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Remembered Today:

New Zealand aviators died in Eernegem


Guest Fabrice
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In the forum "cemetaries and memorials" we placed a few weeks ago a topic called "Adopt a soldiers grave in Flanders".

So we did.

We found the graves of two New-Zealand airmen who died in our town Eernegem on october 20th 1943 during a air battle.

They're resting in one of the smalest war graveyards in Belgium, as they lay side by side.

Who can give us the info we need about our soldiers, R.L Baker and J.G Thomson.

It's so important to us, as we had to decide to choose...or not to.

Love,

Estée,

Sabrina,

Fabrice.

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Name: BAKER, RONALD LAVENDER

Initials: R L

Nationality: New Zealand

Rank: Flying Officer (Pilot)

Regiment: Royal New Zealand Air Force

Unit Text: 485 Sqdn.

Age: 23

Date of Death: 20/10/1943

Service No: 391337

Additional information: Son of Albert Victor Baker and of Sarah Christina Baker (nee Tod), of Wellington City, New Zealand; husband of Margaret Gwenda Baker (nee Hughes), of Khandallah, Wellington.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Eastern Side.

Cemetery: EERNEGEM COMMUNAL CEMETERY

THOMSON, JOHN GORDON

Initials: J G

Nationality: New Zealand

Rank: Flying Officer (Pilot)

Regiment: Royal New Zealand Air Force

Unit Text: 485 Sqdn.

Age: 21

Date of Death: 20/10/1943

Service No: 413510

Additional information: Son of Donald Thomson and of Ruth Thomson (nee Green), of Palmerston North, Wellington, New Zealand.

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: Eastern Side.

Cemetery: EERNEGEM COMMUNAL CEMETERY

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NZ Fighter Pilots Museum

http://www.nzfpm.co.nz/memorial/memorial.htm

BAKER, Fg Off Ronald Lavender, NZ391337, RNZAF - Spitfire Pilot

485 Sqn, RNZAF - 20 Oct 1943 (Age 23); Belgium.

THOMSON, Fg Off John Gordon, NZ413510, mid, RNZAF - Spitfire Pilot

485 Sqn, RNZAF - 20 Oct 1943 (Age 21); Belgium.

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Hi Estee, Sabrina and Fabrice.

I am going down to the local library to see if there is any info on the action/air battle these two young men died in. Will get back to you when I find something out for you.

regards Aaron.

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The New Zealand Squadrons

No. 485 Squadron

Formed 1 March 1941 - Driffield, Yorkshire. Equipped with Spitfires, No. 485 was a day fighter squadron until March 1944 when it transferred to fighter bombing. Operated from England, based at some of the most famous fighter stations, until August 1944 when it moved to the Continent. There it flew in the fighter and fighter bomber role with Second Tactical Air Force.

Squadron Motto

"Ka whawhai tonu" (We will fight on)"

First & Last Operations

12 April 1941 Convoy patrol off Flamborough Head shared by six sections of two Spitfires.

7 May 1945 Patrol over Oldenburg by twelve aircraft.

Effort & Achievements

No. 485 Squadron flew 10,717 sorties totalling 14,494 hours. In combat 63 enemy aircraft were destroyed, 25 probably destroyed and 32 damaged. During the short period that the squadron was employed against ground targets pilots destroyed some 70 motor vehicles and blew up 5 railway engines.

Decorations won by New Zealanders with the squadron were:

Distinguished Service Order

2 Distinguished Flying Cross (2)

Bar to DFC (17)

Distinguished Flying Medal (5)

Bases

Drem, East Lothian November 1943 to March 1944

LLanbedr, Merioneth March 1944

135 Airfield, Hornchurch, Essex March 1944 to April 1944

ALG Selsey, Sussex April 1944 to June 1944

(Detachments at B.3 & B.2)

