Early Years
Joining the RAF
1944 16 June on
Post War
RAF Squadrons





1943 Service




January 1943

Not only did the aircrew have to endure fairly dangerous and relentless training.  The cold weather in January in Northumberland was an added factor.

? January 1943
R.A.F. Milfield
Nr Wooler
Northumberland .

 " ....last night we had 18 degrees of frost here and when I got up at 7.15 I was far from happy in my work . After breakfast , to my horror I discovered I had to do some flying at 25`000 feet . As you can imagine I still haven't recovered from the cold .


Although Reg seems to revel in it...

?January 1943
Milfield .

" ...the flying is grand , I manage to scare myself stupid several times during the day , but I love it . I am never cold flying , everything happens far too quickly for me to have time to feel cold ."


And is clearly enjoying his conversion from flying boats to fighters

14th January 1943
Milfield .

" ...what does Toddles think of her bad type father becoming a fighter boy ? . I really am loving it , you know how much I like flying anyway , but this is sheer heaven . You have no idea what a kick I get out of screaming around the sky at a rate of knots . Of course I have a hell of a job to restrain myself from shouting for a dingy after I have landed ! . This idle chatter must cease and I must go and juggle with J.C. and Isaac Newton."


It was not all fun...

18th January 1943
Milfield .

" ...my life up here is made up of sleeping , eating and flying . So much so I have not even been off camp yet . We had a crack up here yesterday , one of the boys caught fire in mid air and went straight in . It was impossible to get him out . "



29th January 1943
Milfield .

 " I... am looking forward to having another yellow pullover - very swish . I shall then be the complete fighter boy - fair hair , mad , yellow sweater , moustache and top button not fastened . "



7 February 1943

Reg reports in a letter home...

RAF Brunton
Nr Chathill

...doing low flying over the countryside at 50ft!...

11 February 1943

Reg finishes his refresher course and Fighter Pilot Reg Baker arrived at 182 Squadron at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, which was equipped with the fearsome Hawker Typhoon fighter.


Hawker Typhoon 1B


13th February 1943
R.A.F. Martlesham Heath
Suffolk .

 "..... as you can see I managed to arrive quite safely . The squadron are a grand lot , all very young and very keen , I know I shall enjoy my stay with them very much as I told you it is an old peace time station and really wizard , none of this walking about 2 miles from quarters to mess . Last night there was an e.n.s.a show , art gregory and his band . At present everything is strange , but no doubt it will settle itself in a very short time."


16th February 1943
Martlesham Heath .

" I really am enjoying my time up here , and I love flying these aircraft . They are terribly fast , but most fascinating . "



Operation Spartan

1-12 March 1943

Operation Spartan pitted two forces against each other.  Eastland representing a German force and Southland an Allied one. Eastland was presumed to have overrun Allied territory, an area within Cambridge, Coventry and Gloucester.  Southland was to regain the occupied territory from a starting point of Swindon to Maidenhead. Eastland had an airforce called X Group; Southland's was named Z Group. With respect to to preparing for and examining plans for cross-channel invasion 12 of Z Groups squadrons were mobile.

One of the squadrons operating as part of Z Group was Reg's 182 squadron.

Whilst more detail work was required, Spartan proved the viability of mobile squadron operations.


19 March 1943

182 Squadron Operations Record Book:

A decided browned offness is setting in with everyone, even though life is much softened in comparison with (Spartan) exercise days

The concept of mobile squadrons was implemented fairly quickly....

24th March 1943
Martlesham Heath .

 " I am leaving here within the next week or so for Middle Wallop , near Salisbury , there to live in a tent ! . I shall be there about a fortnight and then shall move south . I am not looking forward to living in a tent and cooking my own food over a wood fire . "


5th April 1943

182 squadron moved eventually to Fairlop to begin operations.


Reg summed it up:


6th April 1943
182 Squadron
R.A.F. Station Fairlop
Nr Romford
Essex .

 " ...as you can see the move is over and here I am ; living in a tent what with settling in and pitching our own tents the days are simply not long enough . Of course the whole thing is a mess up , the last meal we had was b`fast at 6 o`clock on Monday and it is now Tuesday afternoon . "





Reg Baker made his first fighter combat contributions:


13 April


A Ramrod raid in the St Omer/Fort Range area.


Typhoon Ib of 182 Squadron


18 April


Dive bombing Courtrai airfield.



Reg had retained a clarity of purpose.  In a letter to his wife:


14th April 1943

" ..you are being messed about but I do think that you understand - really this work is all for Toddles , by doing it there is a good chance that when she is grown up and married she wont have to face a war , I know that it is worth it ."






25 April


182 Squadron conducted three Rhubarbs, on one of which:

Flight Lieutenant Baker and Flying Officer McMane, Blue section, [airborne] from Fairlop 1115, down 1220 hrs crossed coast at Rye and made landfall at Berck sur Mer. The target being railway at Doullens. The section followed the course of the River Authie to the main arterial road at Le Boissot. The weather became extremely bad with heavy rain and section turned 5 miles beyond Le Boissot to return to base. Out over Fort Mahon where bombs jettisoned on the beach, and made landfall at Hastings - zero feet throughout.'






Rhubarbs were short-range low level attacks, in poor weather conditions, small formations of two or possibly four fighters, on targets of opportunity.


