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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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485 Squadron Crest
485 Squadron Spitfire LF.IX EN559 F/O. Ronald Lavender Baker

Operation: Rodeo 263

Date: 20th October 1943 (Wednesday)

Unit: No. 485 Squadron 11 Group (motto: Ka Whawhai Tonu - 'We Will Fight On')

Type: Spitfire LF.IX

Serial: EN559

Code: OU-?

Base: RAF Hornchurch, Essex

Location: Eernegem, Belgium

Pilot: F/O. Ronald Lavender Baker NZ/391337 RNZAF Age 23. Killed


Update May 2024: A memorial is unveiled for these two New Zealand pilots


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 flying Spitfire JK762 were shot down by Luftwaffe fighters, both crashing near Eernegem - the two New Zealand pilots killed.

The late Eric Neil Baker 41641 RAF 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 an interesting career, seeing the later months of the Battle of Britain and 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". Further details on Eric here.

Above: The funeral to the New Zealand pilots and original grave markers

Above and below: The wonderful memorial placed for these two pilots - unveiled on the 25th May 2024

Another New Zealander P/O. Frank Transom NZ/416574 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. Further details here.


Above: graves of the two New Zealand pilots - courtesy of Sally Durham and family.

Burial details:

F/O. Ronald Lavender Baker. Eernegem Communal Cemetery. Eastern side. Born on the 29th March 1920 in Netherne-on-the-Hill, Reigate, Surrey, England. Worked as an apprentice fitter and turner. Enlisted on the 20th November 1939. Joined 485 squadron on the 09th October 1943. Son of Albert Victor Baker and of Sarah Christina Baker (née Tod), of Wellington City, New Zealand, 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 Thomson. CVSA (1). Eernegem Communal Cemetery. Eastern side. Born on the 10th March 1922 in Palmerston North. Worked as a clerk for Shell Oil, Wellington. Enlisted on the 15th of June 1941. Joined 485 squadron on the 23rd September 1943. Son of Donald Sage Luther Macdonald Thomson (died 11th May 1955, age 61) and of Ruth Isabel Thomson (née Green - died 20th December 1970, age 78), of Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand. A total of 561 flying hours logged and on his 21st operational sortie.

Note:

Eric Neil Baker - born on the 07th of July 1916 - passed away on the 05th of May 2008, age 91. Whakatane, Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Frank Transom - born on the 12th of October 1921 - passed away on the 16th of September 2005, age 84.

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, We are indebted to the relatives of F/O. Ronald Lavender Baker for updates on the memorial.

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?

KTY 16.08.2018

KTY 26.05.2024 further updates

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Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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