Norman Leslie ‘Buck’ Tayler DFC (1914-1993) and Stalag Luft III famous for The Great Escape

A recent posting on Facebook of a photograph of a 1960’s fish and chips van, owned by Norman Tayler DFC, of Smallbrook Road, Broadway (see image below), brought back a lot of good memories to many people in the village. This led me to research Norman’s background, his participation in the Second World War and why he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

 

Flight Officer Norman Leslie ‘Buck’ Tayler, DFC 565003 RAFVR

Norman Leslie Tayler was born in Wareham, Dorset in 1914. Norman entered the RAF straight from school, qualifying as a fitter after 2 years’ service. He later reached the rank of Sergeant and applied to train as a pilot, training on old bi-planes. He married Mary Jarratt in 1939 in Hornsea, East Yorkshire, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the war, Norman (565003 RAFVR) served with bomber squadron No. 7 Squadron based at RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire. He was affectionately known as ‘Buck’ by his crew. During the 6th/7th June 1942, whilst conducting a night-time operation to bomb the city of Emden in north west Germany, Norman’s plane was shot down, one of the 11 aircraft lost that night and Norman was one of 14 crew made prisoner of war.

Three Short Stirlings over Great Britain c1942

The Short Stirling I W7471 MG-J ‘Johnnie’, a four engined bomber piloted by Norman, took off from RAF Oakington at 11.35pm on 6th June. The Stirling was intercepted by the Luftwaffe near Schiermonnikoog, West Frisian Islands, Holland, and was shot down by German Ace Oberleutnant Ludwig Becker II/NJG 2 (known as the ‘Professor’) flying a Messerschmitt Bf100 night-fighter. The Stirling came down in fields belonging to Mr Willem Jansma in an area called Blijaer Mieden between Blija and Holwerd in Friesland at 1.08am on the 7th June. All the crew survived the crash (and went on to survive the war) but were all made prisoners of war.

 

The crew of the Short Stirling I W7471 MG-J ‘Johnnie’

The members of the 8 crew on the Stirling were:

Wireless Operator John Henry ‘Jack’ Arnold, DFM (1911-1993) – Rear Air Gunner later promoted to Warrant Officer
Flying Officer Edward Jospeh ‘Ted’ Earngey (b. 1914) – Observer/Navigator (Australian) later promoted to Flight Lieutenant
Sgt. William Edward ‘Bill’ Goodman (1922-2002) – Front Air Gunner later promoted to Warrant Officer
Sgt. Clarence Francis ‘Frank’ Henigman (1920-1994) – Canadian promoted to Warrant Officer whilst in captivity
Sgt. Sidney John McNamara (1920-1978) Flight Engineer later promoted to Warrant Officer
Flying Officer Harry Douglas Spry (1911-1978) – Mid Upper Gunner later promoted to Flight Lieutenant
Flying Officer Norman Leslie ‘Buck’ Tayler DFC – Captain later promoted to Flight Lieutenant
Pilot Officer  Frank St. John Travis (1915-1978) – Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (Rhodesian but born in England) later promoted to Flight Lieutenant

 

Norman ‘Buck’ Tayler PoW No. 560

After the crew were captured they were taken via Cologne for interrogation and processing at Dulag Luft (near Frankfurt). The Officers, including Norman (PoW no. 560), were sent to Stalag Luft III near Sagan, Poland, a camp for Allied Air Force Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers. The Non-Commissioned Officers on the Stirling were sent to Stalag 357 Kopernikus and John Arnold was sent to Stalag Luft VI Heydekrug after a spell at Stalag Luft III and Stalag XX-A Thorn.

Stalag Luft III became famous because of the two “tunnel” escapes; The Wooden Horse Escape and The Great Escape. Two of the crew members, Ted Earngey (‘Little S’) and John Travis (‘The Dapper Rhodesian’), were involved in The Great Escape. John was an important member of the Escape Committee although he declined to take part in the actual escape. John was a mining engineer before the war and possible contributed tunnelling advice assisting with the construction of the bellows for the tunnels.

Whilst in Stalag Luft III (a prisoner in the North Compound), Norman  was awarded the DFC for his service with 7 Squadron and his part in a daylight raid on 18th December 1941 on two German warships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau that were in dry dock in the French port of Brest. On 9th December 1942 the following report appeared in the London Gazette:

One day in December, 1941, a strong force of Bomber aircraft carried out a determined attack on the German warships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst at Brest. The operation was carried out in the face of extremely heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire and determined attacks by enemy fighters. Nevertheless the air crews engaged pressed home their attacks to the utmost and-succeeded in scoring hits on their objectives. Several enemy aircraft were shot down. The success of the operation, which demanded the highest degree of skill and courage, reflects the greatest credit on the efforts of the following officers and airmen who participated in various capacities as leaders and members of aircraft crew.

 

After the War: the Move to Broadway

Tayler’s Fish & Chips Van (Posted by Andrew Bull on Facebook)

At the end of the war Stalag Luft III was liberated by the Soviet forces. Following the war Norman and Mary settled in Broadway, Worcestershire. They moved to 8 Smallbrook Road in 1947, after the houses were built, where they brought up their family, a son and two daughters. Norman was popular in the village, he was a keen gardener, a member of the local Broadway branch of Toc H, and was well known in the area for his delicious fish and chips, Tayler’s Fish & Chips, which he served from a 1960’s converted van.