Ken Trott flew Typhoons with 195 and 197 Squadrons and recalls how such operations could be testing.

From my point of view it was always what we called bad weather flying. They liked to send you across when the weather was a bit duff: So you could go in low level, in most cases, find the target and come out again. The idea being that you were sort of avoiding the flak. That was alright if you avoided the towns and cities, or some of the railway lines.


I have a Rhubarb in my logbook for January 1944:

It was a rather bad weather day. We took off from Fairlop, flew down the Channel and over the coast. As we were going in the chappy with me called up and said, `I've lost you. What shall I do?' So I said: `Either proceed to the target or if you're not sure where the target then you'd better return to base.'

He returned to base. I went on and found the target, then turned to come, home. By that time it was raining hard and the weather was really closing in. I happened to find myself over a railway junction. I wanted to get out of there quick, because at junctions you could expect flak. So I just pulled straight up and went on to instruments. I suppose I climbed through about 10,000 feet of cloud on instruments and when I came out of the top it was a lovely day, beautiful sunshine, cloud everywhere however, no breaks. I called up Control and asked for a homing. They just gave me a course to steer, and from then on kept me under control until told to come down through the cloud. As I was coming down they said when you break cloud you'll be at about 800 feet, which, sure enough I was. Control said `I want you to land at Lympne.' I landed, stayed for lunch and, then got permission to fly to Manston in the afternoon. But the weather didn't clear for some time. I finally got back to Fairlop in to evening. That one Rhubarb had taken all day:





28 April  


182 Squadron conducted six Rhubarbs. Reg and his wingman attacked a goods train, one locomotive and 15 open and covered trucks in the station at Daunes, bombing at low level. Reg scored a direct hit on the centre of the train with his two 500lb bombs.


29 April


The squadron moved to Lasham and in early May carried out numerous exercises.




Conditions were not good


1st May 1943
182 Squadron
124 Airfield HQ
c/o G.P.O
Hants . 

" I don`t expect hearing from you for days as this place is literally in the middle of the wilderness , it has to be seen to be believed . Last night it rained like the devil and as my tent leaked like a sieve you can imagine what a pleasant time I had , that applied with the mud here makes life just a bowl of cherries ! . "



3rd May 1943
124 Airfield
Alton .

 " this place is of course , the very last word , miles out in the blue and a perfect sea of mud . Our tents leak and as it has rained every day since we arrived life has not exactly been a bowl of cherries . The food too is pretty unmentionable but that is a trifling consideration !! . I understand we are moving soon from here within a week or so - amazing is`nt it ? . I don`t have a stitch of dry clothing and my blankets are wet . "




13 May



182 Squadron detailed some of its pilots to cross the Channel and attack an enemy airfield.


The squadron Operations Record Book recorded the details:

In the afternoon Flight Lieutenant Baker [and 6 others] flew down to Ford where bombing up and briefing took place for the dive bombing attack on Abbeville Drucat Aerodrome, with 8 aircraft from 181 Squadron.


The aircraft took off from Ford at 1440 hours and set course direct for Abbeville. The escort joined 181, 182 Squadrons over Ford, while still Operations Record Bookiting, causing Squadron Leader Crowley-Milling to set course immediately, leaving 182 well in the rear.


The escort took up position to the rear and to the other side of 181. 182 Squadron were thus forced to fly through starboard escort in order to take up position in line abreast, and to starboard of 181 Squadron. The squadron crossed the French coast at 6,000 ft north of Ault, and then climbed to 10,000 ft. The formation leader Squadron Leader Crowley-Milling gave his squadron the order line astern and attacked the target in a steep dive 10,000 ft to 5,000 ft followed by his second flight, the last two aircraft of which were some considerable distance behind the rest of the squadron.  


This caused 182 leader Flight Lieutenant Baker to delay his attack for some 30 seconds. Squadron dived 70 degrees 10,000 ft to 5,000 ft dropping 14 x 500 lbs GP on target. Hits were observed on or near bowsers and aircraft in both NW and SE dispersals. No enemy aircraft were seen in the air. Intense light and medium flak was experienced both over the target and from Crecy forest for some 10 miles. Squadron received no orders from formation leader and Flight Lieutenant Ireson ordered them into formation.  


Out over coast south of Berck where squadron dived to 0 feet and made cannon attacks on machine-gun posts. Landfall Worthing/ Littlehampton. Landed Ford 1610 hrs.


Flight Lieutenant Baker, the squadron leader, was hit by flak OT at the end of his dive. Flak burst in his cockpit blowing the top off and wounding him in the thigh, elbow and head. All instruments except rev counter and compass were u/s. The aircraft dived out of control to 100 ft where Flight Lieutenant Baker regained control. He gained height to 2,500 ft and headed back to Ford making landfall at Beachyhead.


Attempted a crash landing on side of runways at the airdrome, but found himself heading towards Littlehampton village at 50 ft. He swerved and successfully crash landed near the railway line. This fine performance was a truly magnificent one and an example which has filled the rest of the squadron with pride and awe. There were large holes in the airplane, aileron, and cockpit of the aircraft and only first class ability could have brought it home, as F/Lt Baker succeeded in doing. The crowning incident was that, when his wounds had been bandaged, he insisted on being flown back to Lasham the same evening, refusing to remain in Ford sick quarters, as he was acting CO this time. Amusement was caused by a small box of sundry objects extracted from Flight Lieutenant Baker. This included a screw!


