Veterans join forces to give 'lovable rogue' deserving send-off
- Credit: SUPPLIED
A community of veterans has rallied together to give a former RAF serviceman a send-off to remember.
Ray Baker, of East Barsham, near Fakenham, died at the age of 87 on June 12 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.
Born in Guist, Mr Baker served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment until 1952.
Unfortunately, other than his two daughters Joanne and Olga, he had very little family remaining to give him the send-off he deserves.
His neighbour and friend of almost 20 years, Ken Thomas, 59, explained why it was important to him to make sure he received a big turnout.
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He said: “After seeing how upset his daughters were, I decided to put out a message to veterans on Facebook via the North Norfolk Veterans Hub group.
“It seems that many veterans want to pay their respects to the unknown RAF Regiment soldier.”
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Around 100 veterans are expected to attend the funeral service while maintaining current social distancing rules. And in a heartfelt gesture, Squadron Leader Peter Lawrence from the Norfolk branch of the RAF Regiment Association will give a reading at the church despite never meeting him.
Mr Thomas, who previously served in same regiment as the man he befriended in 2003, said Mr Baker would be missed.
“We always had a close companionship and I now feel the loss of his presence.
“I felt it was my duty to give this man the best send-off that one deserves and to show his family that there are veterans out there that will see him as part of the brotherhood.”
Mr Thomas is also a Royal British Legion Standard Bearer and has previously attended funerals to pay his respects to individuals from all armed services.
Describing his friend, Mr Thomas added: “Ray was kind and helpful and loved being in the presence of other people. He was always round for a cup of tea and biscuits, as well as a barbecue.
“He also enjoyed walking and meeting people.
“He was a loveable rogue and I will miss him.”
After the RAF, Mr Baker worked at Fisher Bullen builders in Fakenham as a foreman.
The funeral will take place on Thursday, July 1, at 12.30pm at All Saint’s Church in East Barsham. Parking will be available at the village hall.