Teddy’s War

After some years of waiting, and having become aware that I was now Teddy Baker’s next-of-kin, I was recently able to apply to have his R.A.F. service record released to me. To be honest, having heard family gossip about him over the years (‘he was a tyrant’ and ‘he broke his mother’s heart’), I was expecting him to have been involved in something discreditable (such as the mutiny of 1946), or perhaps drunkenness on duty, but his record shows his conduct as either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘moderate’ throughout. He rose from AC2 to AC1 to LAC – that is, Aircraftman Second Class to Aircraftman First Class to Leading Aircraftman – and although he finished the war as an AC1 that doesn’t necessarily mean he was demoted for poor conduct; it could simply be that he was moved to a unit that already had its quota of LACs and didn’t need another one.

What’s more interesting than this, though, is his specialisation. After joining the service on 10 December 1941 and at first being part of various reserve squadrons based in the U.K., he seems to have developed an interest in – or an aptitude for – signals, and was transferred to Hendon presumably for initial training. In May 1943 he was sent to Newbold Revel, which had the previous year become a training centre specialising in secret intelligence communications, where he stayed until the end of October, and from there he had a week or so at a transit camp before being shipped off to India in November of that year. A friend of mine who is familiar with the history of Newbold Revel suggests that he may have been learning Japanese Morse Code.

The following part of the record is a bit difficult to interpret, but he was clearly sent to at least two different locations in Bombay and – to judge from the fact that he received the Burma Star at the end of the war – probably Burma as well. (More digging is necessary here!) He was discharged in October 1946 after – as far as can be seen – five years of blameless service, a good deal of it on foreign stations without much likelihood of home leave.

Now, what happened when he got home in late 1946 is anybody’s guess. He seems to have been officially ‘stood down’ from reserve duties in January 1947, received his medals in June 1948, and at some stage took up employment with British Rail and remained with them until he retired in approximately 1987 – this information is on his death certificate. British Rail staff records are held at the National Archives and that involves a trip in person – as well as applying for a new reader’s ticket as the one I previously had lapsed a long time ago – so this is not an immediate possibility.

The next obvious avenue to investigate would logically be Alec and June’s wedding photos, taken in late 1954, but unfortunately the only group photo showing everyone present is so badly arranged that, of the groom’s mother (a tiny little person), all that can be seen is the top of her hat as she tries to peek over her son’s shoulder. If Teddy is one of the individuals in the back row – and that can’t totally be ruled out – he’s not identifiable with the information currently to hand.

So, no further progress is possible at this stage – but watch this space! (Or one very much like it, anyway.) The investigation will no doubt be continuing…


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