25 May


Reggies version of the events....


25th May 1943
124 Airfield
Alton .

" I have been in hospital since Thursday the thirteenth with shrapnel wounds , but I am coming out Tuesday or Wednesday . They put 12 stitches in me in various places , thigh , arm and head but now they have healed beautifully although I still have a sundry piece of shrapnel in my thigh - I understand that will work out in the distant future . My manly beauty is slightly marred by two scars between my eyes .

I collected the little packet over France , had a most confusing flight home and crashed about a thousand yards short of Ford aerodrome - they flew me up here after patching me up . Do believe me when I say I am alright now , in fact I am returning to full flying duties as soon as I get out - Wednesday at the latest . "




Squadron personnel visited Reg in hospital, but it wasn't too long before he was back with a view to getting on ops as soon as possible, in fact he returned to operational fitness on 27 May on the 30th May taking part in a dive-bombing attack on steel works at Caen.




But Reggie's time at 182 Squadron was about to run out.....


14 June.


Flight Lieutenant Baker DFC was posted to No. 263 Squadron, Warmwell as Commanding Officer.


The 182 Squadron Operations Record Book paid tribute to his leadership qualities.


'This appointment was very popular and well deserved, but he will be very much missed.'


Reg was delighted....


16th June 1943
R.A.F. Station

 " ...but as usual everything happened very suddenly - they rang me up to say that I had been given a squadron and I had to leave within about an hour ! . Actually I am not staying here , but going to Zeals , Warminster , Wilts . As you can imagine I am tickled pink about the whole business - as the bottlers daddy is now a s/leader we might promote her to f/o , what do you think ? . At the moment it is raining like hell , but who cares ! . I had to unpick your lovely sewing , and put another stripe in . "




Command of 263 Squadron

15 June 1943


Reg Baker took over command of 263 Squadron.

The 263 Squadron Operations record Book recorded:

Squadron Leader E. R. Baker DFC comes to the squadron [as CO] in his third tour of operations. He has fought and flown aircraft of many designations in almost every theatre of the war, other than the Far  East. It is felt that the squadron has again been most fortunate in his appointment.


18th June 1943
263 Squadron
Wilts .

 "... the chaps are awfully nice - so young I feel like an old grey beard . The first night they took me out and tried to make me somewhat tipsy , they failed I fear , not because of my capacity but because of their lack of capacity .

Have had six letters from chaps in the old squadron asking if they can come and join me - Tom Pugh will only let me have one , Alan Lowey . "



George Wood, who had joined 263 Squadron in February 1943, recalled the impression he developed of the new CO.


He was larger than life and a wonderful person. He would brief a dicey-do op and your eyes would come out like organ stops, expecting all that flak.


He'd say, `well you've got to die some time', and then carry on. He  was hard in that respect

George Wood:

When Reggie took over as C.O. from Geoff Warnes, and we went to Zeals to reform I was surprised to be called into the C.O's (Reggie's) office and he said "Take my aircraft P7113 (the one shot down over France later) and aerobat it over the airfield to bolster the morale of the troops (erks)." 

He asked me to give a mini air-display, and so I broke all the rules, and no-one reported me for low-flying and aerobatics lower than permitted, as everyone watching (including the bods in the control tower) thought it was the C.O. 

It was a complete give-away when the C.O. came out of his office to watch, and everyone thought "Who the hell is breaking all the rules and getting away with it!"


Westland Whirlwind Fighter

  [View short story of the Westland Whirlwind]



19 June 1943


263 Squadron moved to Zeals, Wiltshire, where a period of intensive training began, owing to the fact that there-were a lot of new pilots on staff. On 20 June one pilot is recorded as having made `a successful landing on his first whirlwind solo', but then selected wheels up instead of flaps up.


The conditions at Zeals where no better than previous locations:


" this place is really in the wilds - two local pubs but they haven't any beer so they aren't very much of a comfort . Living in a very old house - my bed is an enormous four poster , Charles the Second is reputed to have slept in it . " 

" this place has a certain number of mosquitoes and they seem to relish biting my ankles , they are both up like balloons and irritate like the very devil - shades of N. Russia . "


Norma and daughter Helen July 1943



7th July 1943
Zeals .

 " I know how you feel about my not having any leave since September , but I simply can't take any . You probably think I am quite mad and rather stupid but I am needed with my squadron , all the chaps are terribly young and inexperienced and if I took leave and something happened I should never forgive myself - as you know things are humming now and will be even more so in the near future , my place is here as long as I am physically capable of staying .

If by not taking leave I can save one of the chaps then it is the only thing for me to do . I could legally , take my leave tomorrow but flying isn't just a job that has to be done for so long followed by leave, it is something I live for and shall probably die for.

At the moment I am dead tired . I have been working all day , night flying until one in the morning and then starting again at 4o`clock in the morning - in fact I have had eight hours sleep in the last four days . "




12 July 1943



The squadron moved back to Warmwell, Dorset, and Reg Baker would lead four shipping recces on 13, 18, 20, and 23 July without any real incident except the threat of flak. Although George Wood had become aware of an enemy presence on the 18 July mission.

