The Reverend Gordon Taylor - Telegraph The Reverend Gordon Taylor, who died on June 27 aged 90, was a Church of England priest of unusual staying power; he was rector of St Giles-in-the-Fields in central London for 50 years and a Royal Navy chaplain for 30 years. In neither sphere was he under any pressure to relinquish office earlier, for he was a diligent pastor with many friends and had a conservative approach to church life well suited to those who valued tradition. He was appointed in 1949 to St Giles-in-the-Fields, an elegant Georgian church now near Centre Point in Tottenham Court Road, where convicted criminals used to pause for a drink on the way to the scaffold. His association with the Royal Navy began in 1940 when he enlisted as a chaplain, and continued after the war in active involvement with the RNVR and the RNR. His book The Sea Chaplains (1978), which is the standard history of Royal Navy chaplains, goes back to a priest named Utta who was sent by King Oswy of Northumbria to bring back his bride Eanfleda from Kent by sea. The son of a businessman, Gordon Clifford Taylor was born in Wigan on October 24 1915. He wanted to become a naval chaplain at 18 but was told that he was too young, so he read English and Geography at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he also rowed. He prepared for Holy Orders at Ripon Hall, Oxford, then a centre of liberal unorthodoxy with which he flirted but soon rejected. After ordination in St Paul's Cathedral in 1938 by Bishop Winnington-Ingram – the first of nine Bishops of London under whom he served – Taylor became a curate at St Stephen's, Ealing. Two years later he successfully volunteered as a naval chaplain. His initial enthusiasm was dampened by a posting to HMS Royal Arthur – a reception centre for new recruits at a Butlins' holiday camp in Skegness. But he was soon forced to confront wartime reality when he had to bury several men killed during a Luftwaffe raid. Early in 1941 he was appointed to the destroyer Arrow on Atlantic convoy duty, but had to go ashore after a fall during a heavy roll fractured his scaphoid bone. Later that year he became chaplain of a group of armed merchant cruisers operating in the South Atlantic, throwing himself into such tasks as cipher officer and chief wardroom wine steward. By the end of 1942 he calculated that his sea miles covered the equivalent of sailing four times round the earth. There were also two shore postings, at Pietermaritzburg and then Nairobi naval air station, where he secured authorisation to build a church by beating the officer who could clear the project at snooker. On returning to the Home Fleet in 1944 Taylor was chaplain in the battleship Rodney when she shelled Cherbourg and also Alderney, where a German battery was harassing American troops on the French shore. Finally when she accompanied a convoy to Russia, Taylor took a Royal Marine string band ashore to conduct full choral morning prayer for those stationed at the British naval headquarters at Murmansk. On demobilisation in 1946 Taylor became an assistant master at Eton, where he taught Classics for three years and married Audrey Rowse, with whom he had two daughters. At St Giles's, his first tasks were to oversee the repair of the church, which had been damaged during the blitz, and to rebuild the life of the congregation. The parish's resident population was tiny and the attendance at Sunday services, always conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer, was never large. But weekday lunchtime services attracted good numbers, and Taylor undertook much pastoral work among office workers, serving as rural dean of Finsbury and Holborn from 1955 to 1967. In 1971 there was a Greater London Council proposal to obliterate the parish's almshouses (founded in 1656) and the West Street chapel and staff house to make room for a road. But Taylor's vigorous objection at the inquiry into the plan, citing the attempt to wrest the vineyard from Naboth in the Bible, led to it being scotched. All of this still left Taylor with ample time for naval matters. On leaving active service he remained an RNVR chaplain and was chaplain of the London Division of the RNR, earning a rare Bar to his Volunteer Reserve Decoration. During this time he served temporarily on various ships, including the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, and had a spell of duty at the nuclear submarine base in the Gareloch. A member of the Society for Nautical Research as well as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he went to sea for the last time when he coxed a harbour defence motor launch from Hythe to Gun Wharf, aged 84. Despite his conservative outlook "Bumper" Taylor, as he was known to his grandchildren, liked to remind congregations that being a Christian did not mean "you're dripping wet". He opposed capital punishment by arguing that no man was beyond redemption and pointing out that St Paul's was named after an accessory to murder. A smoker from the age of 17, he was buried with his pipe.