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Thread: Roy Sydney Baker-Falkner, DSO, DSC

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    Default Roy Sydney Baker-Falkner, DSO, DSC

    Does anyone have the book "Forgotten Hero of the Canadian Fleet Air Arm", a biography of Roy Sydney Baker-Falkner, DSO, DSC ?

    Notwithstanding various website entries, including the Battle of Britain Historical Society site, I am dubious as to whether this officer was indeed a "Battle of Britain" fighter pilot (i.e. entitled to the Battle of Britain clasp). As I read the web entries (at times ambiguous and at other times much too declaratory) he seems to have been flying in No.812 Squadron (Swordfish) attached for operational purposes to Coastal Command - and although flying DURING the Battle of Britain, not strictly a BoB pilot.

    The Battle of Britain Historical Society site suggests (rather tentatively) that he qualified for the clasp via service in No.600 Squadron and that this was acknowledged after publication of Kenneth Wynn's "Men of the Battle of Britain."

    What does the above-noted book say about his unit/aircraft/duties in the period 10 July to 31 October 1940 ? Or can any expert on No.600 Squadron confirm him as present and flying operationally in that period ?

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    Hugh,

    This man does not appear in Wynn's 1989 edition of MotBoB, nor in his Supplementary Volume published in 1992. I checked under Baker and Falkner in both, just to be sure.

    Errol

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    I am still hoping that someone can check the book on my behalf (there appear to be no copies at either the Canada Air and Space Museum or at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa). Beyond the matter of whether or not Baker-Falkner was a Battle of Britain pilot, the claim (without documentation) the Battle of Britain Historical Society website that he was entitled to a BofB clasp raises questions about the reliability of the website itself.

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    Hi Hugh,

    This is a bit of a minefield with new evidence becoming available through the passage of time.

    I believe that Baker-Falkner was granted BoB status by the Fighter Association themselves.
    The Historical society would have had no role in the confirmation of his status. That would not have been their decision anyway.

    I am currently campaigning to get Herbert Horatio Kitchener of 263 squadron officially recognised as a BoB airman.
    263's ORB for September 1940 clearly states that the following pilots have been operational on Hurricanes and then lists several pilots including Kitchener.
    However, that alone is not considered sufficient proof by the Association and consequently Kitchener is not officially credited. I think that is unfair.

    I presume from this that the relatives of Baker-Falkner were able to provide substantive evidence (Log book etc) to the Fighter Association that he qualified and subsequently was granted BoB status.

    Finally, in the past few years there have been a few cases where families of RAF airmen have been able to produce proof of participation in the BoB. One that springs to mind is P/O Ogilvy (http://www.bbm.org.uk/Ogilvy.htm).
    I recall that the family first approached the Association a few years ago and it was only when they provided copies of his log book that he was officially recognised.

    I am sure that there are many more that participated that didn't claim a clasp and I'm also sure that there are a few that did claim a clasp that weren't entitled to it.

    Gerry

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    As to family proof, my friend John Blatherwick looked over the book and provided me with the following summary:

    "He served during the Battle of Britain but would not qualify for the bar. The author says that he may have flown in fighters but obviously has no proof that he did.
    There is an entire chapter in the book on the Battle of Britain. Two squadrons of the Fleet air Arm were directly under the control of RAF Fighter Command - 804 and 808. (Neither of them his squadron). Many naval pilots flew within RAF fighter Command Squadrons. Roy's main role during the Battle of Britain was to mainly laying mines at the entrance to German-held harbours in order to prevent the invasion. They also did several bombing sorties against the invasion barges. His squadron also did convoy cover for RN ships with 812 Squadron."

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    Further to the matter of this man's status as a Battle of Britain pilot, I have received the following from Edward McManus of the Battle of Britain London Monument and related website. It is a cautionary tale for all historian and researchers:

    "In 2004, when we were tasked with producing a definitive list of BoB airmen for the monument the
    obvious jumping off point was to amalgamate the various lists in existence and go through each name.

    "Baker-Falkner was included as he was shown on the FAA's list and 'had been verified by the BoBFA'. This was taken on trust, something we perhaps would not do now.

    "When we came to look at him, we could not find him in any ORB, the trail of Baker of 600 Squadron turned out to be P/O Stanley Baker. (There were several documented cases where in the heat of action 'double-barrelled' names were entered using only the leading name).

    "We assumed that he could only have flown with 804 or 808 Sqdns FAA but their records were inconclusive. However at the time of the include/drop decision Floyd Williston, who may be known to you, came down firmly on his being genuine. I have in my notes from 2005 a mention from Floyd that he had published an article on B-F in the Winnipeg Free press.

    "If there is now a question mark over B-F it may be because the ethos at the time was that it was preferable to have a tiny proportion of borderline cases on the monument than leave off a candidate that later turned out to be genuine."

    In my persona as a Canadian aviation historian, I confess to my own errors and oversights. In 1974 I compiled what I considered the last word in names of Canadians in the Battle of Britain. It was published in the Journal of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Arthur Bishop ("The Splendid One Hundred") used it as a source in 1999 - but alas, I had made my own mistakes which it took years to discover. At least one name (Fiske) on my 1974 list was an American. K.M. Schlanders was from New Brunswick (not Newfoundland). Bill Waterton did not fly operationally in the Battle of Britain. My worst error was to confuse K.A. Laurence (Battle of Britain, New Zealander) with K.A.H. Laurence (Canadian in the RAF and flying in Aden and East Africa at the time).

    I am thus not in a position to cast stones - I can only note that if God had intended us to be infallible She would never have put erasers on pencils.

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    Well said Hugh. Read and noted.

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    Here here - well said.

    I suspect that this will not be the last case either.
    Gerry

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