On this particular op I had sighted a Focke-Wulf stalking the squadron and I reported this to Reg. Then unknown to me, my RT failed and I didn't pick up that Reg had called up two of the escorting Spitfires to go and investigate. When I suddenly saw another aircraft crossing my bow I gave it a squirt before realising it was a Spitfire. I wrote this in my logbook, adding, `Missed him'. Reg wrote underneath, `Rotten shooting'. .


The 263 Squadron Operations Record Book recorded the lack of real action against the enemy:


Thus July ended without any contact with the enemy other than four reviews of the Channel Islands and rocks and the occasional and not inaccurate bursts of flak which are a commonplace of these reconnaissance operations.


It seemed that the enemy now very seldom moves any shipping by day between Brest and Le Havre. 164 Squadron of Hurricane IVs have been at Warmwell since the squadron moved to Zeals in June, and have not yet had even one strike.

Whirlwind 1943



Moreover the presence of a new squadron of Typhoon bombers in the Portreath Sector removes the possibility of a good deal of offensive work in the far south-west which formerly fell to the detachments of this squadron. The work of the squadron has therefore tended to become a kind of anti-convoy patrol whose success is measurable by the absence of enemy shipping in the Channel Islands and off the coasts of the Cotentin.


But in August, matters were about to change and 263 Squadron would see plenty of action.


Meanwhile Reggie kept his sense of humour...


6th August 1943

"... my full promotion has come through and I am now a substantive squadron leader . I suppose you have read in the papers about the new ribbons to be worn , service chevron and wound stripes too - I shall either look like an American or a commissionaire at Selfridges ! . "  




11 August 1943



Reg Baker led his Whirlwind pilots, escorted by Spitfires, to an area off the Brittany coast. In a small bay where the Abervach river flowed into the sea, enemy boats were sighted, seven E-boats and a trawler. The aircraft too were soon spotted and the boat crews scrambled about removing the tarpaulin from their guns, but the Whirlwinds were on to them too quickly. Reg Baker took the first flight of Whirlwinds in, and with his No. 2 they homed in on two E-boats. Reg's No. 2 would later report that.



‘We just couldn't miss them. The CO scored a direct hit on one with a bomb and I managed to do the same with the other.'


George Wood also took part in the operation. 

I was in the second wave going in, and all around E-boats were blowing up. We went for those that hadn't yet been hit, dropping bombs from low level. Sadly I still have a vivid picture in my mind of a German mariner who was diving overboard, looking up at me, horrified, and I just dropped a bomb on him. It's been in my mind ever since. Not a happy thought.


Eventually four E-boats were claimed blown-up by the squadron, another set on fire and a sixth, either an E-boat or an armed trawler, was destroyed. The Squadron Operations Record Book recorded the 11 August operation as `The Massacre at the Aber Vrach [sic] River'.


  [View the 263 ORB and German War Diary entry for this raid]


The day after, Leigh-Mallory and the Secretary of State for Air sent congratulatory messages. The mission was also reported in the cinemas, on Pathe news, and when Reg Baker was asked what had happened he had simply replied, twirling his wizard prang moustache, `We caught Jerry with his pants down.'


George Wood also recalled that there was one other notable person taking an interest in the operation. 

At the time Queen Mary was in the ops room listening to the raid. Now when on operations a deaf ear is turned to all the language that's used on the air. A Polish squadron happened to be escorting us, so when the swearing started the group captain accompanying Queen Mary, in order to spare her blushes, remarked that they were speaking in Polish. The reply that is alleged to have come from the Queen is, `Not bloody likely.'


Reg wrote:

" as you probably heard on the wireless we had a wizard party yesterday over France , we didn't lose anyone although the other squadron did . I am writing this at midnight before crawling into bed for five hours sleep and then another show , we have done four shows in 48 hours ! Just what the doctor ordered ! . "

14 August 1943

On this night Reg Baker further inflicted his wrath upon his enemy.

The moonlight helped in the sighting of an E-boat between Jersey and Guernsey. Reg swooped from up moon, dropped his bombs which struck the ship causing an explosion amidships. He then watched as two men struggled in the sea amongst the debris.

Reg would later recall,

‘I think the E-boat was taken by surprise because though it opened up with one gun, it did not put up as much flak as these boats usually do’.

And then just off Guernsey Reg, flying at 300 feet, caught sight of a Heinkel 111 silhouetted against the full moon, 200 feet above. Reg rose slowly and from 200 yards let loose, and his enemy’s port engine caught fire. Then as the Heinkel turned Reg unleashed again and his enemy plunged into the sea. 

"... at the moment I can hardly keep awake , three hours sleep in the last forty eight does`nt seem enough !!. I had some more luck on Sunday night, I sank an E.boat and shot down an enemy aircraft . "




 Attack in Cherbourg Harbour

15 August 1943

Whilst over Cherbourg harbour Reg Baker spotted an armed trawler which had just fired some flak. He lost height and came in low from the sea. Searchlights penetrated the night sky and land based gunners tried to bring him down. From 50 feet Baker released the short delay bombs.

 ‘The flak was pretty terrific. Every one of our aircraft was hit. However we got the ship all right and our escort say they saw a great explosion followed by sheets of flame.’ The bombs hit home and the ship began to sink'

This must have been one of the rare occasions when a quick low-level tour of the harbour had presaged an attack on a vessel nearing the entrance. The method surprised RAF Intelligence Offer as well as the enemy.


