eg Taylor was born and raised in Taranaki, spending most of his childhood in and around Inglewood which at the time was the centre of the very large and prosperous surrounding dairy country. At this stage of early research we don't know what his father, Thomas Taylor did or if Reg had other brothers or sisters. He attended Inglewood school and played rugby for the Clifton club based in Waitara. It was from this club he gained attention to his fine playing skills as he went on to represent Taranaki.
Reg, a vigorous footballer in the much debated wing forward position, was an outstanding member of some strong Taranaki sides between 1910 and 1914. He was a rugby hero in the Taranaki province. He earned two test caps in 1913 against the touring Australian team. After playing for Taranaki (with Henry Dewar - another All Black who died in WWI) in two closely fought Ranfurly Shield challenges against Auckland in 1910 and 1912, Taylor had a leading role in the 1913 match when Taranaki ended Auckland's eight year, 23-match reign with a 14-11 win. Taylor then played in all seven of the successful defences made by Taranaki in 1914 before the shield was lost in the last match of the season to Wellington.
Also in the 1913 season Taylor had been in the Taranaki side which lost narrowly to the touring Australians. He then won selection for the All Black side to play against Australia in the last two tests of the three-match series. After the first test the main All Black players had gone off for their tour of North America. So both of Taylor's appearances were for a second selection despite carrying official test cap status. Taylor marked his debut by scoring a try in the 25-13 win in the test in Dunedin, but the
match a week later in Christchurch in which he also appeared was lost 16-5.
These were difficult years. The clouds of the 1914-18 war were gathering over Europe and the International situation had its effect upon the domestic scene in New Zealand. The financial advantages available to the shield holders these days did not become Taranaki's lot in 1913-14. War broke out during Taranaki's Shield tenure, and although the Union played through the prescribed programme, the majority of games only just managed to pay expenses. Taranaki provided seven players to New Zealand teams in 1913-14. New Zealand played a home series against Australia and toured California - the last All Black side to be selected until 1920. During the war the ranks of senior clubs were greatly depleted, but efforts were made to keep the clubs intact and to keep junior rugby active. Records show that the headquarters of the Union moved back and forth between Stratford and New Plymouth several times during this period. Unfortunately the books and records of the Union were destroyed in a fire at the Stratford Borough Councils office in 1914.
Also in 1914, Taylor was in the North side for the interisland match but was not included in the All Black side named immediately afterwards for a tour of Australia.
The outbreak of World War I brought Taylor's career to an end. Taylor left New Zealand in 1915 to serve in the war and in 1917 in Belgium, aged only 28, he was killed in action, one of 13 All Blacks who perished in WWI.
Taylor sailed to Egypt with a young 'Alexander Aitken' of Otago. Aitken was also in the 6th reinforcements, Otago Infantry and went on to fight in Egypt and the Somme before being wounded and returning to NZ. He was to become regarded as the greatest living mathematician! During the war he astounded his fellow soldiers by his ability to memorise, amongst other things, the numbers on their rifles. While serving in the Otago Company at Armentires, the platoon book was destroyed. Aitken recited the names and numbers of all members of his platoon. The root of Aitken's genius was also his curse. Aitken's memories of the war did not fade and his horrific recollections of the battle of the Somme lived with him as real as the day he experienced them. He wrote of them near the end of his life, aged 68 in "Gallipoli to the Somme". It is believed these hauntings contributed to the ill health he suffered, and eventually led to his death in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1967, aged 72.
Back to 1915 - Taylor's ship arrived in Egypt while the Gallipoli campaign was still in full-swing. News of the two 'First XIII' All Blacks that were killed a week prior to his leaving New Zealand; Doolan Downing and Henry Dewar were most likely on his mind, particularly Dewar. He was also a Taranaki player who played with Taylor during 1910 - 1913. Oddly though, Taylor didn't play alongside Dewar in the first All Black test against Australia in 1913, and Dewar didn't play in the second or third tests alongside Taylor. The reason was that Dewar had left for the USA tour with the main All Black team. Taylor was brought in for the other tests as a member of the 2nd 'official' All Black team to play the Australians. After a period of training in Egypt, Taylor was transported to Gallipoli to see out the latter part of the campaign.
