Advert

Story of forgotten war hero revealed

The story of a long-forgotten war hero who spent two happy years in Malta has been revealed in a recently published biography written by his nephew.

The biography of Lieutenant Commander Roy Baker-Falkner is the result of 38 years of research by author Graham Roy Drucker, who spent his formative years fascinated by revered talk of his heroic uncle, killed in action aged 27 while trying to save 150,000 men from attack by a ‘wolf pack’ of German U-Boats.

“Even when I was very young I would listen to my mother and my aunt talking about him and I was eager to learn more. His memory was very much alive in my family,” Mr Drucker told The Sunday Times.

Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner was stationed at RAF Ħal Far from 1938 to 1940 as a Fairey Swordfish pilot in 812 squadron, which regularly conducted exercises in the Grand Harbour from onboard the aircraft carrier HMS Glorious.

He lived with his wife Naomi in a house appropriately named ‘Roy’ on Rue d’Argens, Sliema, and in later years his widow would often recall their time together in Malta with particular fondness.

“I visited the house about two years ago and funnily enough its owner – who lived close by as a boy – remembered my uncle because he had a big dog, which was unusual at the time,” Mr Drucker said.

Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner and the HMS Glorious returned to the UK in 1940, and he was one of the few Allied pilots who flew bombing raids over Dunkirk, attacking German Panzer tanks in his Swordfish.

Later, he was one of the few navy officers to serve in the Battle of Britain and by the end of 1940, most of the pilots he had trained with had been killed.

In April and May 1941, Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner returned to Malta as a Swordfish pilot protecting the convoy Operation Dunlop, which ferried hurricanes on Ark Royal and HMS Argus.

He made front page news in 1944 when he led the Fleet Air Arm’s largest air attack up that point, of 100 dive bombers and fighters against the huge German battleship Tirpitz, sister ship of the Bismarck, which was hiding in a fjord in the Norwegian Arctic.

Although the ship wasn’t sunk, it suffered significant damage which took two months to repair. The Times of Malta reported this attack in April 1944.

Only weeks after the Tirpitz attack, Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner was returning from another operation in Arctic Norway when the Admiralty intercepted Enigma messages that the returning fleet – carrying 150,000 men – was facing imminent attack by a wolf pack of 15 enemy U-Boats.

Although the Arctic weather was terrible, Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner volunteered to fly off HMS Formidable and search and sink the enemy subs. He was never seen again.

The biography goes into detail about those missing hours, describing how Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner maintained radio silence despite knowing he was in mortal danger, so as not to alert the enemy of Allied positions.

“That sacrifice was typical of him, he always put others before himself,” said Mr Drucker.

The book includes many of his letters and extracts from his diary and also describes the anguish of his widow and two daughters, who were aged eight months and three years when he went missing.

“His widow died in 2000 and one of their daughters told me at the time she felt she didn’t know her dad at all – she had met him only twice as a very young girl. That was further motivation for me to the write the biography,” Mr Drucker said.

Lt Cdr Baker-Falkner and his wife’s affection for Malta was passed down to Mr Drucker and his family, who visit often on holiday even 70 years later.

Mr Drucker hopes the biography of his uncle might kindle some interest in the intended restoration of the Swordfish plane owned by the Malta Aviation Museum in Ta’ Qali, which is one of only 12 Swordfish remaining in the world.

The museum would like to return the plane to flying condition, but this depends on funding.

The biography, entitled Wings Over the Waves, can be ordered from the publisher Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/?product_id=2584). Signed copies are available direct from the author at drucker@btinternet.com.

Advert
Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus  
Advert
Advert