15th August 1943
Warmwell .

" thank you very much for your letter and congratulations - sorry about the newspaper people bothering you .

We have been inundated with telegrams and messages and yesterday we received the crowning blow - the Movietone news people came down and filmed us for the news you have never seen a more embarrassed collection of pilots in your life ! . It is to appear in the Movietone news next week - that is the same week you receive this letter . We have been flying madly for days and at night too , living on sandwiches for meals ! . "



18 August 1943

He took off at 0015 hrs on a night recce. Reg was `flying down moon along the north coast of the Cotentin when he saw flak coming from port and astern. He turned to investigate and saw a trawler lying about a mile off Cherbourg and firing vigorously. He turned inside Cherbourg harbour positioning for attack, meeting two searchlights and flak from shore batteries. Then he bombed the trawler up moon from 50 feet releasing short-delay bombs, and saw a large explosion on the stern of the ship.


After orbiting he saw the ship well down by the stern and apparently sinking. Its guns were silenced. Flight Lieutenant Ross found no trace of the ship an hour later. This armed trawler was claimed Cat 2, probably sunk.'


19th August 1943

" sorry about all this wretched publicity , I have tried from this end to stop it but it does`nt seem to have much effect . I think it is damned unfair for both of us . I suppose by now you will have seen my ugly face plastered on the screen . "




The rest of the month was taken up with convoy escort duties and then on 7 September the unit moved to Manston, Kent, as a detachment to 11 Group, to take part in operation Starkey.


8 September 1943

On 8 September Reg led 12 aircraft on a dive-bombing operation to the naval and flak positions at Hardelot, an attack which was designed to assist in the protection of the ships of the amphibious exercise, detailed to make the feint on Boulogne the next day. Reg and four others had to return early, but seven aircraft did attack the positions.

The next day Reg again led 12 aircraft to the Hardelot gun positions, taking off at 0800 hours, the Squadron Operations Record Book recording,

`It went well from the start to finish. Dives were from 14,000 to 3,500 feet and bombing results were good - all bursts were in the target area, within a circle of 150 yards radius. In both operations the coast was crossed at Hastings at 4,000 feet, after which the squadron climbed to 14,000 feet, dive bombed in echelon starboard and returned in formation at 1,000 feet.'


10 September 1943


263 Squadron returned to Warmwell.

Reg with Whirlwind pilots at Warmwell with stags antlers

(Reg in centre)


10th September 1943
Warmwell .

" ....on Sunday I am going on a course to Old Sarum , Salisbury where I shall have the pleasure of not flying for a week and living with the brown jobs - delightful ! . "



...the course was delayed...

Operation Chattanooga Choochoo


17 September 1943

Operation Chattanooga Choochoo was devised by Reg Baker in co-operation with 10 Group Intelligence, the aim being to sever the main Rennes-Brest railway line if possible in nine places between Lamballe and Morlaix.

263 Squadron ORB: ...

so that (a) trains should be bottled up [for] `ranging' on that night (b) trains should be diverted to the southern loop line single track and become targets for Mosquitoes on the following night.

Pilots were carefully and extensively briefed at Warmwell during the previous days. They were to make landfall at 2,500 feet at the point nearest to their targets where no flak was to be expected and to bomb their allotted targets as an absolute priority. Eleven aircraft were to be on target at approximately the same time. These orders were nicely carried out. Our aircraft met neither S/Ls or flak, tho' these were seen out of range at Morlaix. Bombing was carried out between 0205 and 0215 from 2,000 to 700 feet. No pilot `lost his way'.

Reg contributed as one of four aircraft detailed to attack the Ponthou viaduct. One pilot bombed the line SW of Morlaix. Reg and the other two attacked the viaduct but think they hit the cuttings to the side.


Shot down in the CO's Whirlwind

23 September 1943


George Wood took part in a 263 Squadron operation to Morlaix airfield. Reg didn't take part in the raid; he was on leave. George Wood was flying Reg's Whirlwind.

When we came in over Morlaix there was lots of ack-ack. I dived from about 14,000, and when T got to 4,000 feet I was hit. I had pressed the tit to off-load the bombs and then everything blew up. I think some flak must have hit my bomb. The escorting aircraft all said it was like a flower opening, and a chap looking through binoculars down below later told me it looked like two aircraft had collided, as there was so much debris falling.

I couldn't get out of the aircraft. I tried everything but nothing happened. So I just shouted, 'Oh God help me.' Suddenly I found myself outside the aircraft, don't know how, and I pulled the ripcord As I was descending the Germans started shooting at me. There were bullets whistling past my lughole. I was just hoping they wouldn't hit the parachute or me. Fortunately I wasn't suspended for too long and I landed on the aerodrome. I ran like hell and reached, some barbed wire. I walked along until I came to a tree that had convenient branch. I shinned up and dropped over to the other side then kept running.

George, as he was to find out later; had actually run across a minefield. It was, however, believed to have contained anti-tank mines.

They probably would not have exploded if I had trodden on one. At least it dissuaded the Germans from giving chase. I later learned that about 900 men had been mobilised to look for me.

