Thomas Charles Richmond BAKER DFC, MM and Bar

BAKER, Thomas Charles Richmond

Service Numbers: 9470, Officer
Enlisted: 29 July 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
Born: Smithfield, South Australia, 2 May 1897
Home Town: Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Gilles St Primary School, St. Peter's College, Adelaide High School, South Australia
Occupation: Bank Clerk (Bank of NSW)
Died: Flying Battle, Ath, Walloon, Belgium, 4 November 1918, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Escanaffles Communal Cemetery
Near the east boundary, north of the entrance - There are two WW1 burials, Thomas Baker being one.
Memorials: Adelaide Gilles Street Primary School WW1 Honour Board (Original), Adelaide High School Honour Board, Adelaide National War Memorial, Adelaide St John's Anglican Church Memorial Tablet, Adelaide St John's Church Baker Memorial Stained Glass Window, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Bank of New South Wales Roll of Honour Book, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board
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World War 1 Service

29 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 9470, 6th Field Artillery Brigade , Keswick, South Australia
22 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Gunner, 9470, 6th Field Artillery Brigade , Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Gunner, 9470, 6th Field Artillery Brigade , HMAT Persic, Melbourne
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Gunner, 9470, 6th Field Artillery Brigade , Battle for Pozières
1 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Gunner, 9470, 6th Field Artillery Brigade , 'The Winter Offensive' - Flers/Gueudecourt winter of 1916/17,

embarkation_roll: roll_number: 4 embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Persic embarkation_ship_number: A34 public_note:

4 Apr 1918: Involvement Second Lieutenant, Officer, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
5 Jun 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, AFC / RFC operations Western Front / Middle East
15 Jun 1918: Involvement Captain, Officer, No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, "The Last Hundred Days"

Last to Fall

“Last to Fall”
The Australian Corps was withdrawn from the front line following the Battle of Montbrehain on 5 October 1918, and was being reinforced following the debilitating losses of the “Hundred Days” campaign when he Armistice was declared on 11 November 1918.

It is generally assumed that the last of Australia’s “Killed in Action” casualties had been sustained by the 5th October 1918.
Most of the fatalities in the intervening period were “Died of Wounds” or “Died of Illness” (the portent of the emerging influenza pandemic).
However, in two separate, sharp actions, on 4 November 1918, the last members of the AIF killed in action met their fate.
At least one other Australian, serving in the Royal Navy, was to die the very day prior to the Armistice being declared.
Air Battle over Aath (Belgium)

Three pilots of No. 4 Squadron AFC died over Belgium in one of the last mass dogfights of the war.
In the afternoon of 4 November 1918, 16 Sopwith Snipes of the 4th Squadron AFC were escorting a group of British bombers back to base along with several craft from the 2nd Squadron AFC, when a dozen Fokker DVII aircraft were spotted. These Fokker aircraft belonged to the feared Jagdstaffel 2 (Jasta 2 / “Jasta Boelke”) Squadron. Soon a grand dog fight erupted in the skies over Aath and nearby villages. While 4 Squadron downed four of the German aircraft, three of their own went missing that afternoon. It was later concluded at a Court of Inquiry that all 3 pilots had being shot down and killed.

The three aircraft belonged to:

Captain Thomas Charles Richmond Baker DFC, MM & Bar. A South Australian, in a brief but brilliant career as a fighter pilot on the Western Front he had downed 12 enemy aircraft before himself being claimed on 4 November 1918. He had won two Military Medals as a Gunner in the 6th Field Artillery Brigade before transferring to flying training. He was just 21 when he died. This enthralling “Selfie” taken while he was training as a pilot may be one of the first of this genre of documentary photography.

Lieutenant Arthur John Palliser. A Tasmanian, he had shot down 7 aircraft in his time with the 4th Squadron, which including downing 3 enemy aircraft on one day (29 October 1918.) HE had originally enlisted as a motor mechanic.
Lieutenant Parker Whitley Symons. Another South Australian, he had moderate success in the 4th Squadron since joining it in September, however, he had not yet claimed the prized 5 kills needed to be classed as an 'ace.'

