William Horace Taylor GC MBE (Direct Recipient)

b. 28/10/1908 Chorlton, Manchester. d. 16/01/1999 Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 26/09 – 17/10/1940 England.

William Horace Taylor (1908-1999), known as Horace,  was the son of a printer. William Arthur Taylo and his wife Hilda Jane (nee Nicholson) and was born in Manchester on 23rd October 1908. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School. Prior to the Second World War, he was a partner and, later, managing director of an advertising company called “Displays Unlimited” in the city.

William H Taylor GC MBE

Taylor had received his training on bomb disposal during the early days of the Blitz while serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). Sub-Lieutenant Taylor disposed of a number of mines while serving on HMS Vernon. He became widely known for his fondness for building “funkholes” – intended as a protective bunker to leap into if the bomb he was tackling started to tick.

When he was operating in a built-up area where such digging was impossible, Taylor instead chose a nearby building to run to in the event of the bomb starting to tick. Despite taking such precautions, Taylor had a couple of close shaves, including one occasion when a parachute mine could not be immediately rendered safe at a cross-roads in a built-up area of Birmingham.

However, as he was deciding what to do next, he learnt that a colleague, Lieutenant Rowson, had decided to tackle it. Initially, Rowson had started the bomb fuse ticking and had run for his life. But when nothing happened he, this time with Taylor, went to have another go, armed with spanners and other tools. When Rowson added to their problems by dislocating his thumb, the two men opted to detonate the bomb where it lay.

In his own words Taylor describes what happened next: “the thing went off with an enormous explosion which blew us both reeling down the street, bruised, filthy, shaken – but still alive.”

Taylor’s George Cross was announced on 14th January 1941 when his citation praised his “great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty”. Taylor, who was a devout Christian, later described to Sir John Smyth VC that he was never afraid doing his work. “It was prayer that kept me going. Every morning at breakfast time I’d ask God to hold my hand steady and deal with the treacherous little fuse. Each time my arm was taken in a firm grip and I was in safe-keeping.”

Later in the War, in 1944, Taylor became a diver and a pioneer of “human minesweepers”, which paved the way for the Royal Navy Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Branch. After the War, he married Joan Skaife d’Ingerthorpe, a Wren officer in 1946 and the couple later had four children, Susan, Norman, Jane and Belinda. His career remained linked to the military; he worked for the RNVR and was responsible for training work, including diving instruction. In 1975, he was awarded the MBE for services to Scouting, his great passion before and after the War. Taylor died on 16th January 1999 in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, aged 90. He was cremated at Aberdeen Crematorium. His medals are privately held proudly within the Taylor family.