It might be nearly 70 years since Jimmy Taylor last took to the skies in a Spitfire. But it felt so natural to him that after being gunned down over Germany that he described it as being ‘like home’.
Retired Mr Taylor, 91, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, crash-landed his fighter behind enemy lines in 1944 and was captured and interrogated by the Gestapo, Hitler’s feared secret police.
But yesterday (July 2nd 2013), the former strategic photo reconnaissance pilot, who served with No 16 Squadron, took the controls of the Spitfire for part of his half-hour flight at Goodwood Aerodrome, near Chichester, West Sussex, with senior RAF test pilot Willy Hackett yesterday
The former Flight Lieutenant said: ‘I think it’s fantastic. It’s a dream come true because the Spitfire is still an iconic aircraft and to get inside it, even when it doesn’t fly, is always special.
‘It has a special smell about it and I’m feeling back at home. To actually fly in one is just out of this world.
‘I was delicate on the controls. I treated the aircraft with respect and in return it treated me with respect. It was mutual.
‘It was super – not supersonic – but super.’
However, he found the aircraft, just one of 40 still air-worthy out of the 20,000 built, a little sluggish compared to the stripped-down marque PRX1 he flew on reconnaissance missions, including his last on November 19, 1944.
The engine failed as as he flew over northern Germany and he was forced to bail out. As he jumped he was hit in the stomach by the tail-plane.
He told The Times: ‘I really thought it had cut me in two.’
Injured, he fell through Dutch airspace, fading in and out of consciousness, but eventually deploying his parachute.
‘A little voice said to me “Pull the string, pull the string”,’ he added.
When he awoke Mr Taylor faced the ordeal of being on the run in Nazi-occupied Holland.
He was captured after five days and spent the remainder of the war in Stalag Luft 1, a German prisoner-of-war camp near Barth in northern Germany, before it was liberated by Soviet forces.
After the war he taught English at Leeds University and many years later he learned that four young Dutch men were gunned down in front of their families by the Germans for failing to hand the young pilot over.
Their sacrifice profoundly moved him and every year he makes a pilgrimage to Holland to lay a wreath on their memorial.
Group Captain Willy Hackett said: ‘Jimmy did a fantastic flight. He did some of the flying as well.
‘We joined up with his son in another plane in formation to begin with.
‘We flew over Goodwood, looking down on the cathedral, the city and the south coast. It was a very special flight for me and Jimmy.’
Source: Daily Mail
This aircraft is registered as T4684 in the SGLO-Lossregister.