A Dunkirk veteran who served in Kenya during his 36 year career with the Royal Air Force has died aged 98 following a fall at home.
RAF radio operator Arthur Taylor, originally from Mortlake, south west London, was among the 330,000 stranded men rescued from the beaches of the French town after spending 36 hours during which he was shot at and shelled by the Germans before getting on a ‘little ship’ that took him back to England.
He also described the evacuation in harrowing detail to Christopher Nolan which the director used to help him produce his 2017 movie Dunkirk, later attending the film’s London premiere as a VIP guest.
More recently, he had been heavily involved with the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships organisation, leading the veterans’ parade in Dunkirk for the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo in 2015.
Arthur’s wartime exploits began while he was working for Harrods. He lied about his age to sign up for the Territorial Army in 1936 and joined the RAF three years later, training as a wireless operator for Lancaster bombers.
However, after catching pleurisy, he was unable to fly at high altitude so instead went on to serve as ground crew.
He joined the RAF’s 13 Squadron based at Arras in northern France in January 1940 before being attached to the Army’s Royal Artillery as a forward spotter.
With his unit, he advanced along the River Dyle in Belgium until the German Blitzkrieg of the Low Countries forced them to retreat while being shelled by the advancing Germans as they made their way to the Bergues Canal.
By the end of May, his regiment were the last line of defence between the enemy and the beaches and after arriving on the packed beach on May 29 he eventually boarded the Lord Grey, an armed trawler, on May 30 which took him to Dover.
Subsequently, he was posted to RAF Hawkinge and RAF Lympne in Kent during the Battle of Britain where he worked as ground crew on Spitfires.
In 1941, while serving at RAF Christchurch, he met Vera, and the couple married in the same year.
Following the end of the war, Arthur was demobbed but finding himself unable to settle into civilian life, he re-joined the RAF six months later and during his 36 year career, served in a number of countries including Kenya, Hong Kong and Singapore.
When he finally retired from the RAF, he worked as a part time accountant in Christchurch.
After suffering a fall at his home in November, Arthur spent five weeks in hospital before passing away on December 28.
In a fitting tribute during his funeral in Bournemouth on 1 February, a special ensign of St George which only the Dunkirk Little Ships are allowed to fly will be draped on his coffin.
Arthur is survived by his wife Vera, six children, 13 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.