George believed this was because he had been flying Reg Baker's aircraft; and a piece of wreckage had been found carrying Reg's call sign, `Lochinvar'. Reg was known to the enemy. In fact on some operations the Germans had tried impersonating him, using his call sign, over the radio. George recalled:

The Germans therefore believed they were looking for a, VIP, who should be captured at all costs.

George hid his Mae West in a hedge. He started walking south and eventually climbed a tree to survey his surroundings. From his vantage point he became aware of numerous German patrols keen to capture the 'VIP'. One stopped beneath his tree, for a smoke and a chat. George recalled:

I remained still hardly daring to breathe, but not one man glanced up.

For the remainder of the day George managed to evade the patrols, eventually making his way to a farmhouse where he received help. For the next month George's fate was controlled by French civilians and members of the Resistance. Eventually passage back to England by boat was arranged;

When I got back one of my first things was to phone up Reggie and apologise for pranging his aircraft. His typical flamboyant response was, 'That's alright old chap. I'd only have done it myself later on.' He said, 'Come down, let's have a party.


23rd September 1943
Warmwell .

" at the moment I am feeling somewhat depressed , one of my boys was killed on a job this morning , he blew up over the target . He wouldn't have known what hit him - I suppose that is some consolation . Now I have the job of writing to his parents - God , how I hate that . I shall be at Old Sarum on Sunday and shall be there until October 1st .



1 October 1943

For his actions during this period Reg is awarded a Bar to his DFC.

5th october 1943 . Warmwell .

 ".... I now understand that I shall be leaving sometime this month , back to tent life again but this time as a wing commander .



Loss of Pilot Officer Simpson

8 October 1943


For the three weeks following operation Chatternooga Choochoo Reg flew on night shipping recces and armed recces.  That would change on 8 October.  Taking off at 1900 hrs Reg bombed an E-boat off Varriville, but was prevented by searchlights from investigating further.  He landed at 2025 hrs.  Then at 2215 two pilots returned from night recce in which one aircraft was shot up by a 2,500 ton flak ship and damaged.  Five minutes later Reg led seven aircraft out and found the aforementioned ship off Cap del la Hague.


263 Squadron Operations Record Book: ...

 ...and bombed it from mast height without seeing more than indistinct explosions.  He was forced to orbit in accurate heavy flak from Alderney and Cap de la Hague, as well as much light flak from the ship.... As the visibility was very poor in sea haze the CO decided that this ship should not be further attacked in this land-defended area and ordered the six aircraft which were following him to return to base.  Meanwhile fog had come in rapidly at Warmwell and all aircraft were ordered to reurn to Tangmere.  It seems that that Pilot Officer Simpson who was next to Squadron Leader Baker, the squadron's most experienced pilot, had engine failure not due to enemy action and that his other engine failed during the run to Tangmere.  He crashed into an anti-landing post a hundred yards from the runway and was killed instantly.


Operation Chuffa Prang

17 /18 October 1943


Whirlwinds 1943

263 Squadron Operations Record Book: ...

This operation, locally devised, planned and briefed as Chuffa Prang was designed to disorganise railway communications in and near the Cherbourg Peninsula and thereafter take advantage of the tactical situation. It was a great success.  Each pilot arrived at his target after a route which had correctly avoided intense flak which is to be met by the unwary and Squadron Leader Baker blew up an ammunition train SE of Valognes, then probably damaged a loco near Bricquebec.



Chasing the Munsterland

24th October 1943

On the afternoon of 24 October a series of raids began against one particular target in Cherbourg harbour, a blockade­running merchant ship called the Munsterland.

263 Squadron Operations Record Book:

This was the squadron's first (and perhaps the first of the war) low level attack upon shipping in Cherbourg harbour.

Our aircraft flew at just above sea level on a course which brought them between the outer moles and straight to the Munsterland. Four aircraft bombed the Munsterland and two of these attacked with cannons, leaving her on fire in two places - she was well ablaze 11 minutes later but the fire had been extinguished 90 minutes later. The other four aircraft bombed two ships aft of the Munsterland and saw cannon strikes on one of them.

Two pilots then scored strikes on two of six M Class minesweepers in the transatlantic dock. Flak was fired at our aircraft from more than a hundred guns within range from harbour and ships: `It was like a horizontal hail storm, painted red', (Flight Sergeant Beaumont).

All our aircraft were hit more or less seriously. The formation broke half to port ESE over the peninsula. Flight Sergeant Gray's starboard engine was smoking and he glided down to port from 150 feet, about three miles ESE of Cherbourg just in the manner of a controlled forced landing. The country here is fairly open and it is hoped that he may still be alive.

Flying Officer Mercer's aircraft was hit over the target and it may have been for this reason that he was flying considerably above the formation when they recrossed the coast three miles S of St Vaast. Here his aircraft received a direct hit from a coastal flak battery and dived into the sea, disintegrating on impact. It is not thought that he could have survived.

Flight Lieutenant Ross's aircraft was severely hit in the starboard wing, juddered and stalled at 180 mph as well as the wing root. He made a perfect belly landing at Warmwell at this speed.

Flight Sergeant Cooper's undercarriage, damaged by flak, collapsed on landing.

Squadron Leader Baker was bruised on the shoulder by perspex dislodged by bullets.