It later transpired that Baker and Palliser had been claimed by the Commander of Jasta 2 Rittmeister Karl Boller, himself an accomplished ace with 36 victories.

• BAKER, Thomas Charles Richmond (DFC, MM+Bar) Captain, No. 4 Squadron, AFC, AIF WW1, Born 2 May 1897, Died 4 Nov 1918, Killed in Action
• PALLISER, Arthur John Lieutenant, No. 4 Squadron, AFC, AIF WW1, Born 2 Mar 1890, Died 4 Nov 1918, Killed in Action
• SYMONS, Parker Whitley Lieutenant, No. 4 Squadron, AFC, AIF WW1, Died 4 Nov 1918, Killed in action

The Battle of the Sambre
In a British action, the Australian Engineers of 1st Tunnelling Company (made famous in the movie “Beneath Hill 60”), took part in the crossing, under fire, of the Sambre-Oise canal. Four of them were to die in this action, along with a Gunner of the 11th Field Artillery Brigade, operating in support of the operation.
The Battle of the Sambre was one of the last British offensive actions of the war, in which a total of four British VCs were awarded. Another casualty of the action was celebrated British Poet Laureate, Wilfred Owen, MC.

• BARRETT, Charles Service number 8271, Sapper, 1st Tunnelling Company (inc. 4th Tunnelling Company), AIF WW1, Born 1874, Died 4 Nov 1918, Killed in Action
• DAVEY, Albert Service number 5518, Corporal, 1st Tunnelling Company (inc. 4th Tunnelling Company), AIF WW1, Born 1886, Died 4 Nov 1918, Killed in Action
• JOHNSON, Arthur Robert Dudley Service number 7680, Sapper, 1st Tunnelling Company (inc. 4th Tunnelling Company), AIF WW1, Born Feb 1878, Died 4 Nov 1918, Killed in Action

• PATERSON, James Knox
Service number Officer, Lieutenant, Unspecified British Units, British Army, Born 20 Sep 1888, Died 10 Nov 1918, Killed in Action


Account in the St Peter's Collegiate School magazine post-war

After the war Mr Stanford Howard late Lieutenant, 4th Squadron, Australian Flying Corps wrote an article about the exploits of Thomas Baker which was published in the School Magazine.

… 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 2½ 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 darting 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 15 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 South Australians should share.


Recommendation - Distinguished Flying Cross

Lieut. BAKER has rendered most valuable services in connection with serial offensive operations since joining No. 4 A.F.C. on 16.6.18. The number of occasions on which this officer has shown exceptional determination and courage are too numerous to include in this report, but whether flying alone or as part of a small formation engaged in low flying attacks at ground targets under heavy anti-aircraft and machine gun fire, or whether leading larger formations against overwhelming forces of enemy machine, he has always shown great qualities of initiative and dash, and has never shrunk, in face of danger, from causing the maximum amount of loss and damage to the enemy. He has carried out upwards of forty low flying raids on hostile troops, aerodromes, transport etc., has destroyed 8 hostile machines, and his record and his record shows that in addition to a large number of offensive patrols during which nothing unusual occurred, he has also carried out 56 flights, all of which include incidents of a notable character. On the 26.10.18 in the course of 2 flights, he completely destroyed 2 hostile aircraft and drove a 3rd down out of control. On the 29th October 1918 he destroyed another hostile machine. On both these occasions the Flight which he was leading accounted for a large number of hostile aircraft, a result which must be attributed to the clever tactics adopted by him, by means of which he outmanoeuvred the hostile patrol before attacking


Biography contributed by Dut Tong

Thomas Baker, Born May second, 1897 was brought up in Smithfield South Australia. Thomas went to Saint Peters college and loved sports. He additionally had a love for aviation.  Preceding the war, he served in the Cadet Corps. On the 29th of July 1915, Baker joined the AIF (Australian Imperial force), designated to the first Fortifications of the sixth Field Ordnance Unit. His training was finished in Adelaide. It was on the 22nd of November 1915 that he left Melbourne on his mission to serve in the great war.

