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