Mutual Support by Philip West

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Flt. Lt. P. G. Taylor (Navigator) joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice at Halton in 1938, aged 16. In 1940 he became airframe fitter on the Maintenance Unit and volunteered for aircrew in 1941. He was recommended for training as a Navigator, completed his ground training in the UK and his flying training in Port Albert, Canada. On completion, he was commissioned and returned to the UK in January 1943, where he commenced familiarization training in Tiger Moths (15 EFTS) and Ansons. In August 1943, along with a pilot, wireless operator and bomb aimer, he commenced training on Whitleys.

From December 1943 to January 1944, he underwent training for conversion to Halifaxes and was posted to 10 Squadron. After on operation he was transferred to 158 Squadron (Lisset). On his tenth op. (18th April 1944) his aircraft was returning from a bombing raid on the marshalling yards at Tergunier (northern France) when they were attacked by a German night-fighter. The port wing of the aircraft was on fire, they went into a steep dive and the pilot shouted "Bale Out". Fortunately for him, the navigator position in the Halifax was next to the forward escape hatch and both he and the Flight Engineer were the only ones able to bale out, the other five crew members were all killed on impact.

The Flight Engineer was captured the next day but Flt. Lt. Taylor avoided capture and was sheltered by the Resistance in various safe houses until 28th July. By this time in the war French collaborators had infiltrated the Resistance Movement and were turning evading Allied airmen over to the Germans. Flt. Lt. Taylor was betrayed and turned over to the Germans on 28th July. He was imprisoned in Paris with approximately 140 other Allied airmen captured in similar circumstances. When Allied forces closed in on Paris, all prisoners mainly French civilians were packed into cattle trucks and evacuated to Germany, destination unknown, which turned out to be Buchenwald concentration camp. Along with other airmen, he was subsequently transferred to Stalag Luft 3 on 21st October where he remained as POW until the Russian advanced forced evacuation of all POWs and a long trek, finishing near Hamburg just as Germany surrendered.

Mr. I. J. Lewis (Flight Engineer) met his crew at Heavy Conversion Unit in August 1994, being the last member to join them and he was then posted to 158 Squadron Lissett to fly on Halifax IIIs on 20 August 1944, and completed his tour after 41 ops.

Crews usually did about 30 ops to complete a tour but because of General Von Runstead's Offensive against the American Armed Forces, they were asked to continue operations until the German Offensive threat was over.

During this tour, after flak damage, they returned to base several times on three engines and once on two engines.

M/Sig R. D. Pearson (Air Gunner) joined the RAF in 1943 to begin training as an Air Gunner. After the usual short attachments at various training stations eventually ending up at No. 2 AGS Dalcross. Air firing was carried out from an Avro Anson. There was always a mad rush to be first aboard the aircraft on every detail, not from enthusiasm, but from trying to avoid winding up the undercarriage after take off. M/Sig Pearson went from Dalcross to Kinloss to join a crew flying Whitleys and several months later ended up at 158 Squadron Lissett to commence operations of Halifaxes.

After half a tour and very happy at Lissett his crew were posted onto a PFF Squadron, 635 Squadron Downham Market. His first operation, and very nearly his last, was a daylight raid on Hamburg. On the bombing run, they had the misfortune to be selected by the pilot of a Me262 as his victim. He was not spotted until he was dead astern and blazing away with the four 30mm cannon in the nose. Evasive action was given and the pilot promptly stood the Lanc on its nose. Unfortunately not all the canon shells missed and they lost quite a piece of fuselage leaving ammo belts hanging out in the slipstream. After regaining level flight, they were attacked again by another Me262, but this time they were lucky. Both Me pilots decided to push off and find some other sitting duck! Despite these attacks, they carried on and bombed, making their way home across the North Sea, not a pleasant journey. The pilot received an immediate award of the DFC.

M/Sig Pearson finished the war out at Downham Market and after the war in Europe ended was posted to 83 Squadron Coningsby for Tiger Force training and operations against the Japanese. Fortunately the war in the east ceased just as they were ready to depart. He was demobbed in May 1947, but was not happy out of uniform so was back in again at the end of 1949 as an A/G flying on Lincolns at 9 Squadron Binbrook. He had a short detachment with 617 Squadron at Shallufa, Egypt and at the end of 1952 was posted onto B29 aircraft with 15 Squadron Coningsby. After six months he was posted to Little Rissington on a Link Trainer course and then to FTS Syerston as a Link Instructor to Naval cadet pilots. In 1955, he was required to either remuster to a ground trade or take another aircrew trade. He was posted to Swanton Morley to take training as an Air Signaller and from then to St. Mawgan 228 Squadron on Shackletons. Next came a posting to Northolt in a drawing office En-Route charts and Terminal Approach Procedures. Back to flying in 1961 and a posting to 224 Squadron Gibraltar and then to Air Traffic Control School at Shawbury. On completion of this course came a posting to RAF Lyneham as Local Controller and thence to RAF Colerne as Approach Controller. He left the service in 1968.

Overall size: 28" wide x 12 1/2" high.

Image size: 24" wide x 8" high.