Patrick Gordon Taylor was an Australian aviation pioneer whose passion for flying took him from the skies over World War I in Europe to becoming an airline industry leader. He was also a writer who published eight books on his aviation exploits and achievements.
P G Taylor was born on 21 October 1896 at Mosman, Sydney. As a child he so disliked his Christian names that he called himself ‘Bill’. After leaving The Armidale School, he was rejected by the Australian Flying Corps and travelled to Britain. On 12 August 1916 he was commissioned in the Royal Flying Corps and joined No 66 Squadron, flying Sopwith Pup aircraft on the Western Front. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in July 1917, after completing more than forty offensive patrols, and was promoted to Captain. During WWI, he also served with 94 and 88 Squadrons. Taylor later wrote: “I deplored the killing and all the other evils of war”.
At the end of the war, he returned to Australia and over the following decade he flew as a private pilot, worked for De Havilland Aircraft Co. in England, completed an engineering course and studied aerial navigation. From 1928 -1932 he operated a Gipsy Moth seaplane from Sydney Harbour and also flew as a captain with Australian National Airlines Ltd 1930-1931.
Sir Patrick Gordon Taylor GC OBE MC
Taylor was second pilot and navigator in the Southern Cross on Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s 1933 and 1934 flights from Australia to New Zealand and return. In 1933, he was also navigator aboard two flights with Charles Ulm in an AVRO Ten Faith in Australia – Australia-England and England-Australia. Having not been able crew with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith in the Victorian Centenary Air Race, he completed the first Australia – United States crossing of the Pacific via Fiji and Hawaii in 1934 in the Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross.
On 15 May 1935, Taylor was Kingsford Smith’s navigator aboard the Southern Cross for the King George V jubilee airmail flight from Australia to New Zealand when almost half away across the Tasman, part of the centre engine’s exhaust manifold broke off severely damaged the starboard propeller requiring that engine to be shut down. With full power on the other two engines, Kingsford Smith piloted the aircraft back towards Australia but the port engine soon overheated. Heroically, Taylor, with the assistance of wireless operator John Stannage, climbed outside the aircraft six times, using the wing struts transferring oil in a thermos flask case from the starboard engine to the overheating port engine. Some nine hours later the aircraft landed back at Mascot, Sydney, to everyone’s great relief. For this he awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal for his resourcefulness and courage which was superseded by the George Cross in May 1941.
From 1935 Taylor operated a succession of Percival Gull Four and Gull Six aircraft on private and charter flights and in 1938, became agent for Percival Aircraft Ltd in Australia. In June 1939 Taylor made the first flight across the Indian Ocean from Port Hedland, Western Australia, to Mombasa, Kenya, in a Consolidated flying-boat, the Guba II. During World War II aircraft travelling this route became Australia’s only direct communication link with the UK.
In 1941, Taylor ferried flying-boats from the United States to Australia. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force in June 1943 and was commissioned as a Flying Officer. The following year he transferred to the Royal Air Force as a civilian captain, ferrying aircraft from Canada to Britain. At his own request, he commanded the RAF Catalina Frigate Bird on a pioneer Pacific Ocean survey flight from Bermuda to Mexico, Clipperton Island, New Zealand and Sydney, in September-October 1944.
In 1951 he flew across the South Pacific from Australia to Chile, via Tahiti and Easter Island, in another Catalina, Frigate Bird II. He was awarded the 1951 Oswald Watt gold medal for this flight as well as the Johnson Memorial Trophy of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators, London (1951 and 1952). He was knighted in 1954 for his services to aviation and was known as Sir Gordon.
Taylor was a superb flyer and navigator, who turned astro-navigation into an art form. His skill as a navigator and his experience with flying boats made him well suited to the exploration and survey role. He became Chairman of the Taylor family company and was a director of Trans Oceanic Airways Pty Ltd which enabled him to pilot the Sandringham 7 flying boat Frigate Bird III in air cruise operations around the Pacific islands between 1954 – 1958.
Taylor published eight books about his aviation exploits and achievements; Pacific Flight (1935), VH-UXX (1937), Call to the Winds (1939), Forgotten Island (1948), Frigate Bird (1953), The Sky Beyond (Melbourne, 1963), Bird of the Islands (Melbourne, 1964), and Sopwith Scout 7309 (London, 1968). He also found time to pursue his vision for broad, limitless education for young Australians, establishing Loquat Valley School on his own land on the foreshore of Pittwater in 1947.
Taylor was married three times. The first to Yolande Bede Dalley on 29 December 1924 ended in divorce in March 1938. On 10 May that year, he married Eileen Joan Broadwood, who died in 1950. The following year, he married Joyce Agnes Kennington.
He died from a heart condition in Queen’s Hospital, Honolulu, on 15 December 1966 a week after his arrival in Hawaii. His wife Joyce, son and two daughters survived him along with two daughters from his marriage to Eileen. His ashes were scattered over Lion Island on Pittwater where, as a child, he played and dreamed of an adventurous life.
The Australian Aviation Hall of Fame proudly inducts aviation pioneer and writer, Sir Patrick Gordon Taylor, GC, OBE, MC.