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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Taylor, Douglas Roy (1903–1968)

by A. J. Sweeting

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Douglas Roy Taylor (1903-1968), by Geoffrey Mainwaring, 1957

Douglas Roy Taylor (1903-1968), by Geoffrey Mainwaring, 1957

Australian War Memorial, ART27529

Douglas Roy Taylor (1903-1968), labourer and soldier, was born on 14 August 1903 at Portlethen, Kincardineshire, Scotland, son of David Taylor, master blacksmith, and his wife Elizabeth, née Watson. By 1939 'Jock' was working as a labourer in Melbourne. Six feet (183 cm) tall, with hazel eyes and auburn hair, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 23 October; he was posted to the 2nd/7th Battalion in November and promoted corporal in the following month. On 9 March 1940 at the Methodist Church, Seymour, he married Lesley May Heeps, a 22-year-old nurse. He embarked for the Middle East on 15 April.

When operations in Libya began in January 1941, Taylor quickly stood out as a fearless soldier who relished being in the thick of battle. At Bardia, he disrupted the Italian supply-line with accurate rifle-fire until enemy guns retaliated with a direct hit on the post he was occupying. He emerged unscathed, shrugging off 'bits of concrete and saying with a giggle: ''See, the bastards don't like it"'.

On 17 April at Lárisa, Greece, Taylor and some of his section manned a train abandoned by its Greek crew during a prolonged air-attack and took the widely dispersed 2nd/7th Battalion to Domokos, some 80 miles (129 km) away. Two days later he led an attempt to retrieve a train-load of valuable fuel, ammunition and explosives. German aircraft attacked while he was alone in the engine and blew up the trucks' contents. His hair was singed but he was otherwise unharmed. Evacuated via Crete to Egypt, he rejoined his battalion in Palestine. In August he was promoted acting sergeant.

The 2nd/7th sailed to Colombo in March 1942 and spent three months garrisoning Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Following a term in Australia, the battalion was sent to Milne Bay, Papua, in October. At Buna, on 5 December, Taylor had command of a Bren-gun carrier which, with four others, led American infantry against entrenched Japanese positions. Peppered by enemy fire, all five vehicles were abandoned within half an hour and most of the men killed, including the platoon commander. Taylor found himself in charge. He and his crew succeeded in silencing two strong-posts: one of his men was killed and all of the remainder wounded. Taylor's left arm was shattered by machine-gun bullets. Bleeding profusely, he crawled to the rear of the third strong-post and destroyed it with grenades. He lost and regained consciousness, then made his way back to the American lines. For his 'inspiring example' he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Following a lengthy stay in hospitals and convalescent units, Taylor rejoined his battalion in November 1943. Promoted acting warrant officer, class two, in January 1944, he served in the Aitape-Wewak campaign (1944-45) in New Guinea. He was discharged from the army, medically unfit, on 5 October 1945. After he returned home, he spent five years as licensee of the Prince Patrick Hotel, Collingwood, before working for the Essendon City Council. A widower, he married an 80-year-old divorcee Victoria Emily Crossey, née Jenyns, on 19 February 1968 at the office of the government statist, Melbourne. He committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide gas on 19 September that year at his Caulfield home. Survived by his wife, he was cremated. Geoffrey Mainwaring's portrait of Taylor is held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, To Benghazi (Canb, 1952)
  • G. Long, Greece, Crete and Syria (Canb, 1953)
  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (Canb, 1959)
  • W. P. Bolger and J. G. Littlewood, The Fiery Phoenix (Melb, 1983)
  • Collingwood and Fitzroy Courier, 31 July 1958.

Citation details

A. J. Sweeting, 'Taylor, Douglas Roy (1903–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 29 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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