Norman died in Broadway on 19th February 1993, Mary having predeceased him. A memorial bench for Norman and Mary is situated in the churchyard at St Eadburgha’s Church, Snowshill Road, a truly peaceful spot in the village.

In 2016, on the anniversary of the downing of the Stirling, a memorial panel to the crew, erected by the Stitchting Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, was unveiled at Blije attended by the families of the crew.

 

 

 

Debbie Williamson
Broadway Remembers

 

Further reading and photos of Norman Leslie ‘Buck’Tayler and his crew:

www.chartsblog.wordpress.com
Stalag Luft 3 Facebook Group

Sources:

http://www.aircrewremembered.com
http://www.ancestry.co.uk
World War II Allied Aircraft Crashes in The Netherlands & North Sea www.airwar4045.nl

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Corporal Nelson George Thacker, 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment (1915-1994)

From the Evesham Journal 21 March 1942

I recently saw on Facebook an image taken from the Evesham Journal of British prisoners of war in Stalag VIII-B (Stalag 344) Lamsdorf, Germany, in the 1942 (see image). Amongst the prisoners in the photo was Corporal Nelson George Thacker from Evesham (back row 3rd from left). The post piqued my interest as I have researched some of the men from the area that have served in either the First or Second World War so I decided to see what I could discover about Corporal Thacker.

Nelson George Thacker (1915-1994)

Known as George, he was born in Evesham on 28th September 1915. His parents, Percy John Thacker and mother, Sarah Jane (née Hampton), had married in Evesham late in 1914. His mother was from Bengeworth in Evesham and worked at the local jam factory. His father was a journeyman baker and the family lived at 4 Mill Street, Evesham. George had a younger brother, Frederick born in 1917 who died, aged 7, in 1924. His mother gave birth to a third son, Douglas, in 1927 but he also did not survive infancy.

George was named after his father’s brother Nelson Thacker (1892-1915). Just before George was born his Uncle Nelson had embarked for France having enlisted as a Private with the 1st Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). Less than two months’ later, whilst fighting on the Western Front Private Nelson Thacker was killed in action on 13th October 1915, and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial and the Evesham War Memorial.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, George enlisted with the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and in 1942, whilst in France, was captured by the German Army. The Evesham Journal reported on 21st March 1942 that George was a Prisoner of War in Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf.

Around 210 men from the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment are known to have been imprisoned in Stalag VIII-B at some point during the war. The stalag was the largest German Army prisoner of war camp in the Third Reich with thousands of prisoners, mostly Russian but with a smaller camp of some 16,000 prisoners from Britain, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. The camp was located in the north east near Oppeln on the River Oder in Silesia near what was then the German Polish border. At the end of 1943 Lamsdorf was designated Stalag 344 and a sub-camp at Teschen, some 125 km to the south east, became the new Stalag VIII-B.

Stalag 383, Hohenfels, Germany

According to the Worcestershire Regiment’s records Lt/Cpl 1873046 Thacker was imprisoned in Stalag 383 as PoW 15320. Fellow serving soldiers from his battalion; Corporals H.H. Taylor, D.E. Williams, R.P. Evans and Sergeants C. Sargerson and R.W. Seager are recorded as being PoWs in the camp at the same time as George.

It was not unusual for prisoners to be transferred between camps. Private Les Foskett who served with The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, had been a prisoner at Stalag VIII-B in 1941 and was transferred to Stalag 383 a few months later so it is likely that George and a number of others were transferred between the two camps at some stage and that he may not have been in Stalag VIII-B for long. Click here for Les Foskett’s story.

Stalag 383 was located in Bavaria between Nuremburg and Regensberg in Germany. Until late 1942, the prisoners in the camp endured conditions what have been described by another PoW as bad but once the Swiss Red Cross became involved, and Red Cross clothing and food parcels supplemented PoW camp rations, the lives the PoWs improved and the camp was described as “far less depressing than Lamsdorf”. A Swedish delegate who visited the camp on the occasion of the centenary of the YMCA in July 1944 stated that he had seen “no better camp in Germany” (see extracts from the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War, 1939-1945 for prisoners’ descriptions of the camp). The PoWs were released from Stalag 383 in early May 1945 by the American Army.

After his release, George returned home to Evesham. Following his discharge from the army in he started working as a Postman with Evesham Post Office in 1946 and he later joined the Evesham Town Silver Band. He married Gertrude Cynthia Padfield, known as Cynthia (of Burford Road, Evesham), at St Lawrence Church, in 1947. George died in 1994 and his wife, Cynthia, died aged 87, on 26th January 2012 and is buried in Waterside Cemetery, Evesham. Before her death Cynthia lived on Isbourne Crescent, Evesham.

If anyone has any information about George Thacker that could be added to this article then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Debbie Williamson
Broadway Remembers

 

Sources:
http://www.ancestry.co.uk
Evesham Journal
The Diary of Alan Forster, POW 3921, Stalag VIIIB (October 1944 — May 1945) by Bill Forster
http://www.worcestershireregiment.com