16 June 1944 and
Reggie Baker was like that....
How we missed
him and his leadership, formidable presence and his jolly infectious
convivial company in the bar in the evenings.
Killy Kilpatrick F/Lt Comm. 197 Sqn;
Reg was not
only a good leader, he commanded the automatic respect of all
his pilots, what further need be said. Part of his
character appeared to be a 'fun loving' extrovert, a quality
which took the 'sting' out of each and every 'OP'.
John G. (Jack) Brown was a pilot with
considered by many of us to be invincible, to be one who would
survive the war. Most of us would have accompanied him on any
difficult operation, we had such confidence in his leadership. It
was a great shock when he did not return from the operation on 16
June and a pall of gloom and sadness fell over the Wing for some
From Combat & Competition:
Those who were
privileged to serve under his command recall an extrovert, hell
raising Wing Leader. Who feared no man, had no respect for
bureaucratic authority or stupid senior officers. His voice on
the telephone, through the canvas walls of his office on the
airfield: "Baker? BAKER!..... B for Bastard'...... A for
occasion demanded he had his own phonetic alphabet!
16 June 1944
The following was compiled by F/Lt
On 16 June 1944 the Army put in an
urgent call for assistance. It was considered that the Germans were
reinforcing the front from the south through the village of Thury
The RAF were called upon to blast three road over river
bridges, and so seriously impede this reinforcement. It was known
that this was going to be a very dangerous operation with low cloud
over the target and considerable flak defences. But as Flight
Lieutenant Neville Thomas recorded (the Intelligence Officer at
Needs Oar Point) ‘despite all this, realising the urgency of the
mission, wing Commander Baker decided to make an attempt.’
Reg carefully briefed the pilots
of 197 and 257 squadron late that afternoon. The flight took them
over the French Coast near Point de la Percee, flying south at
4/5,000 feet, just below the cloud base.
Soon they ran into trouble a
few miles to the west of Caen, as German flak batteries of all
calibres opened up.
The 197 and 257 squadron pilots lost sight of their Wing Commander
as the formation was disrupted by the bursting shells. Then a voice
was heard over the radio:
‘Hello Carefree and Vampire aircraft,
Port 180 – Lochinvar – out.’
Nothing more was heard from Reg Baker.
One pilot would later report that just before the last order was
received he caught sight, through the cloud, of a Typhoon, out of
control, in an almost vertical dive. It was believed by all that this was
Reg baker and whilst plummeting to crash to earth he had ordered his Wing to
fly away from the danger.
Flight Lieutenant Neville Thomas recorded:
‘Later we learned, to our sorrow, that he had crashed near St Mauvieu, where he was buried by our front line troops. So the Wing
lost a fine leader, to whom it owes much, and I – a great friend.
Majesty the King graciously approved the award of the
Distinguished Service Order to this gallant gentleman.'
[View F/Lt Neville Thomas's chapter: England and the Beachhead]
(an excellent read)
Flying Officer S J Eaton 257 Squadron
One of the squadron commanders had
led a raid on the first occasion and it was almost dusk when we went
over to Normandy and flak was so intense that the leader turned us
back. Of course, Reg Baker was absolutely livid when he heard that
the wing had been turned back because of flak and so he said we’d go
back the next evening. But it was exactly the same time, exactly the
same approach etc, and he led. Of course, we had a repeat flak
barrage and he was hit and went straight in . I remember it
distinctly. It was far too late, dusk and the flak, you could see
the flashes everywhere, was intense.
From Combat & Competition:
orchard at St Croix sur Mer will always recall the legend of
Reggie Baker. For it was there at dusk, after his grave had
been found, that Jimmy Simpson told the story again. A Wing
show which he was leading, late in the day, had run into
intense flak. Hit and diving almost vertically out of
control he had called his squadrons - calm and confident on
the radio - and turned them away from the murderous barrage
- in the last moments of his life .....
... and a
single Typhoon hurtling earthwards..... What a way to go!
were privileged to serve under his command recall an
extrovert, hell raising Wing Leader. Who feared no man, had
no respect for bureaucratic authority or stupid senior
officers. His voice on the telephone, through the canvas
walls of his office on the airfield: "Baker? BAKER!..... B
for Bastard'...... A for Arsehole!..... "
occasion demanded he had his own phonetic alphabet!
they remember his last show. And those whom he led on that
occasion have a more personal memory. The groan which went
up at briefing when he announced that they would be going in
at 4,000 feet, and his response, so poignant in retrospect:
wrong! – Do you want to live forever?”
[View the 257 Sqn ORB for June 1944]
Telegram to Norma informing
her that Reggie was missing
Buried with full military honours
26 June 1944
His aircraft crashed near a
small place named St. Mauvieu, which is approximately 3
miles West of Caen.
