20.10.1943 No. 485 Squadron Spitfire LF.IX EN559 F/O. Baker
Operation: Rodeo 263
Date: 20th October 1943 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 485 Squadron (11 Group)
Type: Spitfire LF.IX
Base: RAF Hornchurch, Essex
Location: Eernegem, Belgium
Pilot: F/O. Ronald Lavender Baker NZ/391337 RNZAF Age 23. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off at 09:05 as Blue 2 on a sweep over the Little and Vitry area of France.
During the operation both F/O. Baker and 21 year old, F/O. Thomson NZ/413510 RNZAF were shot down by Luftwaffe fighters, both crashing near Eernegem - the two New Zealand pilots killed.
The late Eric Baker wrote this about his brother:
"Early 1944 I was saddened by the news that my brother Ron had been reported missing over enemy territory. As, by the time I received the news, it was six months after the event, I knew there was little likelihood of his arrival in the camp. (PoW).
I learned later that he had and interesting career, seeing the later months of the Battle of Britain then flying to the middle East where he fought over El Alamein before being posted to Kenya as an instructor.
On returning to England, Ron was posted to a Spitfire squadron and in late 1943, on his second operation in spitfires he was lost over Belgium. Ron and his wingman, a young man from Otaki, were cover for the squadron on a daylight sweep over Belgium when a superior number of Focke Wolfe fighters attacked out of the sun. the two were left fighting a rear guard action while the rest of the squadron made their escape. When eventually their graves were found, we learned they had crashed almost side by side".
Another New Zealander P/O. F. Transom aircraft was damaged but managed to fly his Spitfire back to England, but was forced to abandon his Spitfire. Parachuted safely, he was then picked up in a Tiger Moth flown by the Squadron intelligence officer, F/O. Anthony Vandyk which then also crashed = both crew members survived with slight injuries.
Above: graves of the two New Zealand pilots - courtesy of Sally Durham and family.
F/O. Ronald Lavender Baker. Eernegem Communal Cemetery. Eastern side. Son of Albert Victor Baker and of Sarah Christina Baker (née Tod), of Wellington City, New Zealand and husband of Margaret Gwenda Baker (née Hughes), of Khandallah, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 204 operational sorties flown - 3 with 485 the others with 79, 247 and 73 Squadrons.
F/O. John Gordon Thompson. CVSA (1). Eernegem Communal Cemetery. Eastern side. Son of Donald Thomson and of Ruth Thomson (née Green), of Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 561 flying hours logged and on his 21st operational sortie.
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Sally Durham, daughter of Eric Baker, also the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, other sources as quoted below:
(1) CVSA - Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air. The CWGC list him incorrectly as MiD - his grave list neither of these awards?