Added by: Keith Cleary
Date added: 20 Jun 2011
Colonel K G Taylor Imperial Service Order Territorial Decoration
Ken joined the Royal Corps of Signals (TA) in 1938 at the age of 18, he trained as a despatch rider, as he already owned a motorcycle. At this time R Sigs were being mechanised, or he would have had to take his trade test on a horse. Their pay was 1/- per day plus 2/- per day for the use of their own bikes. After the outbreak of war they were being paid 5/- per day for the use of their bikes until the army provided the cheapest 2nd hand bikes they could find.
In September 1940 he was commissioned after completing 9 months training at Aldershot in the officer training unit under the infamous RSM Brittan.
He was posted to India to join the Indian Army as a Signals Officer. When the Japanese were pressing their advance he was based at the border town of Kohima.
At this time a General Orde Wingate was leading an operation to establish strong points behind the Japanese lines in order to disrupt their advance towards Imphal and Kohima, where they were intending to invade India. Wingate was an odd character who did not fit in with the army establishment, but he had the ear of Churchill, who supported the scheme. An unconventional but gifted soldier, Ken told me that General Wingate did not wear a watch, but went around with an alarm clock tied to his belt, and he would devour a field ration of greasy sausages called Soya Links which everyone else hated.
These strong points behind enemy lines were supplied by air. 12000 men in gliders towed by Dakotas, over mountains reaching up to 7000 feet, were despatched. The area was not like the flat fields of Normandy or Belgium. The landing sites had been identified as suitable for the construction of airfields. These landings were extremely hazardous as they were in a mountainous area covered in jungle.
The landing sites went under code names of ‘Broadway’ and ‘White City’. 37 gliders landed at Broadway, 16 did not. The glider carrying a signals officer in charge of the cyphers crashed en route and was lost; this meant that they could not communicate.
In the service this known as SNAFU.
Situation Normal all Fouled Up.
So as signal officer in reserve Ken had to fly in by glider to Broadway with new cypher books. The O/C of the location Brigadier Mike Calvert decided that they had to get to the location codenamed White City to assist the troops who had cut the railway and were under attack from the Japanese. This was a trek through dense jungle for 45 miles. In line ahead, one man in front with a panga one behind with a compass. Having arrived at the site and assisted in the battle, the original carrier of the codes turned up having marched through the jungle for many days, until he reached a British unit who brought him in. As the original member of the unit had turned up Ken was released to go back to his own unit.
From White City, Ken hoped to get a flight out, but the severely wounded had priority, so he was put in charge of a party of walking wounded, to escort them back 45 miles through the jungle knowing that that there were Japanese in the jungle all around. It was with great relief that they returned to the base at Broadway, and his return to India.
On a lighter note, on an internal flight in India, Ken and some colleagues shared a Dakota with Vera Lynn’ wardrobe including her grand piano. During the flight there was a lot of turbulence and the piano broke loose from its lashings, and they had to hold it down for the rest of the flight.
This is but a brief summary of just one of the periods in Ken’s service with the Indian Signals in Burma.
He left regular service in August 1946
2. Post War.
After completing his war service Ken joined the Army Emergency Reserve in 1950, and served until 1968. During his service with the AER he achieved the rank of Colonel as commanding officer of 82 Signal Regiment ( AER )
After his retirement he joined the Sheffield Branch of the RSA, and was appointed Vice President.
We had many enjoyable social evenings together in the mess at Manor Top, and at annual dinners where the wine flowed freely.
Ken, Con and Kay also attended the reunion at Blandford in Dorset. This was and still is an annual event.
We also had several weekends in London where we attended the annual Governor’s Parade at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where we made many friends with the ‘In Pensioners’ The men in Scarlet.
The ladies of the party were always an attraction to the ‘In Pensioners’.
Ken was an accomplished silver smith, and he brought examples of his work to Branch meetings where they were much admired.
You may remember the song from years ago.
‘’ Old Soldiers Never Die They Only Fade Away’’
This used to puzzle me a lot, as I could not understand what writer meant, but I think I have an answer.
You can only be really dead when there is no-one left who remembers who you were.
When old soldiers gather, all the old memories come flooding back, and the stories come out again and again.
Ken was a gentle-man and a gentleman he was quietly spoken and a friend to all. He did not talk about his service in Burma unless prompted.
He will be greatly missed. It has been a privilege to know him, and to have him as my special friend.
The above text was prepared by Ron Simmons who was a close friend of Ken. Ron is the Vice President of Sheffield branch.