DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL, G.V.R. ‘4400 SJT: R. C. TAYLOR. 13/SQ: R.F.C.’
D.C.M. London Gazette 22 October 1917:
'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When sent out with an Observer to take important photographs he saw six hostile Scouts approaching him.
Realising that there would be no further chance of doing the work as clouds were coming up he continued taking the photographs until the hostile Scouts came within fifty yards' range, although his machine was the only British one in the vicinity. He then turned on them, and by skilful manoeuvring enabled his Observer to crash one. Another was then attacked and driven down in a spin, after the remaining four retired, and he completed the photographs. He has always shown the greatest determination and gallantry.'
Robert Charles Taylor, a native of Willesden, London, was born on 5 April 1896 and joined the Royal Flying Corps on 26 March 1915. A fitter and turner by trade, he was original ranked 2/AM, before being promoted 1/AM on 15 September 1915. Promoted Corporal on 1 August 1916 and Acting Sergeant on 20 November that year, he then applied for pilot training. After training, Taylor was confirmed Sergeant and was allocated Aero Certificate No. 5430 on 26 April 1917. As such, he would have been counted as one of just 32 Sergeant Pilots at the Front in the summer of 1917. After spending the last two years on the Home Establishment, Taylor joined 13 Squadron in July 1917, which was an artillery observation and photo-reconnaissance squadron operating on the Western Front. Equipped with RE8’s, or ‘Harry Tates’ as they were commonly called, the crews had mixed feelings about this type, which was vastly slower and less manoeuvrable when compared to the German fighters it was up against. However it was reasonably satisfactory for the job and pilots that flew it aggressively did gain aerial victories. The RE8 remained in service until the end of the War. Taylor was clear a confident and skilful pilot and his Combat Report for the action that one him the D.C.M., dated 3 September 1917, with Lieutenant F. D. Steel as Observer attests to this:
'About 0910am when on Photography, seven hostile machine attacked us while over OB16. Six of these driven on our tail in V formation. The nearest hostile machine commenced firing at a distance of about 25 yards. Observer opened fire on this machine and saw his tracer bullets hit the Pilot whose machine immediately rolled over and over, and when down out of control and was wrecked.
The Observer immediately opened fire on the next nearest machine and after five bursts of fire the hostile machine commenced to spin and was seen to fall from 5000ft, an disappeared into clouds still spinning and was not seen again. Observer then cleared a stoppage in his gun and opened fire on the next machine with the third drum. By this time our machine had descended to the height of 2000ft over the British Lines when the remaining hostile machine turned back. Our machine being hit through the right hand rear strut, right hand aileron strut, right hand top plane and tail plane, we returned to landing ground.'
Continuing operational flights for the next couple of months, Sergeant Taylor, flying RE8 A3640, along with 2/AM W H Swift as observer were posted mission in action over Cambrai on 20 November 1917. They took off 10:00/11:00 for an artillery patrol over XVIII Corps Front but were not heard from again. Both Taylor and Swift were not confirmed as having been killed in action until 13 August 1918, which is probably the reason that Taylor has RAF service records. They are commemorated upon the Arras Flying Services Memorial.
This is a very rare Distinguished Conduct Medals, being one of only 92 awarded to members of the Royal Flying Corps. Of these awards approximately one third were awarded for aerial combat, whilst only around 10 awards were made to Sergeant Pilots. Taylor’s family were issued with his British War and Victory medals in 1923 and these were likely never kept with the DCM which had been awarded to Taylor himself before he died.
Condition EF, housed in contemporary fitted case (added for display) and a file of copied research including service papers, recommendations, combat report, Aero Club photo, MIC etc