Ralph Tailford

RALPH Tailford, who has died aged 92, owned a car repair business and filling station at Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield.

Ralph Tailford
Ralph Tailford

However the RAF, its Halifax bombers and the Elvington Air Museum near York, remained important elements of his life.

He became a volunteer and steward at the museum where he also took his turn as duty officer.

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His great delight was to show people around the museum’s replica Halifax, proud to have flown the real thing, and speak about the courage of his fellow Halifax aircrews. He insisted they were unjustly overshadowed by the Lancaster, famed for the daring dam-buster raids and sinking the Tirpitz.

He joined 77 Squadron Association, becoming a distinguished member of both that and the Air Gunners’ Association. He attended the museum regularly, driving there and back until his eyesight failed.

Even then he would continue to travel there with help of his daughter Christine and the railways until he was nearly 90.

Mr Tailford and his sister Rene were brought up in Linthwaitre, near Huddersfield. They were the children of William Tailford, a church warden and treasurer of Linthwaite Parish Church who was gassed and wounded in the First World War.

After being called up, Mr Tailford joined the RAF, and completing his training, served with 77 Squadron based at Elvington, flying Halifax bombers as a flight engineer.

He also flew the heavy, four-engined Liberator bombers with 102 Squadron. His more-than 70 bombing missions took him over targets that included Gelsenkirch, Berlin, Hamburg, Essen and Peenenmunde.

The latter raid in August, 1943, against the Nazi’s V-2 rocket programme, cost 215 aircrew members, 40 bombers and hundreds of civilian deaths in the nearby concentration camp, but it did it delay V-2 rocket test launches for seven weeks.

A lighter moment was when he met Clarke Gable who was with the 351st Bomb Group.

He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of warrant officer, having married Margret Shaw two years earlier. She died in 1980.

Mr Tailford found a job with an insurance company, but later started a fish wholesale business, and then opened a fish and chip shop at Lockwood, Huddersfield.

When a filling station came on the market, he bought it and then a car repair shop and filing station at Fenay Bridge occasionally selling cars. He retired at 65.

His time in the RAF led to his involvement with the Canadian Memorial at Tigelot in Jalhay, Belgium. He was invited to a Bomber Command memorial service at Dronton in the Netherlands.

His other interests were shooting, training gun dogs and fishing. He fished in Scotland and shot at Keldy, near Pickering.

Mr Tailford is survived by his children Christine, Pauline and Alan, and five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.