Ninety minutes later 183 Squadron Typhoons attacked the Munsterland and lost Squadron Leader Gowers DFC, a veteran of the Battle of Britain, and two other pilots.


From Typhoon Attack[1]

‘Poppa` Ambrose recalls an operation 257 Squadron was involved in. In his log book he later wrote by this operation – ‘Innocents Day’.

There was a ship in Cherbourg Harbour, carrying Wolfram (tungsten ore). Our intelligence people said it had got through from Japan and had to be hit at all costs.

We went out with Reggie Baker's 263 Whirlwind Squadron with bombs, while we and 183 Squadron were flying with cannon. We were 24 aircraft.

When we went for briefing, they said we were going out at nought feet. We said don’t be silly, only idiots go into Cherbourg harbour at nought feet – we should dive down, and even that was considered to be virtual suicide.

Reggie Baker rang up the Group captain Ops at Box, Ludlow Manor, and said, ‘What’s all this nonsense?’ but was told that was the order – nought feet.

Anyway out of 24 aircraft we lost ten and eight pilots, two pilots being rescued from the Channel.

We came back to the mess and normally most of us remained sensible and drank beer, not spirits, but I remember that afternoon we opened the bar at four o’clock; we were all hacked off. Gus Gower the CO of 183, had been lost.

Reg Baker went in with the Whilrwinds and we went in before there was any actual flak from the ship. I remember one chap who actually got a Germans head between the cannon on his Typhoon wing and when he got home it was still there.

After the war I met the group Captain Ops – I had not met him before – and I said, ‘You were the bloke who sent us into Cherbourg Harbour at nought feet’. He said yes, but said it had been on Churchill’s instructions. Churchill had laid down the tactics – we were to go in ‘on the deck’ as he put it. Anyway we blew up the ship![1]

Extract of Pierre Clostermann's "Big Show" - Chapter : "The Munsterland business"[2]

A graphic description of the real horror of the attack

1015 hours. The fog thickened and it started to pelt with rain. instinctively the sections closed up to preserve visual contact.

Suddenly Yule's calm voice broke the strict RT silence :
"All Bob aircraft drop your babies, open up flat out, target straight ahead in sixty seconds !"

Freed of its tank and drawn by the 1,600 h.p. of its engine, my Spitfire leapt forward and I took up my position fifty yards on Jacques' left and slightly behind him, straining my eyes to see anything in the blasted fog.

"Look out, yellow section, Flak-ship, one o'clock !"

And immediately after Frank Wooley, it was Ken Charney who saw a Flak-ship, straight in front of us !

"Max blue attacking twelve o'clock !"

A grey mass rolling in the mist, a squat funnel, raised platforms, a mast bristling with radar aerials - Then rapid staccato flashes all along the superstructure. Christ ! I released the safety catch, lowered my head, and nestled down to be protected by armour plating. Clusters of green and red tracer bullets started up in every direction. flowing Jacques, I went slap through the spray of a 37 mm. charger which only just missed me - the salt water blurred my windshield. I was fifty yards from the Flak-ship. Jacques in front of me was firing ; I could see the flashes from his guns and his empties cascading from his wings.

I aimed at the bridge, between the damaged funnel and the mast, and fired a long, furious continuous burst, my finger hard on the button. My shells exploded in the water, rose toward the water line, exploded on the grey black-stripped hull, rose higher to the handrails, the sandbags.

A wind-scoop crashed down, a jet of stream sputtered from somewhere. twenty yards - two men in navy-blue jerseys hurled themselves flat on their faces. - ten yards - the four barrels of multiple pom-pom were pointing straight between my eyes - quick - my shells exploded around it. A loader carrying two full clips capsized into the sea, his legs mown from under him, then the four barrels fired, I could feel the vibration as I passed a bare yard above - then the smack of the steel wire of the aerial wrenched off by my wing as I passed. my wing tip had just about scraped the mast !

Phew ! Passed him.

My limbs were shaken by a terrible nervous tremor, my teeth were chattering. Jacques was zigzagging between the spouts raised by the shells. the sea was seething.

Half of dozen belated Typhoons passed to my right like a school of porpoises, bearing down on the hell going on behind the long granite wall of the breakwater

Illustration by Benjamin Freudenthal

I skimmed over a fort whose very walls seemed to be belching fire - a curious mixture of crenulated towers, modern concrete casements and thirty Years War glacis.

We were now in the middle of the roadstead - an inextricable jumble of trawlers masts and rusty wrecks sticking out between the battered quays. the weather seemed to have cleared a little - Look out for the Jerry fighters ! The air was crissed-crossed with tracers, lit up by flashes, dotted with black and white puffs of smoke.

The Munsterland was there, surrounded by explosions, flames, and debris. Her four masts bristling with derrick and her squat funnel well aft emerging from the smoke. The typhoon attack was in full swing, bombs exploding all the time with colossal bursts of fire and black clouds of smoke, thickening as they drifted away.

A Typhoon vanished into thin air in the explosion of a bomb dropped by one in front. One of the enormous harbour cranes came crashing down like a house of cards.

"Hullo, Bob leader, Kenway calling - There are Hun fighters about, look out !"

What an inferno ! I was close to Jacques, who was gaining height in Spirals, making for the layer of clouds. Two Typhoons emerged from a cumulus, a few yards from us, and I just stopped myself in time from firing at them. With their massive noses and clipped wing they looked uncannily like Focke-Wulfs.

