Michael Henry Astolf Topham Bayon DFC MiD
Born at Shenley Hertfordshire on April 20th 1922 Died: May 29th 2014. Age 92.
Mike Bayon was awarded the DFC after completing 52 bombing operations during the Second World War; later he became an inspiring and charismatic schoolmaster and eminent garden designer.
From when he was a boy, watching the fighters flying from RAF
Duxford a few miles from his home, Bayon had wanted to be a pilot.
After he joined the RAF in November 1941, however, his attempts to fly a Tiger Moth were unsuccessful and he was selected to be a navigator.
He trained in Canada and, after passing out top of his course, was posted to Bomber Command’s Pathfinder Force, an unusual appointment for someone with no operational experience.
On joining No 128 Squadron he teamed up with an Australian pilot, Doug Swain.
Operating the high-flying Mosquito, they attacked targets over Germany, often acting as a “spoof” raid to distract enemy night fighters away from the main bomber force.
They also carried out “nuisance raids” on important industrial centres.
On one of these operations against Kiel, their Mosquito was badly damaged but they managed to return to base.
On another occasion, when tasked to drop a 4,000 lb bomb on Würzburg (where Bayon’s father had attended university), they found the city obscured by cloud.
They decided to descend to low level where, despite the intense anti-aircraft fire, the risk from falling bombs from the bombers above and the ground explosions, they identified their target and dropped their bomb accurately.
The two men were awarded the DFC, both having been previously mentioned in despatches for their skill and courage.
Michael Henry Astolf Topham Bayon was born on April 30 1922 at Shenley, Hertfordshire and educated at Marlborough, where he excelled at classics and sport.
His studies at Peterhouse College, Cambridge were interrupted by the war.
A gifted rugby and hockey player, he just missed a Blue; he also qualified for Junior Wimbledon.
After the war, Bayon began a distinguished teaching career as a classics master at St Faith’s Preparatory School in Cambridge where he educated his pupils to such a high standard that the school featured regularly in scholarship lists for all the major public schools.
He also ran the school’s rugby, hockey and tennis teams and he assisted the Lawn Tennis Association by coaching the more talented county juniors during the school holidays.
For those with less interest in such things, he imparted his passion for nature, pet husbandry and gardens. He encouraged pupils to assist in building and maintaining an aviary garden in a dilapidated conservatory in the school grounds.
Unknown to the boys, he paid the fees of one exceptionally talented student whose parents had fallen into financial difficulties, and continued to support the boy until he was successfully launched on his chosen career.
The pupil himself never knew of his generosity.
In 1970 Bayon moved to St Paul’s School in London where he was hugely successful as a classicist, games coach and counsellor.
He was a popular figure in Barnes and became a volunteer prison visitor.
He also amused himself by collecting bric-a-brac and selling it in aid of charity.
Growing up in Cambridgeshire, Bayon had developed a passion for gardening at an early age.
On reaching retirement he decided to put his talent for garden design and maintenance to commercial use and in 1982 he established Mike Bayon Garden Design.
Using his knowledge of plants, native and exotic, Bayon created designs that combined indigenous and foreign plants in a style attuned to the modern English garden and its evolving climate.
The company prospered and achieved national press coverage.
For more than 12 years he was also the gardening columnist for a major London magazine group and his quirky and informative articles won a devoted readership – as well as many new clients.
Bayon was generous with his friendship and, despite reduced mobility in later life, he attended Pathfinder reunions and other gatherings associated with the Mosquito aircraft.
He was unmarried.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.