ALG Coolham, Sussex June 1944 to July 1944

ALG Funtingdon, Sussex July 1944 to August 1944

ALG Selsey, Sussex August 1944

Tangmere, Sussex August 1944

Caen-Carpiquet (B.17), France August 1944 to September 1944

Eu (B.35), France September 1944

Merville (B.53), France September 1944 to November 1944

Maldegem (B.65), Belgium November 1944 to January 1945

Gilze Rijen (B.77), Holland January 1945 to February 1945

Predannack, Cornwall February 1945 to April 1945

Twente (B.106), Holland April 1945

Drope (B.105), Germany April 1945 to August 1945

Main Equipment

Supermarine Spitfire

Commanding Officers

Sqn Ldr M.W.B. Knight April 1941 to November 1941

Sqn Ldr E.P. Wells November 1941 to May 1942

Sqn Ldr R.J.C. Grant May 1942 to March 1943

Sqn Ldr R.W. Baker March 1943 to June 1943

Sqn Ldr J.M. Checketts July 1943 to September 1943

Sqn Ldr M.R.D. Hume September 1943 to February 1944

Sqn Ldr J.B. Niven February 1944 to September 1944

Sqn Ldr J.G. Pattison September 1944 to February 1945

Sqn Ldr K.J. Macdonald February 1945 to July 1945

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Hi,

I have ordered the illustrated history of 485 squadron from my local library, they will have this to me early next week. Hopefully there may be a mention in this book of your two airmen. Also, I have ordered the personnel records of these two and will get these to you.

Best regards Aaron.

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Dear Christine & Aaron,

Thank you so much for the information!

And thank you Aaron for your library-research,

i can't wait for additional information...

Cheers,

Fabrice.

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Fabrice.

Have come across some more information for you. I have managed to locate the combat reports for 485 Squadron. You will be able to order these yourself from the National Archives.

The reference these records are held in is AIR50/159, within this catalogue is the combat records for 485 Squadron from June 1941 to June 1944. When you order this from national Archives you will need to stipulate the names of your two pilots and the date in October 43 they were killed.

By doing this you will most likely get a first hand account of the combat they died in as written at the time. The national archives site is www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

Hope this proves helpful to you, and I will still let you know when I have thier service records and the history of the Squadron.

Best regards Aaron.

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Hi Fabrice,

Have got the official history of 485 squadron and can quote the following from this.

"Two further pilots were lost on a fighter sweep over Lille on 20 October. This operation had got off to a bad start when Frehners engine cut as he was attempting to take off, his aircraft ended up entangled in the perometre fences. When the squadron clashed with Focke Wulfs, Bue sections Thompson and Flying Officer R.L.Baker wer shot down and killed. "

Im sorry this isnt much Fabrice, but thats the only mention of these pilots in the offical history. I suggest getting the combat reports from 485 squadron directly from the National Archives in Kew, details above. Or alternatively perhaps one of the pals would be so kind as to get this for you. I would of course but I live in New Zealand !!!!

Fabrice, also as promised I will forward you the service records of these two pilots once I receive them. Can you please email me your postal address so I can send these to you.

Best regards Aaron.

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Fabrice,

Here is a photo and information about Ronald Lavender Baker from the Auckland War Memorial Museum database Cenotaph. They didn't have much about Thomson, only what we already know.

Flying Officer Ronald Lavender Baker

no NZ 391337

485 squadron

Son of Albert Victor Baker and Sarah Christina Baker nee Tod, of Wellington City, NZ;

Husband of Margaret Gwenda Baker, nee Hughes, of Khandallah, Wellington

Circumstances of death; took off at 0905 hrs from Hornchurch, Essex, England in a Spitfire LF. IX EN559 as Blue 2. The Spitfire was brought down during an engagement with enemy fighters over Belgium near Ostend, crashing near Eernegem, 12 km SE of Ostend.

At the time of his death Ronald Baker was with the 485 squadron RNZAF, Fighter Command.

At the time of his death he was on his 204th operation. This was Baker's third operation with the Squadron, the others being undertaken with 79, 247, and 73 squadrons RAF

source; For Your Tomorrow- a record of New Zealanders who have died while serving with the RNZAF and Allied Air Services since 1915; vol 2 Fates 1943-1998

page 153

post-554-1127340697.jpg

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20/10/1943 485 Sqn based at RAF Hornchurch Essex equipped with Spitfire Mk IXB

All The Best

Chris

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Christine,

Thanks for putting me on to the book "For your tommorow" A relative of mine was shot down and killed over Germany in 1945. He was a Lancaster bomber pilot. I shall pay a visit to the museum and see what the source says about my relative. cheers for that..

Fabrice....please email me your address so I can send you the service records of your two airmen.

regards Aaron.

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  • 1 year later...