Taylor survived Gallipoli, unlike Downing and Dewar, and went on to Europe and the horrors of trench warfare at the Somme in 1916. Another Taranaki soldier in Taylor's 1st Battalion, Wellington Regiment (Taranaki Company) was John Gildroy Grant. He was to survive the Somme and Messines, and go on to win a Victoria Cross at the battle of Bancourt Ridge in 1918. Grant was born in Hawera the same year as Taylor - 1889. Unfortunately he was declared bankrupt in 1927 and turned to alcohol.
After surviving France in 1916, Taylor regrouped with the other New Zealand divisions in 1917 and prepared for the successful assault on the Belgian town Messines. The Germans had a firm grip on this strategic area upon the ridge overlooking the allied trenches that hadn't really moved much since the beginning of the war. Taylor wouldn't have got much sleep the morning of the 7th June in anticipation of the assault. He would have witnessed the massive detonation at 3am of 19 mines that had been laid under the German lines. The result was an estimated 10,000 Germans killed and thousands more rendered completely dazed. Still, the assault that soon followed was a brutal affair. Chances are Taylor didn't see his fellow All Black mate, George Sellars, die while carrying a wounded comrade to safety, or All Black Jim Baid get wounded (later to die that day) but like the fourth All Black there - James McNeece, he managed somehow to survive the day. McNeece lasted another two weeks before dying at Messines... the day after Taylor was killed. No doubt during that time they comforted each other in their grief.
While the New Zealanders established the necessary infrastructure at Messines which included digging communication trenches, laying tram lines and repairing trenches, they were constantly shelled by the Germans who by this time were regathering after being displaced. Reg Taylor was killed during one of these assaults and was buried at Underhill Farm Cemetery. 'Underhill Farm' and 'Red Lodge' were the names given to two buildings on the north-western edge of Ploegsteert Wood. They were occupied by dressing stations and the
cemetery which they used is close to the farm. The cemetery was begun in June 1917 and used until January 1918. It fell into German hands in the spring of 1918, when it was used under the name of "The Military Cemetery at the foot of the Nightingale Hill". The cemetery was recovered in September 1918 and used again for Commonwealth burials until October. There are 190 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War buried or
commemorated in this cemetery.
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'All Blacks At War: The First XIII'
Christchurch, aged 24 Rank Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion, Wellington Infantry Regiment Serial Number 8/2738 Died Wednesday, 20 June 1917, Messines, Belgium Age 28 Grave Underhill Farm Cemetery, Ploegsteert, Belgium. Ref: B6.
Born 23 March 1889 in Hillsborough, Taranaki. Parents Thomas Taylor (father), Awatuna, Taranaki. Education Inglewood School. Physical Unknown Province Taranaki Rugby Club First made All Blacks from Clifton, Waitara. AB# 202 Position Wing Forward All Black Debut 13 September 1913 v Australia, Dunedin aged 24 International Debut 13 September 1913 v Australia, Dunedin aged 24. Last Test 20 September 1913 v Australia at
The All Black Games that Taylor played.
(+) = substitute; (-) = replaced
13 Sep vs Australia at Dunedin 25-13
20 Sep vs Australia at Christchurch 5-16
Points scored for the All Blacks
t c p dg pts
vs Australia, 13 Sep 1913
Test Record by Nation
P W D L t c p dg pts
2 1 - 1 1 - - - 3
2 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 3
All Black 1913
Australian Team 1913
Troop Ship 'Willochra'
All Black Team, Dunedin 1913
Messines First Aid Dressing Station
Messines in Ruins 1917
ANZAC Troops study Messines Model prior to attack
John Grant VC
Clifton Rugby Club Memorial Gates
Underhill Farm Cemetery, Belgium
1 - - - 3
1 0 0 0 3
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