Heroic rescue of RAF Pinnace crewmember remembered by family of Amble diver

Posted on 30th May 2024 | in Education , Heritage & Tourism

June 2024 is the sixth anniversary of the unveiling of the RAF Pinnace 1386 Memorial and this is the story of the Royal Navy Clearance Divers who brought the last remaining RAF Crewman to safety.

Paul Taylor in 1969

On Monday 29 September 1969 Paul Taylor who had just turned 24 was a Leading Seaman in the Royal Navy based in Scotland at HMS Cochrane as a Clearance Diver. He was part of the Duty Dive Team that day, along with the boss Lt Cdr T W Trouson and L/Seaman S. Granger.

A shout goes out
At around 19:00 hrs a shout went out for the Duty Team who were stood to for an upturned vessel, and were immediately transported from HMS Cochrane by road to Turnhouse (Edinburgh) Airport, where they and all their equipment and stores were flown to RAF Acklington.

Paul recalled that the conditions were extremely rough, and that the Whirlwind Helicopter was being buffeted around very violently and was struggling to make headway towards Amble, due to the very low visibility and extreme weather conditions.

At one point the crew became disoriented and were struggling to locate RAF Acklington. Paul knew that there were still men trapped within the upturned launch so without hesitation he triangulated the helicopter’s position and helped guide the navigator to RAF Acklington where a vehicle was on standby for Amble.

He knew Northumberland well as Amble was his home and as a boy he and his inseparable friend Rodney Burge (now MBE) would cycle all over Northumberland and no doubt get up to the odd mischief here and there.

Paul always dismissed his bravery and accomplishment, and laid his praise firmly on those who would dare to risk their own safety in stormy conditions during this incident.

In addition to members of the RNLI, he commended Eric Bramham, John Murray, Robert Hogg and Brian Sample, all members of the British Sub Aqua Club Northumberland Branch, who willingly volunteered to try and rescue any trapped survivors left aboard the upturned wreckage.

RAF Pinnace 1386

Agonising decision
As soon as the RN Dive Team arrived at the scene they tried to approach the stricken launch but were beaten back from the upturned hull due to the size and force of the relentless surf pounding the breakwaters.

It was then that they had to make the agonising decision to wait for the tide to turn so that they could try again and reach the stricken vessel. Once the tide had finally started ebbing they eventually managed to clamber aboard the hull and were alerted to the faint banging from inside.

Trapped crewman
The three divers borrowed an axe from the local firemen who were in attendance on the South Pier and it was only after they had received precise instructions from RN Headquarters in Plymouth on where to start cutting a hole into the strengthened hard wood hull, could the race begin to recover any survivors.

After hours of hacking the hull in turns they finally breached it. Leading Seaman Taylor was the first diver in and after a very short struggle to get to the remaining crewman, he was able to pull him out to safety.

The Royal Humane Society Medal was issued to; William Henderson Coxswain RNLI, Andrew Scott Crew Member RNLI, James Stewart Crew Member RNLI, Robert Stewart Crew Member RNLI and T W Trounson Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) RN respectively.

Awards, but not for all
We believe that the only reason that our father, along with Leading Seaman Stewart Granger RN, did not receive the same award was that in 1969 only Commissioned Officers of the Armed Forces could be awarded with this medal, so Lt Cdr Trounson was the only member of the Navy team to be acknowledged.

Paul Taylor 1945-2017

The selfless actions by the RNLI, British Sub Aqua Club Northumberland Branch, and the actions of the Royal Navy were witnessed by many worried local people who watched helplessly from shore. The story was also documented by newspapers in Northumberland and as far as Edinburgh.

As veterans, my brother and I were both very pleased at the eventual erecting of the memorial for RAF Pinnace 1386 in 2018. Not only for the memory of those servicemen who perished, but also to the memory of those brave souls who battled until the last man was brought out alive. In equal measure we were also very saddened that our late father had not been alive to see the memorial unveiled.

Our dad sadly crossed the Bar in 2017 after succumbing to his greatest battle from a long illness that he sustained through his service, thus taking this story of bravery and devotion along with many other exploits of Paul “Buck” Taylor with him.

Steven Taylor & Lee Taylor

Of the eight man crew of RAF Pinnace 1386, five survived including aircraftman David Ashton, whose rescue is described here. The plaque to commemorate the tragedy can be found near the entrance to Amble Pier.

Related articles
More articles on this tragedy can be read in The Ambler #111 p1; #112 p8 and online:


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