Sergeant Alastair Taylor - 617 Squadron  

Sergeant Alastair Taylor - RAFVR

Sergeant Alastair Taylor  as Flight Engineer on board Lancaster Mk.III ED-934 coded AJ-EK during Operation Chastise on May 16/17, 1943. The aircraft's target was the Sorpe Dam as part of the second wave. The Lancaster was hit by flak at 2300 hrs from batteries on the Isle of Texel (on the Dutch Coast) while flying at 300 feet outbound. It is believed that the aircraft strayed off course and as P/O Byers and his crew tried to get a fix on their position, were shot down by flak. It crashed into the Waddenzee West of Harlingen and was the first aircraft shot down on this operation with the loss of the entire crew. 

The other crewmembers were:






P/O Vernon Byers





Sgt Alastair Taylor


Flight Engineer

Morayshire, Scotland


F/O James Warner





P/O Arthur Whitaker


Bomb Aimer



Sgt John Wilkinson



Antrobus, Cheshire


Sgt Charles Jarvie


Air Gunner



F/Sgt James McDowell


Air Gunner

Port Arthur, Ontario


 Sergeant Alastair James Taylor RAFVR was born in 1923 in Alves, Morayshire, Scotland. He was the son of Stephen and Sarah Ann Taylor and older brother of Charles (who served in 100,625 & 576 squadrons). Sergeant Taylor enlisted at RAF Halton as an apprentice straight from school.

 In a letter home, written on May the 5th,eleven days before his last, final op, and quite likely to be the last time that he saw his mother, Alastair describes flying over the family home in Scotland.

575430 Sgt

c/o Sgnts.Mess



My dear mother,

Well I hope we didnít 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.

I donít know when my next leave is but we are getting a 48 hour next week and might go down to Bushey. All depends on the financial position, which at the moment is pretty hopeless.

Vernon is getting a commission and Jimmy will get one later. I am going to hang on a bit before I try.

I had a letter from Phyllis who has certainly been stepping out in Inverness.

Well thatís all for the present.




Presumably the "Vernon" and "Jimmy" mentioned in this letter are Vernon Byers, the pilot and Jimmy Warner the Navigator. Phyllis was Alastairís sister stationed at RAF Kinloss.

Service History


Joined the RAF as an apprentice at RAF Halton on 17.1.1939

9 FTS-5.10.1940


Awarded Flight Engineers badge-21.10.1942

No 1654 Conversion Unit Wigsley-1.1.1943-2.2.1943

Joined 467 Squadron Bottesford on 3.2.1943

Flew as Flight Engineer with P/O Byers and crew before being

Posted to 617 Squadron Scampton on 28.3.1943-death presumed 16.5.1943


On the last page of Sergeant Taylorís record of service it states:

"On the night of the 16th/17th of May 1943 this airman took part in the extremely hazardous and highly successful raid on the Moenne, Eder, Sorpe and Schwelme Dams, from which operation he failed to return"


Portrait of Sgt Taylor


Sergeant Taylor is remembered on Panel 166 at Runnymede. and also on the Roll of Honour for Old Haltonians Apprentices. The body of Flight Sergeant McDowell RCAF was recovered on June the 22nd and he was laid to rest in the Harlingen General Cemetery.

His crewmates also have no known graves and are remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.


  Photos courtesy of Alastair Taylor (nephew), research by Linda Ibrom.