Just as a matter of interest mu dad, F/O Hugh Murland was one of the 74 Squadron pilots who flew 485 Squadrons Spitfires back to England the day after the armistice was declared. They left 485 with their Mk. XIVs and took the much older Spitfires back to the UK. On the way home 3 of the 74 Squadron pilots had to land with engine trouble and dad nearly came down in the Channel, just making it to the south coast before it finally gave up the ghost!! His comments about 485s Spitfires are not printable!!

Jerry

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Fabrice, also as promised I will forward you the service records of these two pilots once I receive them. Can you please email me your postal address so I can send these to you.

Best regards Aaron.

Aaron have you already ordered the Service records for John Gordon Thomson from the Defence Department? I have had them here for the past 3 or 4 months. I never saw this thread before. He is one of my men I am researching as he is remembered on the Manakau War Memorial. I'm still ploughing my way through the WW1 men.

Cheers, Diane

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hello Fabrice,

Is there a chance you could take a photo of John Gordon Thomson's grave for me please?

Here is some information about him which looks to me as having been compiled by his father.

413510 : Flying Officer John Gordon THOMSON

PARENTS : Mr. & Mrs. D. Thomson of Manakau.

Born at Palmerston North on the 10th March, 1922, John Thomson received his secondary education at the Palmerston North Boy’s High School, the Levin District High School and the Nelson College. He later attended classes at the Wellington Technical College. He played the usual sports at school and was amember of the first VX and first XI. After leaving school he was interested in gymnastics, swimming and tennis. At the time of his application for aircrew training – on 17th December, 1940 – he was employed as a clerk by the Shell Oil Coy. (N.Z.) Ltd., Wellington.

F/O Thomson entered camp on the 15th June, 1941, reporting at the Initial Training Wing, Levin. He underwent his flying training at No. 3 Elementary Flying Training School, Harewood and No. 2 Flying Training School, Woodbourne. At Woodbourne he was awarded his flying badge on the 18th November, 1941 and on the 20th December, 1941 was commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer. On the 1st October, 1942 he was promoted to Flying Officer.

On the 14th January, 1942, F/O Thomson embarked for the United Kingdom via Canada and the United States of America, arriving at No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth on the 10th March, 1942. After a period at No. 7 Personnel Reception Centre, Harrogate, he proceeded – on the 12th May, 1942 – to No. 41 Operational Training Unit, Old Sarum, Wiltshire, where he carried out air exercises as the pilot of Harvard, Tomahawk and Mustang aircraft. On the completion of the course early June, 1942, he was posted to No. 169 Squadron, Bedford, Bedfordshire. With the squadron at Bedford and later at the stations at Doncaster and York in Yorkshire, he carried out combat exercises on Mustang aircraft.

On the 20th December, 1942, F/O Thomson moved with the squadron to Duxford, Cambridgeshire. Operating from this station and from Andover and Middle Wallop in Hampshire he carried out 17 routine offensive patrols as a pilot on Mustang aircraft. These patrols were mainly over the Belgium and Dutch coasts.

Following are a number of extracts from his log book:

January 20: “Left base at 1400 hrs. to do diversionary sweep in Knooke-Sas van gent area of Belgium. Crossed Belgium coast at 1500 hrs. east of Knooke and met heavy flak. I got a hole in post wing and shot up and silenced a gun post. Went 6 miles in and turned around and came out as I did not know what damamge was done to my kite. Shot up defences on the way out. Climbed up to await the Mitchell bombers. When they came out Tony and I each picked out a FW 190, which was attacking a Mitchell and I gave my bloke a long squirt until he flicked up into a climbing turn. We escorted bombers home. FW 190 subsequently crashed into sea. Confirmed by rear gunner of Mitchell.”

February 12th: “with Tony on patrol. In over Ameland. Shot up staff car and R.D.F. Station near Leeuwarden aerodrome. Shot up railway tracks on line to Staveren. Out to Zuider Zee and shot 2 loaded vessels. Along Zuider Zee dam and shot Army lorry.”

F/O Thomson also carried out a number of convoy patrols in the English Channel. Early in June, 1943, advice was received that he had been included in the list of Birthday Honours of His Majesty the King, as having been commended for valuable service in the air.

