Jeff Green | Nov 05, 2014
Bob Taylor runs a fresh fruit and vegetable stand in Northbrook during the summer and fall these days, but he has done a lot of other things, and is known for the years during which he was associated with ambulance service in the northern half of Lennox and Addington County.
Less well known is his connection to WW2. Bob was born at the end of June in 1943, near the town of Stirling, a long way from the war, but that war had already taken a toll on him. His father, Robert Taylor, died in a plane crash during a training run near Scredington, England, on June 18, 1943, one week before Bob was born
Bob was raised by his grandparents, as his mother was working when he was young and eventually re-married. “My grandparents were wonderful and always kind and helpful to me, so I have no complaints about that,” he said. Although he was sent to New Brunswick, where his father's family was from, at about six years old, Bob had already made attachments in Ontario and he soon returned.
His grandmother died in 1955, and he stayed with his grandfather through his teenage years.
Although he knew of the circumstances of his father's death, it wasn't until last year that he visited Scredington, where the accident took place, to participate in a ceremony in a 13th Century church in which a plaque was dedicated.
“It was pretty overwhelming visiting the site, participating in the commemoration, and being treated as if I was royalty the whole time,” he said.
As part of the events, there was a flypast of one of the few remaining Lancaster Bombers, the same plane that went down on that June day in 1943.
Nine soldiers were in that plane, two more than a normal complement. Flight Sergeant Robert Taylor was the rear gunner with a new crew, and because it was a training mission he was basically along for the ride on the flight but, all crew members participated in training missions.
He had survived 50 bombing missions over enemy territory, a rare feat in itself (22743 soldiers died in combat missions flying in Lancaster bombers between 1942 and 1944 and 44% of the fleet ended up going down) He was in training in a plane that was set to be a Pathfinder, planes that flew just above treetops and lit up targets for bombing missions.
According to his son, because the anti-aircraft guns were trained on the bombers, the chances of survival in a Pathfinder were significantly better.
“He likely would have survived the war as a Pathfinder, but that was not to be,” said Bob Taylor.
By remaining in contact with his New Brunswick grandparents, uncles and aunts, Taylor learned some details about his father.
“My grandfather was renowned as a hard-working man, He built a very successful dairy farm, but my grandmother was much more social. Apparently my father took after his mother. He had a rare skill. He could smell a day’s work and disappear like a Houdini,” he said.
While he was in England for the ceremony, it brought some of the physical reality of his father's last day home to him, and he even brought a souvenir, of sorts, back to Northbrook.
“Someone pulled up a piece of twisted metal from the ground near the crash site. The paint on the bottom was the same as the non-reflective black paint on the bottom of the Lancasters, so it only makes sense that it was from the plane,” he said.
The metal is attached to a plaque to his father that Taylor brought home from England.
He is currently working on a book about his father's life and death.
Bob Taylor holding a plaque to his father that was presented to him in England.