An Osmotherley resident joined the Royal Air Force in 1942 and after qualifying as a bomber pilot flew five operational missions before the end of the war. After a very lengthy delay, he is now to receive the Bomber Command clasp.
Ken Baker, a spritely eighty-nine year old considers his good health is due to having a personal trainer. Not human, but a Staffordshire terrier cross who adopted Ken at the Blue Cross Centre, and exercises him twice a day. Northamptonshire born Ken, a widower, spent his working life in agriculture, working in many parts of the Country prior to retirement and settling in Osmotherley, close to his daughter and her family.
As a member of the Air Training Corps, when he attained the age of eighteen in September 1942, Ken volunteered to join the RAF. With a hundred other young men he was selected to attend a six month course at Durham University; the mornings spent in academic study, the afternoons in basic RAF drill and procedures. In May 1943 Ken embarked for Canada on RMS Queen Mary with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and a few hundred RAF personnel. One very clear memory he has, is after a full night on guard duty with a fellow trainee, the two, in a rather crumpled state, were forced to attend a parade early the following morning for the great man to inspect. Amidst the ranks of highly polished airmen Churchill paused before the two and chatted encouragingly to them.
In April 1944, now trained as a Pilot, Ken returned to England to undertake conversion to heavy aircraft and qualified to fly Lancaster bombers. In February1945, as part of 106 Squadron RAF, Ken flew the first of four operational raids into Germany. His fifth raid was to Tonsberg in Norway, which was to be the final operational European raid in World War II by Bomber Command. Ken spent the remainder of his service until demobilisation in 1946 as a flying instructor. He was then fortunate to obtain a place at Newcastle University and after attaining a degree, commenced a long career in agricultural research and development. Since settling into Osmotherley Ken has joined the lively village branch of the Royal British Legion and is rapidly becoming one of the stalwarts of this active and progressive group.
Branch membership is strong but ‘new blood’ is always made welcome. Membership is open to anyone and not only ex-service personnel. Branch Chairman David Black in his annual report stated “Recent wars indulged in enthusiastically by our political leaders from the safety of their offices have left a legacy of hundreds of young people horrifically wounded. These youngsters will require support for the rest of their lives, not necessarily available from a grateful government. The Legion, and our sister service charities, will have to step in and meet these costs. This is why the Osmotherley Branch must do all we can to maintain membership to keep up the good work of supporting the ex-service community. We must always look to the future to enable us to continue this work in the years to come. We do need younger folk to join us”.
The Branch has a policy of including Fun into Fundraising and one enjoyable mainstay is the monthly bingo session in the Queen Catherine Hotel in Osmotherley, thanks in no small way to the continued support of the Pub’s management.