"Beak, Blue Four !"
Jacques Broke away violently and his Spitfire flashed past a few yards under my nose, a white plume at each wing tip. To avoid a collision I waited for a fraction of a second a Focke-Wulf - a real one this time - flashed past, firing with all four cannon. A shell ricocheted off my hood. As I went over on my back to get him in my sights, a second Focke-Wulf loomed up in my windshield, head on, at less than one hundred yards. Its big yellow engine and its apparently slowly turning propeller seemed to fling themselves at me and its wings lit up with the firing of its guns. Bang ! stars appeared all over my slintering windshield which became an opaque wall before my eyes. Thunderstruck, I dared not move for fear of a collision. He passed just above me. A stream of oil began to spread all over my hood.
the sky was now alive with aircraft and full of flak bursts. I let fly at another Focke-Wulf and I missed. Luckily !... It was a Typhoon. Jacques was circling with a German fighter. I saw his shells explode in the black cross on the fuselage. The Focke-Wulf slowly turned over, showing its yellow belly, and dived, coughing smokes and flames.
"Good show, Robbie ! You got him !"

My oil pressure was disquietingly down. the rain began again and within a few seconds my hood was covered witha soapy film. I slipped into the clouds and set course north on I.F., first warning Jacques and Yule over the radio.

I reached Tangmere as best I could, my oil pressure at zero and my engine red hot and ready to explode. I had to Jettison my hood to see to land.

In this business we had lost two pilots, as did 132. Seven Typhoons were destroyed, plus two which came down off Cherbourg and whose pilots were picked up by the launches.

As for the Munterland, although seriously damaged and with part of her cargo on fire, she succeded two nights later in sneaking as far as Dieppe. She finally got herself sunk off the coast of Holland by a strike of Beaufighters.


28 October 1943

Reg led eight aircraft on a dive-bombing attack, again against the Munsterland, all bombs reported within 500 yards of the target, warehouses hit and an oil fire started. Two days later Munsterland was the target yet again.

Whirlwind being re-armed

263 Squadron Operations Record Book:

The CO started the dives rather too early and pulled back again to 12,000 feet, then almost vertically. A cluster of bursts hit warehouses W of the target, two bursts were in the dry dock area. The Hun now has dive bombing weighed up. His heavy flak was intense and accurate at 12,000 feet and during the dive from 9,000 to 7,000. The CO therefore led on down to 5,000. This and the change of the early dive seems to have led to only one Whirlwind being slightly damaged by flak. The six aircraft returned over Warmwell in excellent formation, close two vics, vics line astern.


5 November 1943

Refuelling Whirlwind 1943


Reg led 7 Whirlibombers to attack Munsterland but abortive owing to 10/10 cloud.

Over the next few days the squadron conducted a number of night recces.

10 November 1943

Reg takes 4 aircraft on a night shipping strike, the convoy located and Reg's bombs burst alongside a small trawler.

24 November 1943

Reg to lead an armed shipping recce but aborted owing to bad weather.

25 November 1943

Reg part of 4 aircraft on unsuccessful armed shipping recce then that afternoon aborts an 8 aircraft Ramrod owing to bad weather. Then that evening and the day after Reg leads 8 aircraft continuing attacks dive bombing the Munsterland.

26 November 1943

In the afternoon Reg leads 8 aircraft to attack a secret target SW of Cherbourg ORB - The target was protected by at least 8 heavy flak positions which were seen, as well as by flak between the target and the coast. All our aircraft were hit by flak, but no serious damage was done, except to F/O Moggs aircraft which flew back on one engine to as successful landing. 

263 Squadron would continue attacking shipping targets, including revisits to the Munsterland, although poor weather would disrupt operations.

December 1943

At the beginning of the month 263 Squadron would start to receive Typhoons. But Reg Baker, having now added a Bar to his DFC, was to leave to take on more senior responsibilities.

From Aeroplane May 2006:

Sqn Ldr Baker led three Whirlwinds to intercept some Junkers Ju 52/3m minesweepers off Cherbourg, but returned having failed to find them. 

It was the last operational sortie by Whirlwinds and 263 Sqn converted to Hawker Typhoons the following month.  This was two years after Whirlwind production had ceased at Yeovil.  During the previous few months the lack of replacement aircraft and pilots had gradually reduced the squadron's operational status, even though some of 137 Sqn's aircraft had been transferred to 263 Sqn.

[View more details of the Hawker Typhoon]


5 December 1943

Reg is posted to W/Cdr (Flying) Colerne and taken by Oxford to Fighter Leaders Course Ashton Down


8th December 1943
Aston down .

 " ....I am afraid my visit home just before Xmas is off - this course I am on doesn't finish until after Xmas . At the moment I am feeling pretty grim , I have just recovered from a bout of the old fever and now I have twisted my knee badly . "




[1] From Typhoon Attack

[2] From Pierre Clostermann's "Big Show" - Chapter : "The Munsterland business" (Penguin Books)



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This page last updated:Monday 22 December 2008


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Victory Fighters: The Veterans' Story - Winning the Battle for Supremacy in the Skies Over Western Europe, 1941-1945
By Stephen Darlow

Victory 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.




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