A Welsh Royal Air Force veteran has spoken about being the last living member of his squadron as he joined the rest of the nation in commemorating the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

(Image: Richard Swingler)

Ray Taylor, from Ton Pentre, Rhondda, who served as a gunner and parachutist between 1942 and 1946, completed 48 missions including 12 with Bomber Command over Europe and volunteered with 148 Squadron to perform special duties.

Mr Taylor met with members of the Red Arrows ground crew at Cardiff Airport on VJ day and was due to watch the Red Arrows land at the airport. Unfortunately the flypast over Cardiff had to be cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

He talked to the crew about his wartime experiences, showing them old photographs, his flight book and mementos he had collected.

(Ray Taylor, pictured fourth from right on the front row, with 148 Squadron. (Image: Richard Swingler) )

Mr Taylor, who flew on the Halifax Mk II and III bomber with 78 Squadron, had a lucky escape upon his return from one mission, as his Halifax had to land at RAF Odiham on only two of its four engines.

“We had a good landing as we had a good pilot, he had the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) so he was a good guy,” he said.

Speaking about VJ Day, Mr Taylor said: “I was on leave in Algiers on my own (on VJ Day) and I celebrated on my own. I was very pleased and elated with the fact I was there and the thought of seeing my family again after only a year and a half abroad.

“After being based in Brindisi in Italy attached to 148 Squadron, I volunteered to go and fight in Japan but then the bombs were dropped and the war was over.

“I did experience moments of joy with my crew when we were able to have a laugh and a joke, but I will always remember the terror of war and the things I saw.

“You’re always thinking what’s going to happen and you’re always scared, everybody was scared.

“I remember seeing (de Havilland) Mosquitos on the ground strafing underneath and they used to do 400mph but these boys (Red Arrows) are way above that.

I was looking forward to seeing them but when I got up and saw the mist on the mountains, as my son said, they won’t be flying today and they didn’t. I wish I was young enough to be up there.”

Mr Taylor also spoke about his friends in the RAF and how he has survived them all to become the last one left of his squadron.(Image: Richard Swingler)

Wing commander David Montenegro, officer commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “It is a huge honour and very humbling for members of the Red Arrows’ support team to meet Ray on such a poignant day when we mark the 75 anniversary of VJ Day.

“Ray, as with other veterans and members of the Greatest Generation, provides inspiration to us still now – particularly in the values of courage, strength and determination.

“These qualities remain key to the UK’s Armed Forces to this day and, whatever our circumstances, we should continue to learn from those who have gone before us.”

All images ©Richard Swingler

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