two sisters (the three youngest of the family) were called up. One opted for munitions factory work, but my mother and her youngest sister chose to join the Land Army.

This was a marvellous opportunity for young women who had little opportunity to travel, especially town girls who had no experience of country life. My mother had been a dressmaker; she now found herself living in rural Cambridgeshire, working as a farmer, picking fruit and vegetables. The farms in this part of the world were small-holdings - market gardens mainly.

When she speaks of her time on the land my mum's eyes light up. She loved the work, loved the fresh air and the friendship. Twenty or so girls lived in a village called Willingham in a supervised hostel. They were allocated to local farms and, by and large, cycled to work. Not every girl was happy, but my mother speaks with affection about the farming family who owned, or more likely leased, the farm on which she worked.

She remembers picking tomatoes in greenhouses with rain pounding on the glass roof. She was a town girl who made an effortless transition to country life, susceptible to the beauties of nature and the seasons. What a change for a dressmaker who had spent her working life in slum sweatshops!

There was a good social life as well. My mum was in her mid-twenties and still single and my aunt a little younger. They would cycle into Cambridge on their days off to go dancing at Dorothy's in the centre of Cambridge. (This is now a multiplex cinema). American and British troops stationed nearby outnumbered the girls, so there was no lack of attention. My mum and my aunt first tasted peanut butter and bananas at a dance on the American Service base.

The success of the Yanks did not make them popular with the British boys, who couldn't offer such luxuries. Some of the girls went on to new lives in the USA with American husbands. Imagine the shock and excitement of arriving in America after spending life in, say, domestic service in rural England, or doing factory work in urban slums.

Cycling was the best way to travel. Although there was a curfew for the girls at the hostel, I have gained the impression that they had considerable freedom, or at least managed to escape the overseeing eye of the hostel warden. But it seems that, despite the ample opportunities for fraternising with men, most of the girls abided by the social rules of the day and cycled back to the hostel after an evening out, obedient to the curfew.

Those who went into Cambridge by bus often lodged with families in town if they missed the last bus back to the village. In a war society, being invited to sleep overnight with strangers was the way things happened. The hospitality was provided out of sheer generosity of spirit, and accepted by the girls in innocence. My mum never spoke of unplanned pregnancies, though I imagine they occurred. The war spirit affected everyone. Lifts were given to any soldier and, of course, to Land Girls. Trucks carrying troops would readily stop for the girls, their bicycles hoisted on board, and friendships struck. Romance readily followed.

A prisoner of war camp was sited a few miles out of Cambridge. The Italian troops held there were sent to work on the farms and learned a little English. Their lukewarm commitment to fighting is what my mother remembers most clearly. They had surrendered readily and were biding their time in relatively benign captivity. It is perhaps a tribute to the civilised nature of British society then, that they made no complaints about their treatment. Although my mum can't personally recall any liaisons between Italian prisoners and English girls, they must have happened.

My mother married before the end of the war. Her photograph shows her dressed in a rather splendid smart, short, tailored dress, a lovely violet colour she tells me. The tailored, slightly masculine style, perhaps reflecting the war's demand that women do men's work, was rather flattering. Of course, my mum made the dress herself with whatever materials she could lay her hands on. She left the Land Army before the war ended, when she fell pregnant with my older sister.



Pte William P Katz .     (d.26th January 1945)

Held as a Prisoner in Fukuoka 3b.



L/Sgt. Ellis "John" Kay MM..     British Army 7th Btn Royal Norfolk Regiment

Sergeant Ellis Kay (4204388) served with the 7th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment in WW2. He was awarded the Military medal - London Gazette entry 21st December 1944.



George Arthur Kay .     British Army 1st Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment   from Salford)

I am trying to trace the service history of my late father, George Kay, for our family history. I know he enlisted in 1939 and my elder sister says he was in the "Loyals" as a Bren Gun carrier. We both have a photograph of him in uniform with the badge on the right sleeve showing "Royal Norfolk". We know he served in Germany and that is about all as he never talked about the war. As for his service number and rank I don't know. We are just looking for some advice as to how to trace his records.



Private John Kay .     Army   from Errol, Perthshire, Scotland)

Iam trying to find some details of my fathers war years. He enlisted at the start of the war aged 20. I know he was in B.E.F. and escaped back to Britain south of Dunkirk near St. Valery. I believe he went AWOL once or twice afterwards. He was in Gibralter for a while, maybe before the invasion of Italy 1943 and was captured around Sorrento during the invasion. He was marched up through Italy and on to a POW camp in Poland until the end of the war.



William Kay DCM.     British Army Kings Dragoon Guards, C Sqd. Royal Armoured Corps

I served in the Kings Dragoon Guards, Royal Armoured Corps, in the middle east 1938 - 47. I was awarded the DCM in Italy. I am currently 86 years old and living in Hull, East Yorkshire and I would love to hear from anyone serving in C squadron, KDG's during that period.



Derek Kaye .     Army 5th Btn. The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders



Sgt. Martin Joseph Keane .     British Army Welsh Regiment   from London)

My late Father, Sgt Martin Keane, was captured at Tobruk by Rommel's forces around 1942 and sent to Italy where the prisoners were not very well treated. After an escape and recapture he was sent to Stalag 1VB and spent the rest of the war there. He did not speak about it much, but as he grew older little snippets used to come out - about hiding radios and putting on shows to entertain other prisoners.

