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The Taylor Family

The following article is reproduced with kind permission of Robert Chisman and Dorset Ancestors

Helen Taylor of Tyneham

She was not born there and she did not die there but she spent the happiest days of her life there and her ashes rest there. A simple genuinely heartfelt gesture during the dark days of World War II has made the name of Helen Taylor synonymous with the Dorset village of Tyneham.

The villagers, evacuated from Tyneham on the orders of the War Department have not been allowed to return to their homes. For the full story of the events that took place there in December 1943 see our feature “Tyneham – the Village that Peacetime Betrayed.” And there are photographs in the photo section.

Helen Beatrice Taylor was born at Tincleton on the 14th of September 1901 and her sister Harriet Elizabeth on the 16th of March 1892 to William and Emily Taylor. The sisters, known as Beattie and Bess, ran the laundry for Tyneham House, home to the Bond family. Helen always considered Tyneham her home but after the forced evacuation from the village she lived at Corfe Castle until 1994 when she went to live in a nursing home at Swanage.

Neither Helen nor her sister Harriet Elizabeth (Bessie) or their half brother Charlie ever married. Helen had suitors but it is thought she did not marry because she wished to look after her older sister and half brother. Charlie Meech is credited with saying one day on his return home after a hard days hedging “saw old Thomas Hardy sitting in his garden…wasting his time…writing.”

At Corfe Castle they lived a happy self-sufficient lifestyle – with large garden sheds immaculately kept including one that stored extensive well water worn wooden laundry equipment and others with garden produce.

The sisters had an elder brother, Arthur Henry Taylor, born on the 8th of March 1890. Arthur started his schooling at Tincleton, where he was one of twenty pupils. The Headmistress lived on the premises. Arthur showed early promise and was taken under the wing of a clergyman who furthered his education. Accepted by Cambridge University, from there he entered the army and rose to the rank of Captain, receiving the MC and MBE. His death in Jerusalem on the 30th of November 1929 was the result of a tragic accident. It seems he had worked with Lawrence of Arabia and introduced Helen to him at Tyneham.

The girls had already lost another brother Bertie and a half brother Bill Meech in the First World War. The CWGC Debt of Honour Register records that “Bertie Taylor, Private; Dorset Yeomanry (Queen’s Own) died on Saturday 21 August 1915 Age 21. He was the son of William Taylor, of Tyneham, Corfe Castle, Dorset; Buried at Helles, Turkey. The Helles Memorial stands at the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsular. It takes the form of an oblelisk over 30 metres high that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles.” William Meech was in the same regiment as Bertie and died on Saturday 26th February 1916 aged 28. He was buried at Alexandria, in Egypt.

Helen died at the age of 97 in May 1999 and was given a half page obituary in the Daily Telegraph of 13th of May 1999, with the headline “Village That Died for D-Day welcomes last exile” and “Woman returns to Tyneham after 56 years for burial in church she loved.”

Helen was the last person to leave the village in 1943 and she pinned a note to the door of St. Mary’s church that read: “Please treat the church and houses with care. We have given up our homes where many of us have lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.”

Helen Taylor & sister Bessie Taylor,

with ‘Polly’ the Pony being led by their mother Emily Taylor

Friends and relatives at Helen Taylor's grave at St. Mary's Church, Tyneham,

where in 1943, she left troops a note.

Photo copyright and used with permission of Phil Yeomans BNPS Agency.

Helen Taylor with a photo of her old home at Tyneham. Photo: Copyright and used with permission of Phil Yeomans BNPS Agency.

William Taylor, Helen's father

Helen Taylor aged 17