Private William F Lakey

19 Sep 1944

William Frank Lakey was the son of Albert Frank and Jessie Alice Lakey, of Upper Holloway, London.

He was enlisted into The Northamptonshire Regiment during World War II and volunteered for airborne forces in September 1943.

Private Lakey qualified as a military parachutist on course 93, which ran at RAF Ringway from 29 November to 13 December 1943. The instructors’ comments state ‘Pte Lakey Very good, seemed to enjoy parachuting.’ He was then posted to the Mortar Platoon, Support Company, 10th Parachute Battalion.

He jumped at the Battle of Arnhem, during Op Market Garden, where his gun crew were tasked with firing at armoured vehicles of the SS KG Junghans. Pte Lakey was part of Sgt Clifford’s gun crew which also contained L/Cpl Wood and two others. The other gun at the same location was commanded by Sgt Harmes.

As the first salvoes of mortars was released from these two teams, Sgt Clifford suddenly became aware of the danger of overhanging branches above his gun which posed a threat from their own mortar shells potentially exploding just above them. He called a cease fire and whilst attempting to remove the branches, their position and mortar guns received a direct hit from German mortars.

As a result, Pte Lakey was killed outright and Sgt Clifford and L/Cpl Wood were very seriously wounded. They were both taken back to the Regimental Aid Post, just behind their position, by Sgt Harmes and two of his team. L/Cpl Wood was to die later that day followed by Sgt Clifford the next day.

Pte Lakey died on 19 September 1944, aged 23 years old, his first burial was to the north of the Amsterdamseweg and to the west of the La Cabine Pumping Station. He is now buried at Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Arnhem.

Profile photograph courtesy of Barry Bourne.

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