b. 21/10/1896 Sydney, Australia. d. 15/12/1966 Honolulu, Hawaii.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 15/05/1935 Tasman Sea.
Sir Patrick Gordon Taylor (1896-1966), known as Bill, was born on 21st October 1896 in Mosman, near Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He was the third son and youngest child of four of Patrick Thomson and Alice Maude Taylor (nee Sayers). His father was originally from Scotland and had emigrated to Australia in the 1880s. He became an accountant and businessman. Sadly, tragedy struck the family when Bill’s older brother died of pandemic flu, and his next brother Kenneth was killed in action on the Somme. His sister was sent to England for schooling and married and English tea planter, who died young, leaving her a widow with three children. Bill supported her following her husband’s death.
Bill attended Mosman Preparatory School, and Sydney Church of England Grammar School. He hated boarding school and ran away when he was 12. On his return his parents sent him to Armidale School, and though he didn’t particularly like it, he stuck it out from 1912-1915 and became Senior Prefect.
On leaving school, Bill joined the Australian Army but hated the daily routine. His dream was to fly, and he travelled to England where he enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in 1915, and was commissioned on 12th August 1916 joining 66 Squadron. He was awarded the Military Cross, promoted to Captain and proved his abilities before returning to Australia in March 1919 working both as a private pilot and for De Havilland Aircraft Company. He decided to take courses in engineering and celestial navigation, and in 1933 became navigator and relief pilot for Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (Smithy). His skills as a celestial navigator helped him with his night flights over the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and also the Tasman Sea. In 1924, he married Yolande Bede Dalley.
On 15th May 1935, he was acting as navigator in the monoplane Southern Cross, piloted by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, when about 600 miles from Sydney the starboard engine failed, and they had to turn back. The strain on the other two engines began to tell and soon the port engine began to use too much oil. Fuel and cargo were jettisoned but the aircraft lost height and at times was only a few feet above the water. Taylor climbed out of the cockpit and carried oil to the overheating engine. He had to do this 6 times in all. They managed to reach their destination 16 hours later.
On 9th July 1937, the London Gazette published the announcement of the award of the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division to Bill. In 1938, he and Yolande were divorced after a long separation. He then married Eileen Joan Broadwood whom he had known for 12 years. They had two daughters Genevieve and Margaret Sue. By 1939, he was looking further afield in his career and looking to open a route from Australia to Africa, and, with Jack Percival, they set off on a flight in the flying boat Guba stopping off at Cocos Island, Diego Garcia and the Seychelles.
During the Second World War, Bill was reluctant to be involved militarily, but resolved to play his part by taking on a series of flying jobs starting with transporting the Lieutenant-Governor of Netherland Indies to Honolulu. In 1943 he was commissioned into the RAAF. In 1942, his second wife Joan was diagnosed with cancer, and the family travelled to both US and Canada for new treatments. Sadly, she died in 1950. In 1951, he was to make another of the ground-breaking – or should one say air-breaking – exploratory flights. This time it was from Australia to Chile in Frigate Bird II. The flight arrived in Chile on 27th March 1951, and returned to Brisbane by 20th April.
Just prior to his second wife’s death, Bill had set up his own school to educate his children. It was called the Loquat School, and at first had 13 pupils. At the school was a young teacher called Joyce Kennington, whom became the surrogate mother for Genevieve and Margaret after their own mother’s death. She was interested in flying and accompanied Bill on the flight back from Chile. On their arrival back in Australia, they announced their engagement. They went on to have three children of their own – Gai Elizabeth, Alan Gordon and Sarah Jane. On 10th June 1954, Bill was knighted for his services to civil aviation.
In his later life, Bill wrote eight books detailing his flying career including titles such as “Forgotten Island”, “Bird of the Islands” and “Call of the Winds”. Bill died on 15th December 1966 whilst living in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered on Lion Island, Australia. His medal group including his GC, Knight Bachelor (Australia), MC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, War Medal 1939-45, Australian Service Medal, 1935 King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1937 King George VI Coronation Medal, 1953 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal are held by the Taylor family. He was also awarded the Oswald Watt Gold Medal for the South American flight, Johnson Memorial Trophy twice, and the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins of Chile.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA.
BURIAL PLACE: ASHES SCATTERED, LION ISLAND, NSW.
Sir Patrick Taylor's memorial in George Cross Park, Canberra.
AWM, Canberra (Thomas Stewart)