Dambuster of the Day No. 79: Alastair Taylor

sgt.-alastair-james-taylor crop

Pic: Taylor family/Aircrew Remembered

Sgt A J Taylor
Flight engineer

Lancaster serial number: ED934/G

Call sign: AJ-K

Second wave. Shot down on outward flight and crashed into sea.

Alastair James Taylor was born in Alves, Morayshire on 19 December 1922. He was the eldest of the five children of Stephen and Sarah Taylor. His brother Charles also served as a flight engineer in the RAF, and his sister Phyllis was in the WAAF. His home farm of Kirkhill was just a few miles from two locations – Kinloss and Lossiemouth – which would become very familiar to the personnel of Bomber Command in the war years. He went to Elgin Academy.

He joined the RAF as an apprentice at RAF Halton in January 1939, and served in ground crew until selected for flight engineer training at No 4 School of Technical Training at RAF St Athan in the summer of 1942. After qualification, he was posted to 1654 Conversion Unit in December 1942, where he crewed up with Vernon Byers and his colleagues. The last time he saw his family was the night before he was leaving Kinloss. He borrowed a bike and rode it approximately 5kms to Kirkhill to surprise his family for an hour.
 The crew arrived at Bottesford to join 467 Squadron on 3 February 1943, and had flown on just three operations by the time they were posted to 617 Squadron at the end of March.

The rigours of life in the new squadron didn’t prevent Taylor persuading his pilot to fly low over his family home when they flew to Morayshire on a training run in early May. He wrote to his mother shortly after: ‘I hope we didn’t scare you too much last Monday. I saw you and Aunt Julia just in front of the house but I could not pick dad out anywhere, so thought he would probably be at a pig sale.’

‘Beating up’ family houses was quite common in wartime. If they had a close relative in the RAF the occupants would listen out for aircraft. They would then rush outside if one flew over very low. It was usually a sign from the relative that everything was OK.

The wave from the cockpit was probably the last time that Taylor and his mother saw each other. A few days later AJ-K set off on its fateful flight on the Dams Raid, and was shot down even before it reached the Dutch coast.
Like five of his colleagues, Alastair Taylor has no known grave, and is commemorated instead on the Runnymede Memorial.

More about Taylor online:
Entry on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Page about Byers crew on Aircrew Remembered website

KIA 16.05.1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Robert Owen, Steve Darlow, Sean Feast & Arthur Thorning, Dam Busters: Failed to Return, Fighting High 2013

The information above has been taken from the books and online sources listed above, and other online material. Apologies for any errors or omissions. Please add any corrections or links to further information in the comments section below.

Further information about Alastair Taylor and the other 132 men who flew on the Dams Raid can be found in my book The Complete Dambusters, published by History Press in 2018.


7 thoughts on “Dambuster of the Day No. 79: Alastair Taylor

  1. f88volvo November 2, 2014 / 2:18 pm

    God bess him and his crew.

  2. f88volvo November 2, 2014 / 2:19 pm

    God bless him and his crew…………………..Sorry.

  3. Nigel Favill November 2, 2014 / 5:59 pm

    Another great post Charles .

  4. Ann Taylor April 24, 2020 / 8:52 am

    Alastair J. Taylor was the eldest of 4 sons and a daughter, Stephen and Sarah Ann Taylor had. Alastair, Phyllis and Charles all served in the RAF in WW11. George and Colin were younger and were required to help work the farm at Kirkhill. George my Dad told me of the Polish prisoners of war that also came out each day to work on the farm with Dad. He said they were really good workers and folk.
    My mother Jean told me Alastair was able to get a bike and visited Kirkhill on the 15th May to see his family.

  5. charlesfoster April 24, 2020 / 11:02 am

    Many thanks, Ann. I will amend the post accordingly. Best wishes Charles

    • Ann Taylor May 16, 2023 / 11:45 pm

      Thank you for update.
      However should read ‘home farm of Kirkhill’ not village.
      The last time Alastair saw his family was the night before he was leaving Kinloss, Alastair borrowed a bike and rode approx 5kms to Kirkhill to surprise his family for an hour.

  6. Brian Barrie Campbell December 5, 2020 / 7:41 pm

    Far too many people will never appreciate the sacrifice bomber command made in ww ii RIP all
    You brave young men and women who will NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

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