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MORPETH

Baker, F., Rev. Canon, 1962
Pat Baker has submitted the following about her father.

The Rev. Canon F. Baker, M.A.
Honorary Chaplain to King George VI.

In 1915 the Rev. Fred Baker was ordained a Priest and was curate at Blackburn. Soon after ordination he decided to volunteer to be an Army Chaplain so that he could possibly give help, encouragement and a belief that their faith would support them.

At first he was stationed in Southampton where every morning he had to see off the troop ships going to France and in the late afternoon he met the same ships bringing back the wounded.

In 1916 he was posted to France and the front line (possibly Ypres). At that time Officers had to be able to ride a horse. There was a blind horse (he named it Blind Billie) which no-one would ride, but he was a good horseman and loved horses. He decided to ride Blind Billie, the two became great companions and the horse safely took him wherever he wanted to go.

In 1917 Rev. Baker was posted to Northern Italy where the Royal Engineers were building a bridge across the River Piave, near Venice. He was most concerned about leaving Blind Billie because he knew he would be cruelly treated, so he shot him, which was the kindest thing to do. Whilst at the fast flowing river, there were storms or melting snow and the river flooded and many engineers were swept away.

After demobilisation he returned to his junior curacy at Blackburn but was unsettled and wanted more responsibility, so he came to Morpeth to be a senior curate. In 1925 he became Vicar of Byker where he served the people during the depression times. After 13 years he was appointed Rector of Morpeth.

1939 brought the Second World War, and as he was now a Canon and a senior Chaplain in the Territorial Army he was called to serve again. He went to the Northern Command H.Q. at York. He discovered that the Precentor at York Minster was a distant cousin so he had a good place to stay!

Later, he moved to the south and worked with Montgomery in preparing the troops for the invasion of France, but because of a heart murmur he could not go abroad, so he came to Northern Command Headquarters, now at Leeds, where he stayed until the end of the war. Whilst at Leeds he was promoted to Colonel and in 1943 he became the Assistant Chaplain General and an Honorary Chaplain to the King. There are only 4 assistant Chaplains in the Army, 4 in the Navy and 4 in the Air Force.

As soon as war was over, he came back to Morpeth and worked hard and became a well-known and loved “Morpethian” until his death in 1962.

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk