Leading Seaman Ronald ‘Buck’ Taylor

Ronald Taylor was born on 29 April 1918 at Carlton, Melbourne, fourth of ten children of Collingwood-born parents George Taylor, ironworker, and his wife Elsie, née Davey. Raised at Carlton and Port Melbourne, Ron was a typical boy of the time: he played cricket and Australian Rules football, went fishing and rode billycarts. He developed an interest in the Royal Australian Navy through watching warships entering port and from talking to sailors about life in the service. At the age of seven he became the mascot of the sloop HMAS Marguerite and was given his own uniform to wear on special occasions.

In 1930, during the Depression, George Taylor abandoned his family. The two eldest boys went to Queensland to work on a sugar cane plantation and the eldest girl found a job on a farm; Ron and his brother Ray stayed at home; the five youngest children were placed in institutions. Ron left school at the end of Grade 8 to work as a labourer. On 12 June 1935 he joined the RAN as an Ordinary Seaman. He was then 5 ft 6¼ ins (168cm) tall, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. Within twelve months he had gained almost 2 ins (5cm) in height and had an anchor tattooed in red and blue on his right forearm.

Taylor began his training at Flinders Naval Depot, Westernport. In April 1936 he was posted to the cruiser HMAS Australia. After undertaking a course in gunnery (April-September 1938) at Flinders, he served in the destroyer HMAS Vampire and in the cruiser HMAS Adelaide before transferring to the sloop HMAS Yarra, in August 1939.

Yarra remained in Australian waters until August 1940 when she was dispatched to Aden to join the Red Sea Force. The ship took part in operations against Iraq in May 1941 and against Persia in August. ‘Buck’ Taylor was promoted Acting Leading Seaman and given command of one of Yarra's 4-inch (102mm) guns. Yarra was in the Mediterranean in November-December, escorting convoys which ferried supplies and troops to the allied garrison at Tobruk, Libya. On each of the four trips the sloop made, Taylor's gun was active in beating off enemy air-attacks.

By early 1942 Yarra was employed on escort duties between Java and Singapore. On 5 February she rescued 1804 people from the burning troop ship Empress of Asia which had been crippled by an air attack near Singapore. (Sir) Hastings Harrington later reported that Taylor had controlled his gun “on this occasion, as on many others”, with “judgment and determination”, and added that his “keenness and courage” set a good example to those around him.

On 27 February 1942 Yarra was ordered to escort three auxiliary vessels from Java to Fremantle, Western Australia. Five Japanese warships intercepted the convoy on 4 March. Despite Yarra's gallant defence all four allied vessels were destroyed, with the sloop the last to be sunk. Taylor ignored the order to abandon ship and stayed alone at his gun, firing slowly and defiantly at the enemy until he was killed shortly before the ship went down.

Source: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-ronald-11832.