The above photograph was sent by Adam Morris, the nephew of Flt/Lt HG Bennett DFC, DFM, known as Benny, who is pictured to the left of Tubby Baker (centre), the CO of 635 Squadron from September 1944. The three men are enjoying a glass of beer together.
Wing Commander Baker was one of Bomber Command’s most experienced Pathfinder master bombers and amongst the RAF’s most highly decorated pilots.
Note, 19 September 2017 – We have been contacted by Tony Berbridge, another nephew of Horace Bennett, who writes that he was “my mother’s younger brother and one of my favourite uncles. The note on the back of the photograph says, in my mother’s hand, that they were celebrating Tubby’s 100th mission, and I still have in my study my uncle’s navigation parallels.” We are now trying to find out who the third man in the photograph is.
Tubby Baker’s obituary in The Telegraph on 23 August 2007 contains the following resume of his PFF career:
After his first tour Baker was an instructor at a bomber training unit before returning in May 1944 to No 7, which had been re-equipped with the Lancaster and was then part of the Pathfinder Force.
Bomber Command had begun concentrated operations in support of the D-Day landings, and Baker attacked many targets in northern France, including the V-1 launching sites in the Pas de Calais.
He was appointed a master bomber in July, a role given to only the best bomber captains.
Arriving over the target first, the master bomber had to circle overhead for 30 or 40 minutes to direct the Pathfinder crews dropping flares and markers; at the same time he was controlling the main bomber force by giving instructions on the precise aiming points and any necessary corrections as the raid developed. Many master bombers were lost in the process.
In September 1944 Baker was promoted to wing commander and took command of another Pathfinder Lancaster squadron, No 635.
During the German offensive in the Ardennes in December some bomber airfields were covered in fog on Boxing Day, but it became imperative to attack a large build-up of enemy armour at St Vith.
Baker was appointed as master bomber, and, with the aid of FIDO (a fog dispersing aid), a force of 294 aircraft took off for a daylight raid. The bombing was described as “accurate”, but Baker and his crews had to return to land at the fog-bound airfields. He was awarded a Bar to his DFC.
On March 13 1945 Baker attacked Wuppertal in daylight, and on landing was informed that he had been grounded, having completed his 100th operation at a time when the average life expectancy of a bomber pilot was some 10 sorties.
Baker’s achievement was particularly impressive since he completed all his bombing operations during the height of the strategic bombing war when enemy defences were at their most effective.
He was awarded a Bar to his DSO for “pressing home his attacks despite any opposition … when his cool courage [and] unfailing devotion to duty inspired the utmost confidence “.