Baker was appended to the 16th Field Gunnery Unit on the 26th of December 1915 in Toura. The battery prepared in Egypt and after that set out to France on the seventeenth, they left to participate in the main battle of Somme (battled between July 1, 1916 – November 18, 1916). The battle for Pozieres and Mouquet Farm needed ordnance trades, Baker and the sixteenth Battery managed to power through the two battles. Guedecourt was assigned to be the HQ for the AIF that winter, on the eleventh of December, 1916. He was swapped out to a Forward scout group close Guedecourt to support the accuracy of weapons with just a field telephone for communication. Thomas was under substantial fire by some riflemen that took out his telephone, he repaired the harmed telephone line, and repaired communication. This act earned him a Military Award, to which he later earned the Military Bar in an occasion the next year.

In Messines on the evening of the 21st of June 1917, Baker had been reconnected to his Battery after he recovered from trench fever. The disguise on the No. 1 pit had burst into flames, putting around 300 rounds of shells of high explosives in threat at around 3:30 pm. B.S.M. Creek had requested volunteers to help him in putting out the fire, to which Baker and three other men reacted to instantly. Every one of the five men put out the fire utilizing water assembled from a nearby well and in shell openings. Baker and the three other men, including Darker, Cleric, and McSweeney, were each granted the Military Decoration Bar for this demonstration. 

In August 1917, Baker had started to look at a career in the Australian Flying Corps, after witnessing syncronized aerobatic pilots in real life. In September 1917 he was exchanged to a workman position for the A.F.C., before long, he experienced flying and prepared for the No. 5 Flying Squadron in Britain.

He finished his first solo trip in 1918. Thomas went on leave from his preparation in Britain from the 31st of August, re-joining on the fifteenth of September. He graduated on the fifteenth of June 1918 as a pilot of a Sopwith Camel and was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant for the No. 4 fighting Squadron. Baker in the four months of battle Between June 23rd and November fourth Thomas had shot down 12 enemy aircraft in his Sopwith Camel and his Sopwith Sharpshooter. In October,  Baker wrecked two unfriendly aircraft, after two weeks his flying skills excelled, earned him his Distinguished Flying Cross. His last flight was on the fourth of November, over the city of Ath, Belgium, where he and a partner were in battle when Thomas was tragically shot down and revealed lost without a trace. His demise was later confirmed and grieved by his squadron and family. Thomas was given several awards after death, such as the Flying Cross on the 23rd of May, 1919.


Biography contributed

Biography written by Ashton Joshy, Aberfoyle Park High School, SA attached as a document. Winning entry for 2022 Premier's Anzac Spirit School Prize.

Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Thomas Charles Richmond BAKER, DFC,MM* (1897-1918)

Last to Fall

Thomas Charles Richmond Baker (1897-1918), was born on 2 May 1897 at Smithfield, South Australia; these days a northern suburb of Adelaide.  In 1915 it was farming country.

He was the eldest son of Mr Richmond Baker, schoolmaster and farmer, and his wife Mrs Annie Martha, née Gardner.

He was educated from 1911 at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide (St Peter’s College), where he won the Farrell Scholarship.  He was an accomplished athlete and rowed, played tennis and football.  He was also was a member of the cadet corps.  On leaving school in 1914 he joined the Adelaide branch of the Bank of New South Wales as a clerk.

He served in the 11th Field Company Engineers in the militia.  His address on enlistment was 113 South Terrace Adelaide.  His by then widowed mother subsequently moved to 55 Park Terrace Unley.

