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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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408 Squadron badge
P/O. William Taylor J/89913 RCAF Age 24. Killed

(Extracted from the fine publication "Their Names Live On" by Doug Chisholm)

On March 15, 1944, a Lancaster bomber crashed in a field near the village of Hilsenheim, France. RCAF Flying Officer William Taylor was among the crew. Fifty years later, some of the families of the crew members gathered for a memorial service at the gravesites in the Hilsenheim Communal Cemetery. In the words of William's sister Edna,

It was a moving experience for all that attended.

The Canadian family was greeted very warmly by the British family of the crew member, Hudson.

Later they met and were treated very warmly and graciously by the French family, Steydli, who had taken care of the graves of all the crew members through the years. A bond was created that day among the Canadian, English, and French families that is in itself a fitting tribute to a young life, cut off before he had a chance to really live.

William Taylor's “young life” had begun in Nottingham, a hamlet north and east of Carnduff, Saskatchewan, on April 20, 1920. His parents, homesteaders in the area, had emigrated to Canada from England and Ireland, and William was the eighth of what was eventually a family of nine. His school years, during which William had the same teacher in a one-room school for grades one through ten, provided a few special family memories. William and the other young ones of the family used to make their own stilts. (One brother, Ernest, claims to have walked one and a half miles to school on them.) And William, a vigorous, good-natured boy, loved to wrestle in the house, especially putting on a show on the kitchen, where most of the spectators could be found. “I thought the house was going to get wrecked,” one of his sisters recalls. Another time, William was out hunting for crows' eggs, keen to collect the bounty of two cents an egg (more if it was a live bird) the government had placed on the pests. After the successful hunt, William rode his horse home, the eggs stashed safely in his hat. But the horse began to gallop, and soon William had crow egg running down his face, to the everlasting mirth of his siblings. He loved to ride horses, though-egg hunting or not.

Eventually, he got his grade twelve at the high school in Carievale by boarding near town and riding his bicycle to and from school, meanwhile keeping his eye open for employment opportunities. Once during another wrestling session with his brother, William saw a fellow named Jim Murray walk by the house. In an instant, the boys tidied their clothes, straightened their hair, and dashed out the door after Mr. Murray. Soon thereafter, William was off to Manitoba to work on the Murray farm.

By that time William wanted earnestly to enlist in the RCAF, which he did. He'd always had a good strong will. His sister relates that during his first solo flight while training, William “had difficulty bringing the plane down. The wind kept bouncing it back up. He decided that he would land the plane if it were the last thing he would ever do, so through determination and patience he eventually landed safely.”

Left to right: Bill Taylor, Norman Lumgair, Wally Richmond, George Parker and William Doran

There was a spell of crying when William was sent to England and he said his goodbyes to his family in Carnduff, including a sister who was about to give birth. He was assigned in 1943 to No. 408 “Goose” Squadron, the second Canadian bomber squadron formed overseas. Whenever he could, William visited his Uncle Will and other relatives in England. “Sorry to say,” he wrote in a letter home dated March 14, 1944, “I can't tell you much about what I'm doing or what targets I have been on.” The next day, William Taylor's Lancaster was bound for Stuttgart when, apparently, the plane collided with another of the same squadron. The plane crashed in Monsieur Steydli's field in France, and the crash site became a monument of its own. You could see the indentation in the field, and nothing grew there for twenty years. Mr. Steydli respectfully preserved whatever pieces of the plane he could find.

The family's visit there fifty years later was “a simple meeting without tambourines or trumpets, but nevertheless imprinted with melancholy, memories, and emotions” of the kind evoked by this verse written by William's sister Isabel shortly after his death:

Last night a star fell from the sky,

It seemed so sad its light had gone,

Till I looked overhead and saw

A million others shone.

Full version in our 'poetry section'.

In northern Saskatchewan, William Taylor is memorialised by 'Taylor Bay', located on Russell Lake.

We are working very closely with the Manitoba geographical names project and the Saskatchewan Tourism Parks, culture and sports department to show with the aid of Google maps where many of the WW2 Aviators are being remembered. If you are also able to assist by sending other information please contact us.

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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