Interview with William Taylor


Interview with William Taylor


William Taylor joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 as ground crew. He remustered as an air gunner and flew operations with 103 Squadron from RAF Elsham Wolds, flying Lancasters. His Aircraft was attacked and shot down by a night fighter in July 1944. He baled out, was captured and became a prisoner of war. In February 1944, he and fellow prisoners were sent on the long march away from the advancing Russians. Following demobilisation he rejoined the Royal Air Force and worked with the V Force at RAF Wittering. He was awarded a British Empire Medal and retired in 1977.




Temporal Coverage




00:15:37 audio recording

Conforms To


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I’m Ron Meredith and I’m conducting an interview at the moment with Mr Taylor who I’m going to ask to introduce himself. We are actually doing this from his own home in Tattershal and I’m em, sure the rest of this will be quite interesting. Not only did Mr Taylor serve during the War and become a prisoner of War he served on the “V” force with Nuclear Weapons as well, so there is a little story behind this, over to you Sir.
WT. What ?
RM. You are.
WT.My History?
RM. The first thing to say is “I am.”
WT. Who I am?
RM. I’d rather not prompt you unless I have to and if you could just tell it as you wish. Absolutely as you wish.
WT. From the word go?
RM. From the time you signed up first or were called up first, yes.
WT. To?
RM.To whenever you decide.

