While notable RAF figures gained monikers such as Cats Eyes Cunningham and Sailor Malan, Baker was ‘Tubby’.
He was also hard as nails, as his standing as a member of an elite ‘club’ indicates: airmen who notched up 100 operational sorties during the Second World War.
Baker did all of his ‘century’ against the most heavily defended targets in Europe in heavy bombers; further still, some 20 of them were completed as Master Bomber.
The ‘Immediate’ 1944 DSO and 1945 ‘Immediate’ Bar, 1943 DFC and 1944 Bar group of six awarded to ‘Tubby’ Baker appeared at London auction house Spink (20% buyer's premium) on July 29 and sold to for £70,000 against an estimate of £28,000-32,000.
They had been originally purchased directly from the recipient’s family and this was the first occasion they were offered on the open market.
The 100th sortie came on March 13, 1945, a daylight mission as Master Bomber flying Lancaster PB914 to Wuppertal, where he made several runs over the target and remained for over 20 minutes.
Spink said that as soon as he landed Baker was “finally ‘grounded’ and presented with a Bar to his DSO to go with a pint of beer” - the latter was photographed going down in one (see photo above).
“His unique record of service marks him out amongst the finest to have flown with Bomber Command and the Path Finder Force during the Second World War, while it should be noted the citation for that last award is striking in its similarity to that of Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire’s Victoria Cross.”
Cheshire was another member of the ‘100 club’, as were Wing Commander JB Tait (DSO and Two Bars, DFC) and Squadron Leader P Granswick (DSO, DFC and Bar).
Baker’s medals were sold with a comprehensive archive of original material such as his flying logbooks. The group went to a London-based phone bidder who beat four other phones and two institutions who left commission bids.
In the same auction, a French Empire Legion of Honour, an early sash badge in gold and enamel, was estimated at £800-1000 but did rather better: taking a hammer price of £37,500.