Sergeant Jack Taziker
Unit : "C" Squadron, No.2 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment
Army No. : 12088321
Jack Taziker joined the Territorial Army before the outbreak of hostilities and spent the early part of the war serving with the anti-aircraft defences lining the North-East coast of Britain. Following similar duties in the Orkneys, he volunteered for the Glider Pilot Regiment.
Taziker took-off for Arnhem with the First Lift on the 17th September 1944, flying a Horsa glider, chalk number 355, from Tarrant Rushton with 243119 Lieutenant George Stokes DFC acting as his second pilot. Their glider was carrying a Jeep and trailer, two motorcycles and three men of Headquarters Troop, 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron. The passengers were Lieutenant Graham Wadsworth, Trooper Bill Cooke and an unknown sergeant.
The following is an extract from a letter which Sergeant Taziker wrote to his wife on the 20th March 1945:
Darling, I am writing this Diary in the form of a letter to you for quite a variety of reasons. First because I love you and I know that you will want to know everything that has happened to me.
Second, because it will be good practice for my paralysed hand and help me to forget the affliction. Thirdly, Cherie, and not in too serious a vein, it's something to ease your mind in case I don't come back, but I'll tell you more about that later. Lastly I miss writing to you every day, most of all I'm missing you so much.
So here goes - I will try to pull a big deficit of seven months up, I only hope you can read it.
Well, to begin with we set off from Tarrant Rushton on 17th September and had only been airborne for about 20 minutes when one of the tug's engines conked out and we had to return to base. When we landed we found that a large strip of fabric was missing from the glider wing - so it was a darned good job we did turn back.
The ground staff quickly stuck another piece of fabric on the wing and they found us another tug, we then set off about an hour behind the others to try and catch up with them - it was hopeless, we got just over the North Sea, but when the pilot saw nothing but sky and water he decided to turn back.
We got back to Tarrant Rushton about 3 o'clock just in time to hear the BBC announcement that there had been an Airborne landing in Holland. I thought about your reactions darling when you heard that.
Well, the second day was very different, it was Monday and though I was expecting a letter from you I was unlucky, we had to leave before the post arrived. We were airborne this time at about 12 o'clock and this time we were last in line and nothing went wrong. When we got over the North Sea this time the sky was full of gliders, in fact it seemed as if the whole of England was taking a trip to the Continent.
Eventually we arrived over Holland - what a sight it was, the whole of the country as far as we could see was under water - it had been flooded. But not all of it - oh no - one little dry piece contained an ack-ack gun and I met my first Flak. In fact they scored a bulls-eye right in the cockpit on my mate's side - I wondered what had hit us it happened so suddenly, but when I saw George bleeding like a stuck pig I realised what had happened and realised also that I had been hit in the left arm and both legs, luckily I was in control of the glider at the time and managed to get the kite back into position again and we carried on. The Recce Officer in the back meanwhile tried to stop George from bleeding.
Twenty minutes later we arrived over the landing ground and it was surrounded by the enemy. They fired everything they had at us and the Sergeant passenger was hit in the arm. The glider was riddled with shots and we weren't able to make a proper landing because the A.A. shells had burst one of the air bottles so we couldn't use flaps or brakes. So we made a crash landing at the bottom end of the field. It wasn't as bad as I expected, there was a splintering of wood as we came to a standstill and the cockpit filled with a cloud of dust.
That was the critical moment of all the operation to me. I was still strapped in my seat when I felt an awful pain in my head and I knew that I had been hit. But I didn't know what. I sank back in my seat and said to myself 'Oh Lord, what a way to die'. Just then George shouted at me 'Come on Jack, get out'. I released my harness and made a dash for the door and threw myself under the glider. The enemy were still firing at us from a barn about 300 yards away.
When I found time to collect my wits and saw my right hand grovelling in the dust and covered with blood, I thought I must have been hit in the arm. I lifted my left arm to my head and what a shock I got. It felt as if half my head was blown away. Meanwhile the Recce Officer had got his machine-gun out and he was engaging the enemy. George was lying behind the glider wheel whilst I tried to dig myself under the glider with my left hand.
All this time the blood was pouring down my face, dripping from my eyebrows onto my nose. After about half an hour things seemed to have quietened down a bit and the Recce Officer came over to give me a shot of morphine and a drop of whiskey. He put a shell dressing on my head and the Sergeant gave me a cigarette. I felt fairly comfortable. We lay there for about four hours and then the R.A.M.C. took George and me to a house that they were using as a Dressing Station.
Jack Taziker was made a prisoner at the end of the battle and was taken to the temporary hospital at Apeldoorn, where his speech began to return. He was sent from here to Stalag VIIA at Moosburg, where a Polish doctor, also a prisoner of war, carried out an emergency operation. His wife, Viva, was pregnant with their third child at this time, and the only information she received was a telegram from the Red Cross on Christmas Day 1944, informing her that he was a prisoner of war and wounded.
When he returned home, Jack required further surgery and his right arm was amputated. Recurrent convulsions resulted in his head injury needing urgent treatment and there followed an eight hour operation to remove a bullet from his brain. Viva was told that he would never walk or talk again, but Jack was made of sterner stuff. He taught himself to walk again and underwent speech therapy, though both still only came with great difficulty. He was nevertheless determined to support his family, and supplemented their meagre diet throughout the grim days of post-war rationing by maintaining an allotment and keeping hens. He found work at a local hotel and later at Blackpool Town Hall, working thereafter until retirement. He returned to Holland some years later to receive an award from the Dutch Government.
Jack Taziker quietly passed away in March 1989, aged 70.
Main sources: Article in the BLESMA Newsletter & the AVC Newsletter November 1987.
My thanks to Bob Hilton for this account.
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