Shropshire man in mammoth swimming challenge in honour of Second World War hero

A Shropshire man is paying homage to a distinguished war hero by raising money to buy back his medals.


Market Drayton swimmer, Steve Taylor, has set himself the challenge of completing more than 6,000 lengths of his local pool to raise the money for the family of Godfrey Dennis Thomas.

Godfrey served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal by King George VI for gallantry and devotion to duty.

After his death in February of 1982, all of Godfrey's medals were sold on, but Steve is determined to see them returned to the family some 40 years on.

The 69-year-old, who was also part of the RAF, served from 1973 to 2000 in the Aircraft Avionics branch and retired as a chief technician.

As of September 16, Steve had swum more than 5,000 lengths at Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre, but aims to swim 6,194, in no more than 83 sessions.

These numbers represent an amalgamation of Godfrey’s Second World War flying record and act as a celebration of the war hero's achievements.

Steve said: “I wanted the distance I swam to celebrate Godfrey’s achievements, which culminated in him being awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM), bestowed and presented personally by King George VI, for valour gallantry and devotion to duty.

“I started with Godfrey’s squadron number – 83, then multiplied that by the 32 return trips he made in combat.

"I then used various other key factors, such as the 208 hours he flew in freezing conditions to complete his missions and more to commemorate some 22 of his fallen comrades, along with several other significant factors, that led to my grand total aim in a time that is also equal to his squadron number.

“I’m on track to hit my total by around Monday, October 10.

The money I’m raising via this swim will go to my cousin, Iris Thomas, who is the widow of Godfrey’s eldest son, so that she can buy back the many medals, including the DFM, which were sold on Godfrey’s death back in the early 1980s.

"It would mean the world to Iris and the remaining family members to know these medals were once again within the family.”

Steve has been swimming at Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre since 2013.

Steve Taylor and lifeguard at Market Drayton Swimming and Fitness Centre

Previously he was a keen runner, but had to stop that activity following chemotherapy for leukaemia.

He found that running was too painful following the treatment, whereas swimming has less impact on his joints.

Steve’s leukaemia is incurable, but he feels that regular activity has been a great help in slowing the progress of the disease.

Rhys Collins is the interim contract manager for Shropshire Community Leisure Limited, which in partnership with Serco Leisure manages Market Drayton Swimming Pool on behalf of Shropshire Council.

He added: “We’re fully behind Steve’s amazing swim. He’s been through his own battles, but is keen to commemorate the achievements of a genuine war hero in Godfrey Thomas, helping the Thomas family buy back medals which will mean so much to them.”

To make a donation to Steve's cause contact Market Drayton Swimming & Fitness Centre on 0345 000 7004.

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