(Ernest) William ('Bill') Tacon
by Bassano Ltd
half-plate film negative, 19 December 1960
Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
b: 16 Dec 1917
r: 15 Feb 1971
d: 9 Sep 2003
– 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.
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
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
xx Jul 1938: Officer, RNZAF
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.
Officer Commanding, No 1 (GR) Sqn RNZAF. (Hudsons/Venturas)
Officer Commanding, No 4 (GR) Sqn RNZAF. (Hudsons/Venturas)
xx Dec 1943:
May 1944: Transferred
to RAFO and called up for air force service.
Officer Commanding, No 236 Sqn. (Beaufighter X)
Sep 1944: Prisoner
Officer Commanding, No 231 Sqn.
Jan 1946: ?
Officer Commanding, The King's Flight
Apr 1947 [1 Sep 1945]:
Appointed to Permanent Commission in the rank of Squadron Leader (retaining
rank current at the time).
Dec 1949: ?
Wing Commander - Flying, RAF Fayid
xx xxx 1953: ?
xx May 1954: Officer Commanding, Administrative Wing, RAF North Weald.
Officer Commanding, RAF Nicosia.
xx xxx 1958: ?
16 Jun 1959: Chief Instructor, School of Land/Air Warfare
Commander, HQ RAF Persian Gulf.
Commandant, Central Fighter Establishment.
Air Commodore - Tactics, HQ Fighter Command.
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.
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
Citation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross (jointly with F/O Goronwy Edwards
"TACON, Ernest William, P/O (36196, Royal Air Force) - No.233 Squadron.
These officers as pilot and navigator alternately have displayed the utmost courage, determination and skill. On 9th April 1944, while reconnoitring, [they] engaged a Heinkel 115 for 30 minutes. When searching for the cruiser Scharnhorst on 12th April 1940, they located and attacked in the face of heavy fire, three flak ships and scored many hits. On 17th April 1940, they spotted for a cruiser which was bombarding Stavanger and during this duty drove off a Junkers 88. Two days later they made a reconnaissance of Hangesund taking photographs from an altitude of only 50 feet and, after being hit by enemy fire, succeeded in returning to their base on one engine. The following day they carried out a reconnaissance of Fredrikshaven in search of the Admiral Scheer and flew so low over the harbour that in the moonlight they were able to make sure the ship was not there. They then inspected the coastline to the north but without result."
(Source - Air 2/9413)
Citation for the
award of the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Leader Ernest William TACON, D.F.C., A.F.C. (36196), R.A.F.O., 236 Sqn.
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
Gazette – 19 September 1944)
Wing Commander Ernest William TACON, D.F.C., A.F.C. (36196), R.A.F.O., 236
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.”
Gazette – 17 October 1944)
Recommendation for the award of the Air Force Cross
"TACON, F/O Ernest William, DFC (RAF 36196) - - No.407 Squadron.
This officer has single handed trained 32 pilots of this squadron on Hudson aircraft, a task which was rendered more difficult by the fact that all these pilots are fresh from the School of General Reconnaissance and had not flown as pilots for periods extending from four to eight months. Moreover, some of these pilots had flown less than 100 hours solo on all types. In addition Flying Officer Tacon has converted onto Hudson aircraft 17 pilots of another squadron.
From 16th July to August 31st, Flying Officer Tacon flew 133 hours, principally on instructional work in Hudson aircraft. During all this time, neither he nor any of his pupils were involved in any accident. In addition he lectured all pilots of the squadron on the handling and operational tactics for Hudson aircraft.
I consider that the operational efficiency of this squadron owes a great deal to the enthusiasm and hard work of Flying Officer Tacon."
(Source - Directorate of History and Heritage Collection file 181.009 D.2620 (RG.24 Volume 20628))
In a letter dated 12 September 1941 (Wing Commander Styles to Officer Commanding RAF Station North Coates), further detail is given:
"It is strongly recommended that the above officer should be awarded the Air Force Cross for outstanding good work and devotion to duty on non-operational flying. This officer has single-handed trained 32 pilots of this squadron on Hudson aircraft - a task which was rendered more difficult by the fact that all these pilots are fresh from the School of General Reconnaissance, and had not flown as pilots for periods extending from four to eight months. Moreover, some of these pilots had flown less than 100 hours solo on all types.
In addition, Flying Officer Tacon has converted onto Hudson aircraft 17 pilots of No.59 Squadron. The following are the dates and figures - 16th July to August 4th, 12 pupils trained in 407 Squadron; August 4th to August 12th, 7 pilots trained in 59 Squadron; August 14th to September 6th, 20 pilots trained in 407 Squadron; September 6th to September 11th, ten pilots trained in 59 Squadron. From 16th July to August 31st, Flying Officer Tacon flew 133 hours, principally on instructional work in Hudson aircraft. During all this time, neither he nor any of his pupils have been involved in any accident. In addition he has lectured all pilots of the squadron on the handling and operational tactics for Hudson aircraft. Since the squadron has commenced night operational flying on September 6th, three ships have been attacked and hit by night and one enemy aircraft attacked by day. I consider that the operational efficiency of this squadron owes a great deal to the enthusiasm and hard work of Flying Officer Tacon.
Wing Commander Stratton, commanding 59 Squadron, has agreed with this recommendation in a telephone conversation."
To the above, the Commanding Officer, RAF Station North Coates, replied on 14 September 1941:
"I regret I am not permitted under the regulations to forward this recommendation at the present time. This comes under the heading of Periodical Awards, and they can only be submitted when called for, which up to date has been twice a year. I have however made a note of it, and as soon as the necessary instructions are received I will let you know."
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