In 1944. George duly arrived in Bathurst. Formerly a Navigator, he went into Ops. as a Wireless Operator. He kept a splendid album of his time there, which is included in the Photos section of this website. He also kept a hand-written book, detailing every aspect of the RAF.
Born in 1905, George William Gregory started his career at Lloyd's of London in 1919 at the age of 14 as a 'Tea Boy', later becoming an insurance broker specialising in the drafting of aviation insurance schedules until 1940. He was part of the working committee pioneering aviation insurance, and an underwriter with a Lloyd's syndicate dealing in aviation insurance internationally.
Taking a commission at Cosford, he was transferred to RAF Predennack at Mullion, Cornwall in 1943 (19 Group - Ops room)
He served with Fighter Command and Coastal Command (1944-1945).
In 1948 he became a member of the first Lloyd's Aviation Underwriters' Association Committee drafting and producing a 'standard' aviation insurance policy for Lloyds known as AV1.
In 1954 he was elected to the technical and clauses committee of the Underwriters' Association and for the next dozen years he helped to produce Lloyds's first 'standard specimen form' of liabilities policies for use in the United States, Canada and Switzerland. In 1959 he joined the leading Lloyds syndicate dealing with aviation insurance, E R H Hill, again as deputy underwriter. As with the previous syndicate he considered the acceptance and premium rating of aviation insurance risks. He also dealt with the major insurance claims made against his syndicate and this work, more than anything, has shaped the creation of the records in the Brynmor Jones Library.
George finally retired after 55 years, although carried on working with Lloyd's of London in an advisory capacity until well into his 70s.
Insurance schedules, accident reports and litigation papers (including photographs) as well as a few other miscellaneous papers collected during the career of George William Gregory as an insurance investigator are held at Hull History Centre .The collection also contains 261 photographs (circa 1930-1970) of aircraft and air crashes
The accident reports and litigation papers span the dates 1948-1974 and include the loss of The Phoenix (of ' Flight of the Phoenix' (Twentieth-Century Fox-Tallamantz Aviation), and the destruction of several aircraft at Beirut in the Lebanon in 1968 in a raid by the Israeli Armed Forces and the 1970 report of the hijack of a Swissair DC8 in Jordan.
A Great Escape...
One of the great ironies of the end of WWII was that Czech pilots who fought for Great Britain, returned to Czechoslovakia to find themselves slowly discredited, persecuted and imprisoned, by the incoming Communist regime, which seized power in 1948.
This chapter focusses on Adolf Zeleny, a dashing, charismatic Czech pilot whom George Gregory remembered well from serving with him at RAF Predennack.
After returning to Czechoslovakia with his English wife and two young children, he was put in charge of air traffic at Ruzyne airport. He was elected president of the Association of Airmen and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. But when Czechoslovakia came under communist rule and he was dismissed as president as a reactionary, he decided to return to England. His family, with British passports, left in April 1948.
However, having fought for Great Britain in the war and now having a British wife, his application to move to England was denied.
Trying to find a legal way of leaving the country, in June 1948 he requested a meeting with the Chief Security Officer Colonel Reicin - the most feared and powerful man in the Armed Forces. Suddenly a new idea flashed through his brain, the heritage in Australia! What about claiming that Vera his wife, had inherited a farm?
He told Reicin that his wife had inherited recently a farm in Australia and she would not be able to run it as she had no experience of farming, so he wanted to emigrate to Australia. To his surprise, Colonel Reicin told him that if he produced the documents, then he would let him go!
As post was not yet censored, he managed to convey this to his wife by letter to where she was staying in Cornwall.
It transpired, that Vera was staying in the same place where George Gregory (currently on leave) and his wife were staying, and that he remembered 'Ada' Zeleny very well from RAF Predannack in the Operations Room where he was assistant controller.
Through various contacts, George Gregory then set about obtaining the forged documents required for Ada Zeleney's escape...
Prague 9th July 1948
My dear George,
I apologize deeply for not writing you such a long time. I was under a false idea, that you and your family are in Porthtowan spending your leave there. Vera told me to-night about my misunderstanding so I'm apologizing...
First of all I must thank you for the work you have done for me. The paper works it's marvels here, the seals are most impressive. To-day I was told that I've got my permit from the War Ministry. Of course it's nothing yet to disrupt the red tape for I have to fight with the Ministry of Social Welfare to get a permit to enable me to get yet another permit to get out. This means another 4-6 weeks of more or less waiting or fighting. It's not only the fighting but also the money. It'll cost me about £200 in Czech money, but I'm sure that the sale of my furniture will produce the sum needed, so from this point of view I seem to be O.K. Of course my parents will do their best to help me.
