b. 10/06/1920 Bristol. d. 13/03/1950 Bristol.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 13/03/1950 Bristol.
Robert “Tiger” George Taylor (1920-1950) was born at 24 Victoria Park in the Fishponds area of Bristol on 10th June 1920. He was the second son of a mechanical engineer Alfred Joseph and Lilian Miller Taylor (nee Daw), and the middle child of three. He had an elder brother John (Jack) and younger sister Muriel. He attended Dr Bell’s School in the city and was a keen cyclist, swimmer and gymnast.
Aged 19, he joined the Territorial Army and was soon mobilised. As a Sergeant in the 76th Royal Artillery, he saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He was a battery malaria expert and, although he contracted the disease himself, he gave instructions on preventative measures. As a soldier he was nicknamed “Tiger”, suggesting he was fearless. After being demobbed in 1945, he, like many others of his generation, found himself in his mid-twenties without any training for a career. He applied for and got a job working as an advertising representative for the Bristol Evening World. After leaving the Army, Taylor, who lived at home with his parents, also became accomplished in the martial arts – judokwai – and he was Treasurer of the Bristol Judokwai Club.
On 13th March 1950, he was working in the Henleaze area of Bristol when two men entered a sub-branch of Lloyds Bank and, after threatening a cashier and guard with a revolver, stole some cash and escaped. As the alarm was raised, the two men took off over open land and Taylor, who had heard the words “Stop them, there’s been a hold up”, led the pursuit. As he caught them up, the robber with the gun turned and fired at Taylor at point-blank range. Taylor died from his injuries aged 29. Others had joined the chase, aided by the police, and eventually caught the two robbers.
Taylor was cremated at Arnos Vale Crematorium, Bristol, following a funeral at St Mary’s Church, Fishponds. A week after Taylor’s death, the directors of Lloyds Bank sent Taylor’s parents a cheque for £1,000. Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the chairman of the bank, wrote saying “Your son’s gallant action and the sense of duty which led him to intervene are highly appreciated.” The two robbers, both Polish labourers named Zbigmiew Gower and Roman Redel, were caught and tried for the murder of Taylor. Even though only one of them fired the fatal shot, both were hanged at Winchester, Hampshire on 7th July 1950.
Taylor’s posthumous GC was announced three weeks later on 1st August 1950 and his citation ended with “without any regard for the hazards, Taylor intervened out of a desire to help in the preservation of law and order and gave his life in a gallant attempt to apprehend an armed and desperate criminal.” Two of the other members of the public involved named (Peter Scarman and Ronald Cutler) in the chase were awarded the George Medal and the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) respectively. A security guard at the Bank called Mr Bullock was given a King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct. Taylor’s George Cross was presented to his father on 14th February 1951, the last occasion this was performed by King George VI.
In January 2005, he was honoured by the placing of a blue plaque outside his former home in Bristol. Taylor’s George Cross is on loan to the Imperial War Museum in London, and displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery. The medal is displayed without his campaign medals from World War II, which are in an unknown location.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON (LOAN).
BURIAL PLACE: ARNOS VALE CREMATORIUM, BRISTOL.
Robert Taylor's George Cross displayed at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (December 2014)