I am not sure how he got home but the Americans got him out of Berlin and back to the UK suffering from malnutrition and in very poor health. He recovered very well due to my Mothers cooking and care. He did say that food was very scarce near the end and he suffered from the cold weather badly as he had been in North Africa with his unit, the Welsh Regiment. I do have his POW tag and I have traced his name on the prisoner list. He had served in India before WW2 so was called back to duty before war was declared in 1939 leaving my mother and 2 babies in London. Thankfully he lived a long and happy life. He and my mother supported the Royal British Legion all their lives and Dad wore his medals and Welsh Regiment cap badge with great pride. He was flag bearer at many funerals (sadly).

If anyone knew him or can elaborate on his time in Stalag 1VB I would love to hear from them.



B. Kearney .     Royal Canadian Air Force 419 Sqd.



Doreen Kearney .     Womens Land Army   from Blyth, Northumberland)

My mum Doreen Kearney, enlisted in the Land Army in 1942-1945, she's now 83 and still getting about ok. I love listening to the stories she used to tell me about the work and the social life at the weekends, my mum used to love to dance!.

I am trying to trace a friend of my mothers, her name was Doreen Kerr and she lived in Carlisle, my mum used to stay over weekends at Doreens mums house and always was made welcome. If there is anyone reading this thread and knows Doreen please let me know as my mother would love to contact her again.

My mum and others have been invited on the 4th of December to have tea at Northumberland hall by Sir John Riddell as part of service recognition during the war. Thank you and best regards to you all who served our country so well during the war.



Joseph Francis Kieran Kearney .     Canadian Army 57th Newfoundland Heavy Regiment Royal Canadian Artillery   from St. John's, Newfoundland)



Donkeyman J. Kearns .     Naval Auxiliary Personnel HMS Forfar

J Kearns was one of those to survive the sinking of HMS Forfar.



Greaser John Kearns .     Naval Auxiliary Personnel HMS Forfar   from Liverpool)

(d.2nd Dec 1940)



Sgt. John Alfred keates .     Royal Air Force 149 Squadron   from Rugby)

(d.9th May 1941)

I would like to ascertain the mission which cost John Keates his life.



Sergeant John Alfred Keates .     RAF Squadron 149 (d.9th May 1941)

Here are some postcards of Squadron 149 with all the autographs on the back.

My great uncle was John Alfred Keates (Sergeant) 940033 Wireless Operator / Gunner who died 9th May 1941 aged 20. In the formal group photograph he is front and centre.

His friend is Joe Ball, who he grew up with and also served in Squadron 149.

Do you have any more information or photographs that may be of interest?



James Joseph Keating .     U S Navy USS Boise   from Chicago, USA)

(d.12th Oct 1942)

James Keating was my Uncle. He was killed in action, during the battle of Cape Esperance on 12 Oct 1942. He joined the Navy in early 1942 shipped out of San Diego never to return. Two of his 4 brothers followed him into the Navy later that same year, Walter and Ed both survived the war.



Able Seaman John Thomas Keating .     Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve HMS Forfar (d.2nd Dec 1940)

Keating is listed in the chorus of the revue "Get Sailing" which was performed onboard the Forfar on the 19th of June 1940.



John F Keating .     US Army 635 Field Artillery Battalion Battery B

I am trying to trace Corporal John F Keating who served with Battery B, 635 Field Artillery Battalion, US Army. The address where we used to write to him was Battery B 635FABNAPO17663 C/O US Army.



Lt. Amy Evalyn Keats .     Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service Hospital Ship Karoa   from Oakley, Hampshire, England)

My mother joined the QA's [Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service, now known as the QARANC ] and arrived in India 21st March 1944. After a time serving in on-shore hospitals she joined the Hospital Ship "Karoa" and participated in the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the Burma Campaigns. The "Karoa" would sail between Madras, Chittagong and Calcutta collecting the wounded out of Chittagong. She remembers spotting 2 periscopes of submarines in the Bay of Bengal but they never fired on the "Karoa" so perhaps it was the Allies or the enemy respecting the Geneva convention. She made good friends of two other Sisters on board the "Karoa"and each had charge of a level of the Ship. There were four levels: Officers on top deck; British Other Ranks on the next level down; Indian soldiers on the next level; West Africans on the next level and East Africans on the lowest level. My mother was Sister-in-charge of the Officers' Ward; her friend Jane, Sister-in-charge of the Indian Ward and Joyce, Sister-in-charge of the West African ward. They each remember the visit of Lord Louis Mountbatten and would pass the message on to each other to be ready as he descended to inspect the Wards! These three Sisters kept up a friendship all their lives. My mother married a British Officer at the end of the War and went to Australia. Joyce returned to Suffolk, England and Jane married and went to live in Canada. The three corresponded over all the years. Eventually Joyce came out to Australia to visit her son who was married and based in Sydney. She was intending to visit her WW2 friend Amy in Melbourne but unfortunately my mother died only a few days before they ever re-connected. Joyce met my father and asked if she could have something of my mother's, an ashtray in the form of a brass shoe. The story went that she and my mother had bought one each in a bazaar in India and had pledged to meet on the steps of St Paul's cathedral after the War with their brass shoes! Chance had dictated otherwise and so the story closes here.




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