Thomas Baker joined the AIF on 29 July 1915.  Allocated to the 1st Reinforcements of the 6th Field Artillery Brigade, he undertook basic training in Adelaide before proceeding to Seymour in Victoria to conclude his artillery training.  He embarked on 22 November 1915 from Melbourne aboard the HMAT Persic for the Middle East

In due course he was assigned to the 16th Batteryof the 6th Field Artillery Brigade, using the ubiquitous 18 Pounder horse-drawn field gun.  He and his colleagues along with most of the rest of the AIF,  travelled from Egypt to Marseilles, France, and then by rail to northern France, arriving in time to take part in the first battle of the Somme at Pozieres.

Having survived the massive artillery duels around the fighting for Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, the AIF found itself near Guedecourt for the winter.  As a gunner he won his first Military Medal on 15 December 1916 in an action near Gueudecourt.  He was part of a Forward Observer team sent forward to direct the fire of the guns using a field telephone for communication.  He repeatedly repaired broken telephone lines while under heavy fire. Shortly after this incident he was awarded a Bar to his Military Medal when he put out a fire in a gun-pit containing ammunition.  Most men would have run for their lives.

Though a competent gunner, Baker directed his attention to his hopes of joining the Australian Flying Corps. Aerial combat captured his imagination. In August 1917 he remarked that he was 'almost green with envy' on seeing Allied aviators in action.

He managed to secure a transfer as a mechanic in September 1917 to the A.F.C.  He was identified and selected for flying training and sent to England to No. 5 Training Squadron in the UK, near Oxford.  He ‘went solo’ in March 1918.  On 15 June he graduated as a Sopwith Camel pilot and next day, he joined No. 4 Fighter Squadron as a Second Lieutenantwith the sum total of 57 hours 40 minutes flying time.  The life span of 'rookie' pilots was notoriously brief but mostly not as spectacular as Tom Baker's career proved to be.

In a spectacular but tragically brief combat flying career lasting just four months, Thomas Baker's mark was immediate and profound.  Between 23 June 1918 and 4th November (just one week short of the Armistice), he shot down a total of 12 enemy aircraft.  Several of these victories were against the highly effective and dangerous Fokker DVII biplane fighter.  See the link listing his adversaries.

He was clearly in his element; often he closed extremely close to the enemy he was pursuing. 

He had been promoted lieutenant on 27 June 1918.  But while life in the Flying Corps was exciting it was also very dangerous and on the 4th November he and a colleague were both lost over the town of Ath in Belgium. Their victor was a very experienced German Ace himself; Rittmeister Karl Boller, with 36 victories.  Baker was buried in the communal cemetery, Escanaffles, Belgium, alongside his colleague.

His demise along with two other pilots from No. 4 Squadron that day, plus four Engineers from the 1st Tunnelling Company (made famous by the movie 'Beneath Hill 60') and a Gunner taking part in the same operation, the crossing of t he Sambre-Oise Canal, were the last members of the AIF to be killed in action in the Great War, just a week before its end. 

Tom Baker was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and promoted to Captain,  both posthumously.  His D.F.C. citation is attached as a link.

There is an intriguing photographic self-portrait – perhaps one of the earliest “selfies”, taken by pointing his camera at a mirror, while he was undergoing flight training. 

For such a young man he had displayed great qualities of leadership and personal courage.  He was said to have a forceful but pleasant personality, of his flying skill there was no doubt and he was a steady, respected flight-leader. Like so many of his peers one can only speculate what might have become of such a remarkable young man had fate not robbed him of that opportunity.

A stained-glass window is dedicated to his memory at St John's Church of England, Halifax Street, Adelaide, and he is commemorated on a Memorial at Smithfield South Australia.



J. McCarthy, Australian Dictionary of Biography 1979  John McCarthy, 'Baker, Thomas Charles (1897–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 2013.


Compiled by Steve Larkins Nov 2013  (one of the earliest profiles published on this site)