Major General Patrick Kay- WWII Royal Marine and a pioneer of amphibious commando warfare

Major General Patrick Kay- WWII Royal Marine and a pioneer of amphibious commando warfare

Photo story (From left to right): (1) WWII Royal Marine Major General Partick Kay (2) British Commandos at Sword Beach area at approximately 8.40 am on 6th June 1944 during D Day Normandy Landings

The quote ‘The army marches on its stomach’ is attributed to the prominent French political and military leader of 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte. Which means that to march well anywhere the army should be well fed. And the saying was proved during WWII when supply planning by Royal Marine officer serving in 4 Special Services Brigade, Captain Patrick Richard Kay sealed victory at Walcheran Island in November 1944. The D-Day veteran and the secret D-Notice or Defense Advisory Notice secretary Major General Patrick Kay died at the age of 92 on 19th September 2013. Online edition of Britain’s renowned daily news paper The Daily Telegraph reported on his WWII and other heroics.

Pat Kay was born in the coastal village Blakeney, Norfolk on 1st August 1921. He studied at Eastbourne College. He was commissioned in Royal Marines in January 1940. He sailed in the Arctic and in the Mediterranean while serving in the battle cruiser Renown from 1941-1943. The cruiser also carried Winston Churchill to Alexandria, Cairo for a meeting in November 1943. Kay joined the 4 Commando Special Services Brigade in early 1944 where he was Liaison Officer at the 41 Commando Royal Marines headquarters at the D Day Normandy landings.

Kay’s landing craft grounded 200 yards off the easternmost Normandy landing area code named Sword beach at 08.45 am. He had a folded bicycle strapped to his back. The area was still under severe firing and was littered with wounded, dead and burnt out tanks. The battalion’s mission was to take control of several strong points near Lion sur Mer which was the leftmost area of the Allied landings. Amidst constant machine gun and sniper fire Kay waded ashore and was pressing forward off the beach within five minutes. But all commando tanks had been out of mortars by 11.40 am and an hour later they were withdrawn to their starting position near a road which was parallel to the beach. They consolidated their defenses and resisted a number of German attacks. By the end of the day the 41 Commando suffered 140 casualties and all communications to HQ were disrupted. But Kay made a hazardous fast trip using his bicycle through the Normandy country side to 8 Brigade Headquarters to call in artillery support, supply and reinforcements.

Kay had a lucky escape next morning when all of a sudden three German bombers dived out of the clouds and dropped three anti personnel bombs. On 7th June reinforcement came as 46 Royal Marine Commandos landed. The order of attacking the ‘Hill 13’ enemy base at Petit Enfer was carried by Kay and Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Campbell Hardy asked Kay whether he was armed or not. As he replied in affirmative Hardy told him to ‘lead Z troop’ that evening. Hill 13, from which the Germans had earlier ousted the 5th British Parachute Brigade, was recaptured at 6pm and the Marines took huge stockpile of enemy equipment and weapons along with 65 prisoners. Kay was severely wounded in November 1944 when his tracked landing vehicle ‘Buffalo’ was blown up by a mine during the strategically important Walcheren Island landings. During the battle and all his life, Kay kept the photograph of his wife Muriel Austen Smith (died earlier in 2013) in his pocket. He married her just weeks before the landings in 1944.

Kay was appointed the Most Excellent order of British Empire (MBE, military) in 1945. At the end of the war he went to Combined operations headquarters and remained there until joining Staff of the Royal Marine Commandant General in 1948. During the Eoka emergency in Cyprus, he joined the 40 commando in 1954 in Malta and was deployed to Cyprus. On 6th November 1956, he took part in the Suez landing campaign and assault on Port Said. The campaign lasted until 1957. Then Kay was assigned to instruct at the Joint Services Amphibious Combat center at Poole. He worked three years at Naval Staff Plans division from 1959-1962. He was appointed Companion or CB in 1972. Kay was the Director of Naval Security from 1974-1981.  Kay became the associate D-Notice secretary in 1982 and was secretary from 1984-1986.

Many news broadcastings related to national security were wisely controlled and dealt by Kay. Some of these included the contentious Northern Ireland matters, sinking of Argentine cruiser Belgrano and public disclosure of the identities of MI5 & MI6 heads.

Five months after the death of his wife Muriel, Pat Kay died. He is survived by three sons and one daughter.

Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE