Murray Alexander BAXTER


BAXTER, Murray Alexander

Service Numbers: S6596, 416821
Enlisted: 16 December 1940, Edenhope, Victoria
Last Rank: Warrant Officer
Last Unit: No. 178 Squadron (RAF)
Born: Wallacedale, Victoria, 17 October 1920
Home Town: Edenhope, West Wimmera, Victoria
Schooling: Tabor Primary School
Occupation: Orchardist
Died: Killed in Action (flying battle), Warsaw, Poland, 15 August 1944, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery
Grave Reference Coll. grave 1. A. 2-7.
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

16 Dec 1940: Enlisted Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Private, SN S6596, Edenhope, Victoria
30 Jun 1941: Discharged Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Private, SN S6596, Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC)
11 Oct 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2, SN 416821, Adelaide, South Australia
15 Aug 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Warrant Officer, SN 416821, No. 178 Squadron (RAF), Air War NW Europe 1939-45

Story from the Last Post Cemetery

Australian War Memorial - 20th April, 2015

Today we pay tribute to Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force in 1944.

Born on 17 October 1920 in Wallacedale, a small settlement in south-western Victoria, Murray Baxter was the son of Alexander and Winifred Baxter. Residing in the town of Edenhope, he attended Tabor Primary School during his formative years. A keen sportsman, he played football and cricket, and was fond of swimming.

After receiving his Merit Certificate upon finishing his schooling in 1934, Baxter worked as an orchardist. Through 1941 he served as a trooper in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment of the Militia.

On 11 October 1941, aged 20, Baxter enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Soon after, on 1 November 1941, he married Margaret Eileen Baxter, who gave birth to their son, Brian Kent Baxter, on 28 October 1942.

Baxter trained in the RAAF as a pilot, and in January 1943 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Baxter was one of almost 16,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force squadrons throughout the course of the war.

Arriving in Britain in March 1943, Baxter undertook further training before being posted to No. 37 Squadron, RAF, a bomber squadron based in the Middle East. Following the completion of a tour with No. 37 Squadron, in July 1944 Baxter was posted to No. 178 Squadron, RAF. Operating successively from Egypt, Libya, and Italy, No. 178 Squadron was a four-engine heavy bomber squadron which flew the B-24 Liberator.

In August 1944 No. 178 Squadron was one of a number of Allied squadrons in Italy that was tasked with dropping supplies to the Polish Home Army and Polish insurgents, at that time engaged in desperate fighting against German forces during the Warsaw uprising.

It was a dangerous operation. Squadrons from airfields in Italy had to fly a 2,600-kilometre round-trip without fighter escort, much of it over occupied territory. Once over Warsaw they dropped their supplies at low altitudes at slow speeds. On his second such mission during this operation, Baxter was killed in action in the early hours of 15 August. He was 23 years old. His remains were recovered and buried in the Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery.

Casualties among Allied airmen involved in these operations were high, though these overall numbers were small in comparison to Polish casualties on the ground. Their uprising was eventually defeated by the Germans; more than 15,000 Polish fighters and around 200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the battle.

Baxter’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 Australians who died in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection. Baxter is seated fourth from the right with his No 4 Initial Training School RAAF course. He is one of seven men in the photograph that did not survive the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, and all of those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives in the hope for a better world.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section
Description The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (416821) Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

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Murray Alexander BAXTER was born on 17th October, 1920 in Wallacedale, Victoria

His parents were Alexander BAXTER and Winifred Elizabeth McBRIDE

Murray first enlisted in Edenhope, Victoria on 9th December, 1940  - he was a  Trooper  in the Edenhope Troop - 3rd Light Horse Regiment - he was discharged on 30th June 1941

He was a keen sportsman in cricket, football, swimming & gymnastics.

On 11th October, 1941 in Adelaide he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force

Murray married Margaret (Meg) Eileen LIDDICOAT on 1st November, 1941 in Adelaide - they had one son Bryan Kent BAXTER

He embarked from Melbourne 15th January 1943 for Overseas. On 14th August 1944 he was reported as missing in an air operation from North Africa to Warsaw Poland & presumed deceased.

Postings in the RAAF as follows:

Air Crew from 11.10.1941 to 31.1.1942

Airman Pilot 19.11.42 promoted to Sergeant 1942 and Flight Sergeant 19.4.43 - his last posting was  to the 178 RAF & South African Squadron.

He died on 15th August, 1944 as a Pilot of a Liberator Heavy Bomber on his 2nd trip to drop supplies to the Resistance in Warsaw, Poland. - he is buried in Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery & also commemorated at the Australian War Memorial

On 4th October, 1989  the President of the Peoples Republic of Poland awarded (posthumously) Murray Alexander BAXTER with the Warsaw Uprising Cross (Warszawski Krzyz Powstanczy) for active contribution to the fight against the German occupation during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944  - The medal was presented to his widow Margaret (Meg)