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Another anniversary for one who held the Croix de Guerre

25 September 2015


 Another day and another anniversary from The Great War.  On 25th September 1915 a young man, Frederic Garratt Taylor, was killed by a shell in Flanders and for Bootham School this holds special significance. He was a member of the Friends Ambulance Unit and was on duty with his ambulance car picking up wounded soldiers.  He was 21 years old.

Frederic was a pupil at Bootham School in York between 1908 and 1912.  He was known as a fast swimmer and won prizes for making chessmen and a cycling tent.  So far so unremarkable, but that was before the outbreak of war and joining the Friends Ambulance Unit in 1914.  In less than a year Taylor’s Commandant in France was to write of his death: “We have just returned from his graveside in the little cemetery here, a company of over a hundred members, nurses, and officers of the unit who went to pay a last tribute of honour and affection to a comrade whom every one of us loved, one of the brightest, most willing, and cheeriest members of the unit.”  Little else is known of his heroism except it was sufficient for the French authorities to award him the Croix de Guerre.

His friend Lawrence Rowntree wrote in December 1915: “When I think of Eric Taylor I am always reminded of Peter Pan: he never grew up.  In determination, in pluck, in self-reliance, he was a man, as we all knew him in France; in light-heartedness and cheery good spirits, in his readiness to enter into anything that savoured of mischief, and in his enthusiasm in taking up any new employment, amusement or hobby, he was always a boy, without a care in the world.”

Just another death from the millions slain in warfare, but through the words of these friends and compatriots we are offered a tiny glimpse into the devastating loss to humanity.