WT. My name is William Henry Taylor, known as Buck throughout my service. I joined the Air Force in Nineteen Forty Two and er. Actually when I went to join up I went to join the Navy but it was out for lunch so the RAF Recruiter got hold of me and he said “I am sure you would like to be in the Air Force and be a Pilot.” I didn’t even know what a Pilot was, I was only seventeen I told them I was eighteen to get in and eh did a few months refuelling aeroplanes and things like that and em after a period they were asking for volunteers for Aircrew and I became Aircrew. Eh, went through all my courses, did my course as an Air Gunner at Andreas on the Isle of Man and from there on we did various other aircraft, Ansons, Wellingtons and eh at a certain, I forget exactly when it was but it was in nineteen forty four I think, end of Forty Three I think, we were all put into a hanger at RAF Finingley and told to crew up and eh everybody.
RM. What Squadron was this by the way?
WT.No Squadron, just Aircrew that had passed out and, so forth, and this Pilot came to me and said”I like the look of you will you become a member of my Crew, you know be my Gunner?” I certainly would like to be, so we crewed up at Finningley and then as a Crew we went to the OTUs and this and that and the other on Halifaxes, Lancasters and goodness knows what and then eventually posted to Elsham Wolds 103 Squadron and eh. Funny thing about being Aircrew, I didn’t know anybody but my Crew. We didn’t mix; we just kept together the seven of us and eh, slept together, ate together, went out for drinks together and so on. Then we were thrown into the War like Soldiers do, go over the top and eh, commenced Operations. Eh, very dangerous I might say, you were going through flak, like snowflakes there was that much stuff coming up at you, you were wondering how you got through that. Wondering how the Pilot thought, how am I going to get through that? What we did, did several, numerous operations, and finally there was a target just about fifty miles from Paris that we did, it was a place called Ruevigdies. We went there, it was a nine hour trip there and back and em, the first Operation on it, you know numerous Lancasters involved. Couldn’t find the Target and all the rest of it and it was just a waste of time and two nights later, and we lost a few Aircraft on that trip. Then a couple of days later we were told we were going back again to bomb it that night. We reached the target but couldn’t find it, the Pathfinder people couldn’t find it because of the weather, foggy and so forth. We stooged around in circles for quite a bit, aircraft colliding with each other and I don’t know, a bit rough and the next thing I knew on this one, having left the target, well actually the thing is eh, we were told to come home the trip was cancelled. The Master Operator who was looking after the job told us all to go home and my Pilot said to the Crew “We haven’t come all this way twice to come home each time, having done nothing, I think I know where the target was” So we did a bit of a detour around the place and he said “this is it” and we dropped out bombs and headed for home. On the way home we were being attacked and the next thing I knew there was a big explosion behind my turret and eh, the Pilot asked everybody if they were all right and the Bomb Aimer was dead and the Mid Upper Gunner was dead. I found out later after the War we had been hit by one of those Messerschmitt 110 with upward firing guns. The aircraft just went into a dive, a very steep dive and all I could hear was the Pilot shouting “God save me” you know and I thought we are not going to get out of this very well. So I got out of my turret, put my parachute on and the entrance door to the aircraft was just behind my turret. I thought crikey if I jump out I will be in the propellers before we know where we are. So I went back in the turret, all this happened in seconds, I swung the turret on the beam and leant back like that and the slip stream got hold of me and threw me out. Tumbling through the sky, fortunately I remembered to pull my parachute thing and I landed four to five hundred yards from where the aircraft hit the deck. And eh, a big saga from then on, being captured, going through [unreadable] Luft, you know the interrogation centre. A lot of this travelling from France to eventually the Prisoner of War Camp took a couple of weeks on trains, lorries and so forth. It ended up being this Luft 7 a place called Bankow in Poland. And eh, not very nice, a new camp surrounded by high wires gun turrets and goodness knows what and eh after a period of er,well not long three or four months, we were told to get up and marched off in the snow, it was snowing like billyoh. We marched from Poland to just outside Berlin, a place called Leukenwalde. We lost lots and lots of men in the snow, it never stopped snowing for weeks.
RM. Roughly what year would this have been?
WT. It was called the Death March.
RM. Exactly what year was that, was that Forty Four or Forty Five?
WT. It was February Forty Four. Yes that’s when the March started, it took us three weeks and we ended up at this Leukenwalde which was a Camp for all Nationalities, you know Americans, Poles you name it and the French, they were the most numerous Prisoners in this Camp. They lauded it over us, they really did, yes. Eventually we were released by the Russians. The Russian Tank Squadron came to the Camp and just mowed the wires down and the turrets and everything and they wanted us to get on the tanks and go to, they were heading for Berlin, to fight with them in Berlin. I don’t think anybody volunteered. We hadn’t been fed for ages; we couldn’t have fought if we had tried. Then eh, as I say after this release by the Russians we were flown back to England by the Americans and eh, my War as such was over. I hadn’t enjoyed it too much [laugh]. I’m sorry.
RM. It’s an amazing story though, amazing story, but that wasn’t the end for you, you decided to soldier on, rejoin.
WT. Yes well er, we were all demobbed we were only in for the duration of the present emergency. I had no option, I had to go and I was a Warrant Officer and I couldn’t stand the quietness and whatever of Civvy Street. So after a few months I rejoined the Air Force and asked if I could fly again. No they don’t need flyers anymore, they would give me training as an Engineer, Ground Engineer and I accepted that. Then stayed in the Air Force plodding gently through all the ranks till I reached Warrant Officer again in Nineteen Seventy Four. The main thing that I was stationed at RAF Wittering as a Crew Chief on the Victor Bomber and eh, flew ‘round the World on that many, many times, you know. If I could have stayed at that I would have done, but they said no you are promoted to Flight Sergeant and off you go. I was posted to RAF Coningsby, went to America on the trials of the Phantom, myself and ten men. A year we did out there and came back and went operational on 54 Squadron and worked very hard to get that going. I was awarded or rewarded with the BEM for all my activities and stayed there till my service was completed in Nineteen Seventy Seven on my fifty second birthday.
RM. Well that is quite a remarkable story and I’m sure that will be of interest to many, many people over the years.
WT. Was it all right.
RM. Yes indeed, thank you so much.
WT. Can I listen to it?
RM. The only way you can listen to it



Ron Merrideth, “Interview with William Taylor,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 28, 2023,

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