I was rather disappointed that you couldn't come to see me in Prague. I made all preparations, got everything clean and tidy (it looks here sometimes like a gipsy camp) mother send enough food to keep us up.
But on the other hand you didn't lose anything, the weather was simply appalling, raining cats and dogs. Instead of you I had another visitor Joe Snajder former liaison officer at the 19 Group in Plymouth, anyway he remembers you well. He is in the same boat as I am having committed the same crime by marrying an English girl so after all I had some company. I must say that I feel sometime awfully lonely, living a life of an hermit not seeing anybody and being sometimes fed up with everything. It gets on my nerves this waiting sometimes without any hope but I always manage to get round again and regain spirit and hopes.
Then I must thank you for all you did for Vera. She wrote me that she spends nice days with you and your family. I thank you also for the flowers you sent her in my name, I could give her only my greetings in viva voce over the phone.
Please don't be angry with me, I'll be giving you more details reports about the Pilgrims progress.
I hope to see you soon and am looking forward.
Yours sincerely Ada
15 July 1948
Dear Mr Gregory
I must apologise for not having answered your letter before this - delay in the first instance was due to my being away, and I have been very busier ever since.
Yes indeed I was with 179 at Predannack, and remember several of our Czech friends there. I have seen one or two of them in Prague, but not "Toby" who I believe was there, or Kostoric. These chaps have our sympathies, especially in view of the persecution of those with British wives; a typical trick. Unfortunately, since the last unpleasantness, we no longer go into Prague - indeed we take pains not to have it known that we have had anything to do with it, when we book people airline seats to Prague, as we think it might well prejudice their chances!
However, although I am not in a position to help, I would put you on to our Personnel Department Manager, Mr. Dohnalek, who might have some useful contribution to make.
Prague 26th July 1948
My dear George,
In my last letter I promised you more frequently but I didn't keep my word and I apologise. I had to chase up the last few papers (I have a collection of 32 (thirty two) pieces up to now) and thank God it's finished. The last one was the most difficult one, though I thought it would be the easiest, so I lost a week travelling up and down the country to find finally that it would be a problem of 3 minutes if the magistrate knew!
Anyway it had it's good points too, for I visited my parents and spent there few gorgeous days.
From Vera's letter I gather you went to see your family last week-end and that you are coming again next week. I do hope that this letter catches you in time.
Now I have a "chair borne" time just waiting for the things you are pulling the strings behind the scenes and thank God I have few of them. I cannot send of the P of A yet for its attached to the documents unfortunately I cannot use the certified copies or translations they want the original and I do hope it makes it work.
I still cannot predict the time of the final, because as it happens, something may crop up again and I may have to wait further. But I hope that this time I'll be more lucky and that all finishes as I want.
I still have many things to do before I leave, but it's nothing as the collecting of the documents.
Lastly I have to thank you, for all your help you are giving my family. Please give my regards to Dorothy and Ian and I hope to see you soon.
In August, after obtaining forged papers giving him the ownership of a mythical farm in Australia, he left and landed at RAF Northolt after a nail-biting journey when he feared the Dakota in which he was flying might be recalled to Prague.
After a spell working on a farm in Kent that George Gregory had recently purchased, Zeleny rejoined the RAF in 1949. He served at various RAF stations in England and did a tour of duty in Singapore. His posting to RAF Eastleigh in Nairobi, Kenya, proved a turning point. He established a mountain and desert rescue team responsible for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Now in his element, he took part in the rescue of a crashed light aircraft on Monduli mountain near Arusha in Tanzania. The rescue team prepared a landing strip within an hour to take out the badly wounded pilot and two other injured men, along with the navigator, who had been killed.
In 1965 he was posted to RAF El Adem in Libya and typically decided to drive there with his wife in a camper van. The journey took 41 days. Once more he became involved in desert rescue and was appointed to command the station's school of desert survival and desert rescue team. During this time he led a number of expeditions to various parts of the Libyan Desert: the Tibesti Mountains, Uweinat and Murzuch, among others. In 1968 he organised an expedition to the wreck of the Lady Be Good, a Liberator that vanished in a sandstorm in the Sahara in 1943 and was only found 16 years later. They extracted an engine for evaluation by the McDonnell Douglas company.
Zeleny retired with the rank of squadron leader in November 1971. He then embarked on a career as a tour guide and over the next 20 years visited every continent except Antarctica. He studied the histories and languages of the countries he visited so he could, if necessary, stand in for the local guide. Zeleny was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1974.
The Diaries of Adolf Zeleny documenting his escape from Czechoslovakia to England, with the assistance of George Gregory