On the 23rd September, 1943, F/O Thomson was posted to No. 485 Squadron, Biggin Hill, Kent. From Biggin Hill, and later from Hornchurch, Essex, he carried out 3 further offensive patrols as a pilot on Spitfire aircraft. On the 18th October, 1943, he took part in the escorting of 72 Marauder aircraft, in a raid on Beauvais, France, when the British escort encountered 10 German fighters. In the ensuing engagement he claimed one Focke Wulf FW 190 damaged.

F/O Thomson was the pilot of a spitfire aircraft which took off on air operations over enemy territory on the 20th October, 1943, and failed to return to base. This was his 21st operational flight. F/O Thomson was classified as missing. Information later received through the International Red Cross Committee stated that F/O Thomson had lost his life. Subsequently he was reclassified to missing believed killed in action. Further information received from the IRCC stated that F/O Thomson was buried in the Parish Cemetery, Eernaghem, near Ostend, Belgium. His death has since been presumed to have occurred on the 20th October, 1943.

5/2/7608 AS2 Mr. D. Thomson (F)

560 hrs. as pilot. Manakau,

MANAWATU LINE.

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From All Your Tomorrows by:Volume 2 by Errol W. Martyn. page 153

Fighter Command

Rodeo 263 - Sweep over Lille and Vitry, France

485 Squadron, RNZAF (Hornchurch, Essex - 11 Group)Spitfire LF.IX JK762 - took off at 0905 as "Blue 4", being one of the two which failed to return. The missing Spitfires were brought down during an engagement with enemy fighters over belgium near Ostend, both crashing near Eernegem, 12km SE of Ostend. Both pilots are buried at Eernegem. A third Squdron member, Plt Off F Transom, RNZAF, nursed his badly damaged machine back to England, where he was obliged to abandon it. On parachuting safely to earth he was collected by a Tiger Moth, which crashed on its way to Hornchurch, slightly injuring him.

Pilot: NZ413510 Fg Off John Gordon THOMSON, cvsa, RNZAF - Age 21. 560hrs. 21ops.

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  • 5 months later...
In the forum "cemetaries and memorials" we placed a few weeks ago a topic called "Adopt a soldiers grave in Flanders".

So we did.

We found the graves of two New-Zealand airmen who died in our town Eernegem on october 20th 1943 during a air battle.

They're resting in one of the smalest war graveyards in Belgium, as they lay side by side.

Who can give us the info we need about our soldiers, R.L Baker and J.G Thomson.

It's so important to us, as we had to decide to choose...or not to.

Love,

Estée,

Sabrina,

Fabrice.

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In the forum "cemetaries and memorials" we placed a few weeks ago a topic called "Adopt a soldiers grave in Flanders".

So we did.

We found the graves of two New-Zealand airmen who died in our town Eernegem on october 20th 1943 during a air battle.

They're resting in one of the smalest war graveyards in Belgium, as they lay side by side.

Who can give us the info we need about our soldiers, R.L Baker and J.G Thomson.

It's so important to us, as we had to decide to choose...or not to.

Love,

Estée,

Sabrina,

Fabrice.

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Fabrice,

This is great news. Ron Baker is my uncle. My mother and her brother and sister will be so pleased to know of your interest. It seems a long way from New Zealand.

Do you live near the cemetery?

Regards

Phil Handford

New Zealand

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  • 6 years later...

Hello to you all,

I've been quiet a while away from this forum and haven't read the last post in this topic everysince. You all have may have seen that i changed my username into Fabrice1970.

Since november 11th, 2007, i plant every year a flower in the plot. I drop often by to say hello to the lads, as if they were friends i've never had the chance to meet. But as said we see eachother on a regular basis.

My respect goes to their families, and if i may say: Their not alone. Someone out here takes care about them.

As asked, i will send high-res photographs to the families of Ron & John.

Please send me a PM with your email adress.

Kind regards,

Fabrice.

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  • 1 year later...

Dear Fabrice,

It has been interesting reading this forum. My great uncle was Ronald Baker and I will visiting Belgium in a few weeks. Could you please tell me the best way to get to Eernegem from Bruges and where the cemetery is situated as I would love to visit his grave. Also, my Gran used to be in contact with Father Andre Avonture a long time ago, do you know of him? His church was given an Alter cloth from my Gran's church.

Thank you.

Baker

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