FSGT ROBERT WILSON BAXTER (RAAF)

& crew of Wellington X3698

 

FSGT Robert Wilson Baxter

Service No: 400689

Unit: 150 Squadron, RAF

Date of Birth: Tuesday, March 05, 1918

Place of Birth: Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Date of Death:  Friday, August 07, 1942 (Aged 24 years)

Decorations: George Medal

Aircraft: Wellington X3698

 

Robert Baxter was born on 5th March 1918 in Ballarat, Victoria. He was working as a bank clerk for the Bank of New South Wales when he enlisted on 13th October 1940 in Melbourne.

 

While training in Canada at 2 SFTS he was involved in a flying accident on 26th April 1941 when Harvard 2634 ground looped and crashed on landing though he was uninjured. He was awarded his Wings on 23rd May 1941 and on arrival in the UK he trained at 22 OTU from 26th July 1941 before being posted to 150 Squadron on 18th October 1941.

On the night of 5th/6th May 1942 he was the pilot of Wellington, Sgt Baxter and F/Sgt Tipple were in Wellington X3673 which crash landed at Blyton airfield, the aircraft caught fire and five of the crew escaped the wreckage, Sgt Baxter realised that his wireless operator (probably F/Sgt Tipple) was missing so entered the burning wreckage and pulled him clear. Sgt Baxter suffered burns as a result of this rescue and was admitted to Rauceby RAF Hospital from 6th May to 11th June 1942. Notification came through that he was to be awarded the George Medal for his actions in this rescue and the citation was published in the London Gazette on 28th July 1942. The citation reads..

 

George Medal:

"Sergeant Baxter was the captain of a bomber which had made a successful- raid on Germany. When nearing base the port engine, which had been hit by fire from the enemy's ground defences, caught alight. Sergeant Baxter proceeded to land the aircraft but, in the semi-darkness, he was unable to observe that the runways on the aerodrome were obstructed. The aircraft caught fire on impact with the obstruction. Five of the crew, including Sergeant Baxter, got out through the pilot's escape hatch but the wireless operator, who tried to escape through a lower hatch, became trapped. The aircraft was now burning furiously; ammunition and pyrotechnics were exploding and the petrol tanks were liable to explode at any moment. Sergeant Baxter, showing complete disregard for his own safety, re-entered the aircraft and remained inside for at least five minutes before he succeeded in releasing the wireless operator and pushing him through the pilot's escape hatch. He only managed to get clear himself just before the petrol tanks exploded. During his efforts to release his companion Sergeant Baxter sustained extensive second degree burns to his hands and face for which treatment in hospital was necessary. The unselfish heroism displayed by this airman undoubtedly saved the life of his comrade."

 

Wellington X3698, Snaith.

At 00.40hrs on 7th August 1942 this aircraft took off from Snaith airfield for Ops to Duisburg. Just after leaving the airfield it crashed near Great Heck. Four of the five crew were killed and the fifth - F/Sgt John Herbert Hodsell was so badly injured that he died a week later on 15th August 1942.

 

 

 

Pilot - F/Sgt Robert Wilson Baxter GM RAAF (400689), aged 24, of Colac, Victoria, Australia.

Buried Selby Cemetery, Yorkshire.

 

 

Navigator - F/Sgt John Herbert Hodsell RNZAF (404068), aged 22, of Whangarei, Auckland, New Zealand.

Buried Selby Cemetery, Yorkshire.

 

 

 Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - F/Sgt Anthony Roland Tipple RAFVR (755837), aged 21, of Osterley, Isleworth, Middlesex. Buried Selby Cemetery, Yorkshire.

 

 

 Wireless Operator / Air Gunner - Sgt Bertie Harry "Bing" Cosby RAFVR (1280615), aged 20, of Norwich, Norfolk.

Buried Norwich Cemetery, Norfolk.

 

 

Air Gunner - Sgt Harold "Sam" Weller RAFVR (1333817), aged 21, of Brighton, Sussex.

Buried Selby Cemetery, Yorkshire.