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Air Commodore E W Tacon (36196)

(Ernest) William ('Bill') TaconErnest William                   b: 16 Dec 1917                    r: 15 Feb 1971                        d: 9 Sep 2003

CBE – 13 Jun 1958, DSO - 17 Sep 1944, LVO – 12 Jun 1947 (Originally MVO 4th Class), DFC – 31 May 1940, Bar – 19 Sep 1944, AFC – 11 Jun 1942, Bar – 10 Jun 1954, MBIM.

Plt Off: 11 May 1939, Fg Off (WS): 3 Sep 1940, Flt Lt (WS): 3 Sep 1941, Act Sqn Ldr: xx xxx 1943, (T) Sqn Ldr: 1 Jan 1944, Act Wg Cdr: 25 May 1944, Sqn Ldr (WS): 25 Nov 1944, Sqn Ldr: 1 Apr 1947 [1 Sep 1945], Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1952, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1958, Act A/Cdre: 31 Nov 1961?, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1963.

(Ernest) William ('Bill') Tacon

by Bassano Ltd
half-plate film negative, 19 December 1960
NPG x170672

© National Portrait Gallery, London

xx Jul 1938:             Officer, RNZAF

11 May 1939:          Appointed to a Short Service Commission.

xx xxx 1939:             Pilot, No 233 Sqn.

31 Dec 1939 - xx Jan 1940:           Attended Astro-Navigation Course, RAF St Athan

xx Nov 1940:            Officer Commanding, Training Flight, No 233 Sqn

xx Jan 1941:             Pilot, North Atlantic Ferry Unit.

xx xxx xxxx:              Attached No 407 (RCAF) Sqn.

xx xxx xxxx:              Attached No 59 Sqn.

xx xxx xxxx:              Staff, No ? OTU.

xx Mar 1943:           Officer Commanding, No 1 (GR) Sqn RNZAF. (Hudsons/Venturas)

xx May 1943:          Officer Commanding, No 4 (GR) Sqn RNZAF. (Hudsons/Venturas)

xx Dec 1943:

11 May 1944:          Transferred to RAFO and called up for air force service.

25 May 1944:          Officer Commanding, No 236 Sqn. (Beaufighter X)

12 Sep 1944:           Prisoner of War

20 Oct 1945:           Officer Commanding, No 231 Sqn.

15 Jan 1946:            ?

 1 May 1946:          Officer Commanding, The King's Flight

 1 Apr 1947 [1 Sep 1945]:      Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining rank current at the time).

31 Dec 1949:          ?

xx xxx 1951:            Wing Commander - Flying, RAF Fayid

xx xxx 1953:            ?

xx May 1954:          Officer Commanding, Administrative Wing, RAF North Weald.

xx xxx 1956:            Officer Commanding, RAF Nicosia.

xx xxx 1958:            ?

16 Jun 1959:            Chief Instructor, School of Land/Air Warfare

31 Nov 1961:          Commander, HQ RAF Persian Gulf.

xx xxx 1964:            Commandant, Central Fighter Establishment.

31 Mar 1966:          Air Commodore - Tactics, HQ Fighter Command.

 7 Feb 1968:            AOC, HQ Military Air Traffic Organisation.

Born at Napier on the north Island of New Zealand, he attended St Patrick's in Wellington and was a keen sportsman.  He joined the RNZAF in 1938, and in May 1939 he was transferred to the RAF , as a result of an agreement that the RNZAF would supply six trained pilots a year to the RAF.  Posted to No 233 Squadron at Leuchars, he flew Ansons, but on the outbreak of war, the squadron converted to the Lockheed Hudson.  After eighteen months with 233, he was involved in ferrying aircraft across the Atlantic, converted No 407 Squadron onto the Hudson at RAF North Coates and No 59 Sqn at Thorney Island before going out to Canada to set up a new OTU in Nova Scotia.

From Canada, he returned to his native New Zealand where he was given command of No 1 Squadron, but two months later he took over No 4 Squadron RNZAF in Fiji.  Returning to Britain in early 1944, he converted to the Beaufighter and was given command of No 236 Squadron.  Whilst commanding No 236, he acquired a reputation for extremely aggressive, successful attacks against enemy shipping.  He led many attacks against German R-boats and other shipping and together with the armaments officer at North Coates, he devised a very successful method of attacking such targets.  However, on 12 September, he was leading 40 Beaufighters from the North Coates and Langham strike wings when his luck ran out.  Attacking a convoy during its assembly in the harbour at Den Helder he was diving at his target, when his aircraft was badly hit, setting his fuel tank alight and causing his cannon ammunition to start exploding.  Unable to release the escape hatch he decided to dive into the gun post that was firing at him and rolled the aircraft on its back and began to dive at it.  Suddenly there was a violent explosion and he found himself outside the aircraft and immediately pulled the ripcord on his parachute, coming to rest on the island of Texel.  Badly burned he was captured and taken to the local jail, but not until he had been physically assaulted by some German sailors.  His burns were treated and he eventually ended up in Stalag Luft I at Barth, until being freed by the Russians in 1945.

Returning to Britain he was given command of a transport squadron at the end of 1945 and in 1946 he transferred permanently to the RAF.  He became the first CO of the King's Flight after WW2 and had eight months to 're-build' the Flight before the King's tour of South Africa in 1947.  Various appointments followed as detailed above until he retired in early 1971, when he returned to his native New Zealand running the Intellectually Handicapped Children's Society (IHC) and later worked a a manager with Air New Zealand.

  Citation for the award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“Squadron Leader Ernest William TACON, D.F.C., A.F.C. (36196), R.A.F.O., 236 Sqn.

In July, 1944, this officer took part in an attack on an enemy convoy during which 4 ships were set on fire. By his gallant and skilful leadership, Squadron Leader Tacon contributed in a large way to the success achieved. His resolute example in the face of heavy opposing fire proved greatly inspiring.”

(London Gazette – 19 September 1944)

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order

 “Acting Wing Commander Ernest William TACON, D.F.C., A.F.C. (36196), R.A.F.O., 236 Sqn.

 In August, 1944, Wing Commander Tacon led a force of aircraft in an attack on the harbour of Le Verdon.  A very heavy barrage of anti-aircraft fire from the enemy ships and ground defences was encountered and after the attack four of our aircraft were severely damaged.-Wing Commander Taoon directed one aircraft to alight on the sea near a naval force in the vicinity and then proceeded to an advanced base in France where he supervised the landing of the remaining three aircraft.  He displayed outstanding qualities of resourceful leadership and great devotion to duty.  Two destroyers were set on fire and seriously damaged during this action.”

 (London Gazette – 17 October 1944)

This page was last updated on 08/07/21

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