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Thomas Charles Baker (1897–1918)

Thomas Baker, c.1915

Thomas Baker, c.1915

from Bank of New South Wales Roll of Honour (Sydney, 1921)

Thomas Charles Richmond Baker was born at Smithfield, South Australia, on 2nd May, 1897, and was the son of the late Richmond Baker and Mrs. A. M. Baker. He was educated at St. Peter’s College, Adelaide, and joined the service of the Bank in that city on 2nd February, 1915.

He enlisted on 15th July, 1915, and embarked four months later with the 16th Battery of the 6th (Army) F.A. Brigade. Having served with this unit for some years he entered the Australian Flying Corps, and was gazetted second lieutenant in the 4th Squadron, A.F.C., in March, 1918, and first lieutenant in July. Four months later he had risen to the rank of flight-commander captain, only a few days before he met his death whilst fighting ten enemy aeroplanes single-handed. Captain Baker had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Military Medal and Bar, and recommended for the Distinguished Service Order. His flying record is one of extraordinary brilliance, and his skill and natural gifts as a leader were admired by everyone with whom he came in contact.

“He was one of the bravest officers I have ever had in this squadron,” wrote his commanding officer afterwards. “His loss was very keenly felt by the whole squadron, for he was extremely popular and looked up to by all the other pilots, chiefly on account of his brilliant leadership.”

The following account is extracted from an article in the Adelaide “Register,” on Captain Baker, written by Mr. Stanford Howard, of the 4th Squadron, A.F.C.: —

“He commenced flying in January, 1918, and from the outset showed abilities as a pilot far above the average. When he received his wings, in April, 1918, he was offered a position as flying instructor, but this post he declined, preferring to go to France and fight, rather than take the comparatively safe job of instructing. He joined the 4th Squadron in June, 1918, and his sterling qualities were soon recognized. After very little experience he was leading patrols, a responsible position, as the responsibility of the whole patrol devolves upon the leader. In July he downed his first Hun, and having, so to speak, tasted blood, his progress was amazing. He grew utterly fearless, and in his wonderful confidence in himself and his machine, he went into such corners from which only miracles could save him, and these miracles he achieved. After two and a half months with the fighting squadron he had seven Huns to his credit, and also two hostile observation balloons. His tactics in the air showed great originality, and on several occasions he saved his patrol from destruction by timely moves and counter-moves. He was the friend of all inexperienced pilots, because they knew that with Baker leading they would not be left long in any predicament. In a scrap, or ‘dog fight,’ as we called them, his machine could be seen here and there, always to the help of those in difficulties. For his excellent work he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and was also recommended for the D.S.O., but his untimely end prevented the award of the latter, as the higher command desired to watch his development still further before granting him this honour. He met his death in the defence of others from the attacks of greatly superior numbers, and he went down, as might be expected, colours flying, fighting to the last. His total bag of Huns was fifteen machines and four balloons, and it is a splendid record. Let me say in conclusion that no news was received with greater concern by the pilots of our squadron than the news of the death of Richmond Baker. He left a splendid memory, of which his family is justly proud, and in this pride all grateful South Australians should share.”

Original Publication

This person appears as a part of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7. [View Article]

Citation details

'Baker, Thomas Charles (1897–1918)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012