The Second World War produced many a tale of daring deeds, heroism and bravery amongst the newly-formed RAF Regiment. In this, their 75th year, we look back at one young, courageous Gunner who was awarded two medals for gallantry.
Corporal John Taylor had the distinction of being the most highly decorated Ground / RAF Regiment Gunner for Gallantry in the Second World War.
But what was incredible about this young Gunner's story was that even though his awards were for gallantry; neither were the result of enemy action. Cpl Taylor was awarded the George Medal for dashing into a burning Wellington bomber that had crash landed at Newmarket Heath race course, which was serving as a satellite for Mildenhall, on 15 February 1941.
The aircraft had crashed on approach and wearing only his football kit, Cpl Taylor and the SMO, Flying Officer Richard Robinson, valiantly beat back the flames to save a crewmember trapped in the cockpit. With fuel tanks, flares and ammunition exploding around them they managed to pull out the last crewmember who sadly died of his injuries.
His second action occurred on 6 January 1942 when another Wellington bomber from 99 Squadron crashed on top of a grenade store and caught fire. Cpl Taylor entered the burning bomber no less than five times in his attempts to save the lives of the trapped crew. Having twice entered alone and recovered two crew members, along with other airmen, he went back to the burning aircraft after borrowing a pair of gloves as his own had been burnt off.
Exhausted and with his own hands and body badly burned, Cpl Taylor still managed to pull out two more crew members, who had sadly died in the explosion. For this action he was awarded the British Empire Medal for Gallantry.
During the two rescue attempts, Cpl Taylor sustained severe burns and was invalided out of the service in 1944.