It was found 10 days later, he
still in his aircraft, by Capt J.B. Lynd of HQ 3rd Canadian
Division. Reggie was buried beside his aircraft right in the
battle area, beside a gun position.
Local people recalled
even in 2001 the funeral where the whole village and
advanced Allied troops had buried him with full military
honours, despite the presence of a large force of German
troops close by.
was buried beside the wreckage of his aircraft right in the battle area
- St. Manvieu
original grave next to the wreckage of his Typhoon, St
Reg was buried three times following
his death in June 1944. First by his aircraft (above) and then in
September 1944 by the side of a temporary airfield near Beny-sur-Mer.
He was finally laid to rest in March 1947 at the Canadian War
Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer.
September 1944 by the side of a temporary airfield near Beny-sur-Mer
Commander Ernest Reginald Baker is reported to have lost his life
3 July 1944
Group Captain Denys Gillam wrote to
Dear Mrs Baker
May I add my sympathy to you for your
recent great bereavement. Your husband was second in command of this
unit and actual took over my Wing when I was promoted to this
Sector. Of all Wing Leaders that I have met I do not think that I
have ever met one who was so keen, popular and efficient. It was a
very hard and tragic blow to all of us when we lost him.
I have just received
some further news. His aircraft crashed near a small place named St
Mauvieu, which is approximately 3 miles West of Caen. It was found
by Capt J.B. Lynd of HQ 3rd Canadian Division with our forward
troops and your husband was buried beside his aircraft right in the
battle area, beside 30’’ Gun position.
May I once again
extend my sympathy and say that it was great personal blow to me
also, to lose such a great friend & leader.
Denys Gillam G/C
13 July 1944
that Reg had lost his life
Ministry 73 Oxford Street W 1 PC 889
regret to advise you information now received that your husband
Wing Commander Ernest Reginald Baker (40660) is reported to have
lost his life as a result of air operations.'
Scroll from the King
A Great Doncastrian
Claude Enfield would write in The
Doncaster Free Press later in June 1944:
Great Doncastrian – Wing Commander E.
R. Baker, Doncaster’s air ace, a freeman of the Borough, is missing.
Those of us who had followed his career with such deep and proud
interest were clinging to the hope that he who had so brilliantly
avoided misfortune would continue to baffle the odds, so to speak,
and come through the war unscathed, but it was not to be.
Yet what a brilliant
record. How many planes he shot down, how many submarines and
E-boats he sank, I do not know, but I should say his bag put him
among the greatest air aces of the war. It seemed as if nothing
could go wrong for him. That he should have flown day after day and
week after week for the best part of four and a half years getting
the better of jerry every time is a record bordering on the
miraculous. And this great gladiator of the skies was once a school
teacher. If he has been lost to us we shall treasure his memory as a
great Doncastrian and a personification and embodiment of our great
race of young men who, devoted to peace, enemies of no man, have
shown that when the life of the old country is at stake they can
rise to immortal heights.
21 November 1944
With effect from 15 June Reg Baker was
awarded the DSO to go with his DFC and Bar.
Reggie's medals: DFC - Bar
ROYAL AIR FORCE AWARD
The King has been graciously pleased
to approve the following award in recognition of gallantry and
devotion to duty in the execution of air operations:
Distinguished Service Order
Acting Wing Commander Ernest Reginald
BAKER, D.F.C., (40660), R.A.F.O. (Since reported missing):
Since being awarded a bar to the
Distinguished Flying Cross in August 1943, this officer has led a
large number of fighter bomber attacks against enemy shipping and
constructional targets and has personally destroyed three enemy
aircraft. In October 1943, Wing Commander Baker carried out a
hazardous attack at point blank range on enemy shipping under heavy
fire, to score a direct hit. By his outstanding leadership, courage,
and determination, he has set a splendid example to his officers and
Acting Wing Commander
Baker was born at DONCASTER in 1914 where his home is. He was
educated at Doncaster Grammar School and Chester College. He was
commissioned in 1938, was awarded the DFC in November 1940 and Bar
in October 1943.
20 February 1945
William Baker & widow, Norma, went to Buckingham Palace to receive
[to WWII Service]
page last updated:Monday 22 December 2008
Table of contents detailing updates added
RAF Lasham 1942-48 - a project by
Trinny. Please click
here to view
Victory Fighters: The
Veterans' Story - Winning the Battle for Supremacy in the Skies
Over Western Europe, 1941-1945
By Stephen Darlow
Fighters is largely a collection of eye-witness accounts of the
struggle that raged in the skies over occupied Europe after the
Battle of Britain. Reg Baker is one of the six featured pilots.
Stephen Darlow has been a major
support and contributor to this website do please visit the
website of this excellent Military Aviation author.