GOLDSTEIN: Gilbert Taylor brought stories about Canada’s military to life

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Gilbert “Gil” Taylor, the Toronto Sun’s columnist on military affairs, wrote his first article for us on Nov. 3, 2018 on the brutal Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands during the Second World War.

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He wrote his last column on January 14, 2023, arguing the Trudeau government has a long way to go to properly fund the Canadian military.

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Gil died on May 27 after a year-long battle with cancer. His funeral was last week. He was 86.

I only wish we’d discovered Gil a decade or two before we did, because his wonderfully written columns about Canada’s armed forces and the history of armed conflict were fascinating, heartfelt, informative and based on his enormous body of knowledge.

He wrote about the Canadian naval hero who sank a German U-Boat – acting Chief Petty Officer Max Bernays – for whom Canada’s new Arctic patrol ship, HMCS Max Bernays, is named.

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He wrote about decorated Canadian war-time pilot Russell Bannock, dubbed “The Saviour of London” by the British media in the Second World War.

He wrote about Canada’s remarkable female pilots who flew as many as 90 different military aircraft in civilian support roles during Second World War, using a “Blue Book” to brief them on where the cockpit instruments were.

He wrote about the storied history of animals serving in war – horses that distinguished themselves on the battlefield, homing pigeons valued as a means of communication, dogs used to lay telephone lines, find and aid injured soldiers and sniff out minefields, cats beloved in the trenches for killing giant rats that plagued no-man’s land.

He wrote about Canada’s tragic history of war-time internment, military chaplains serving in war and peace, the courage of First Nations, Black and Metis Canadians on the battlefield and the patriotism of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people, along with non-aboriginals, who serve in the Canadian Rangers in our far north today.

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His respect for Canadians who served and continue to serve in our military and reserves was profound and a constant presence in his writing.

He had so many honourary military titles and awards they are literally too numerous to mention.

As then-president of the Royal Canadian Military Institute in Toronto, he worked with my late cousin, Jeffrey Dorfman, honourary Lt.-Col. of the Governor General’s Horse Guards, and Col. Peter Hunter, on a once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment deal, preserving the RCMI’s street facade on University Ave., while transforming it into a modern, multi-storey institution, housed within a gleaming condominium tower.

It was through Jeffrey that I got to know Gil, who also served as past-president of the Last Post Fund, dedicated to ensuring no veteran is denied a dignified funeral, burial and military gravestone due to insufficient funds.

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Gil was also a ground-breaking Canadian filmmaker, nominated for three Genie awards and a Gold Medal at the New York International Film Festival.

He co-founded Marshall Taylor Productions with William Marshall and worked with John Bassett to bring the era-defining musical Hair to Toronto.

He was a world traveller, loved the great outdoors and was a law-abiding hunter – you did not want to get Gil started on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gun control legislation.

He recently celebrated his 60th anniversary with his beloved wife, Anne. To her and Gil’s family and friends, we at the Sun extend our sincere condolences.

A celebration of Gil’s life will be held later this month at RCMI.

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