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Search for family of wartime pilot; all our yesterdays.

Byline: Sheila Weber News Reporter

HUDDERSFIELD Rugby Union Club is anxious to get photos of one of its players killed during World War Two.

Officials want to trace relatives of former player John Melville Taylor to complete a war memorial in honour of the fallen.

They hope descendants might be able to provide a photo of John, lost in a night-time flight in 1941.

This would go alongside a picture of Harry Fletcher, the other former player missed off the club's memorial when it was commissioned in 1946.

A lack of images of the two men prompted the club to start a search for details about them, the circumstances of their deaths and the reasons for their mission.

Following leads from the Examiner and one of its readers after a feature in the paper on April 29, details of the death of the one remaining hero have come to light - but as yet no photograph has been discovered. John Melville Taylor played for Huddersfield Old Boys in the mid-1930s. Son of Mr and Mrs Charles E Taylor of 83 Yews Hill Road, Lockwood, he was born in 1913. At the outbreak of war, John enlisted with the RAF Volunteer Reserve. His service number was 936556.

He was assigned to Bomber Command's 44 Squadron based at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and flew on a number of operational flights early in the conflict as a radio operator with the rank of sergeant. On April 17, 1941 he took off at 2015 hours as part of a standard crew of four in one of the squadron's Handley Page Hampden bombers on a night mission to Berlin. Shortly after take-off, radio contact with the flight was lost and it was assumed the aircraft had been brought down over the North Sea. This theory was given credence later when the body of the pilot, Flt Sgt. James Sneeston, was found on a beach at Sheerness in Kent on June 6. He was the only crew member to be found.

The Hampden bombers had been used by the RAF since 1936, but were later deemed unsuitable for the demands of modern warfare and were phased out between 1941 and 42 to be replaced by the legendary Lancasters.

The Hampdens were nicknamed 'the flying suitcase' by those who flew them because of their narrow fuselage and cramped conditions. One pilot described them as 'beautiful to fly, terrible to fly in.' .' But they were no match for the Luftwaffe. Over 1,400 of the twin-engine bombers were commissioned and 714 were destroyed in the conflict with a death toll of well over 1,700 men. John was one of them.

Along with 20,455 others, he is commemorated on the RAF memorial at Runnymede in Surrey dedicated to their fallen with no known grave.

Before joining the RAF, John worked in the design office at Messrs Broadhead and Graves (worsted manufacturers) of Kirkheaton. He had a younger brother called Charles P Taylor who was born in 1922 and who, it is believed, died in 2005. Charles may have been married to a lady called Peggy (nee Castle) but these details are not certain and it is not known whether the couple had any children.

The rugby club is keen to trace family descendants and to get a picture of John to go with that of Harry Fletcher. Anyone who can help should contact club official Richard Sykes at or on 07587253501.


| Handley Page Hampdens being flown by 44 squadron and, left, Flt Sgt James Sneeston, pilot of a Handley Page Hampden |bomber lost on a mission to Berlin in 1941. Another crew member was John Melville Taylor who played for Huddersfield Old Boys rugby union team in the mid-1930s - his name can be seen on the Runnymede memorial, inset
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 20, 2015
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