Angus Harvey Baber died 6 October 2014


Angus Harvey Baber was born in The Bridge of Allan, Scotland in 1922.

His family home was The Box Farm in Awre, Gloucestershire, where he and his younger brother Alex, along with their numerous cousins, were able to plan and execute many escapades.

He was educated at Chipping Campden and Cinderford Grammar Schools before joining the Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester where he was Captain of the cricket team, played rugby and rowed. On board ship he met Joan Orriss, the sister of another cadet.

In 1940 he was awarded His Majesty’s Gold Medal and appointed as a midshipman to the battleship HMS King George V. In 1942 he was a sub lieutenant on HMS Onslow and in 1944 joined HMS Vigilant as a lieutenant.

During these years he completed 23 Russian Convoys. On May 26th 1941, whilst serving on King George V, the ship was engaged in the action which sank The Bismark.

On December 31st 1942, HMS Onslow, leader of the 17th Flotilla, engaged with the German heavy cruiser “Hipper” which landed three 8” shells on the destroyer.

Forty men were killed or wounded, the forward guns knocked out, the bridge wrecked and the engine room holed. Fires broke out and at one stage virtually the whole of the front section of the destroyer was blazing. After 4 intense hours the fires were out and a collision mat in place over the hole in the ship’s side.

This action, in almost continual darkness, laced with snow showers in the freezing Barents Sea off Norway’s North Cape, was notable for the award of the Victoria Cross to Captain Sherbrooke, Commander of HMS Onslow, who accepted this as a tribute to all the ship’s company.

The Royal Navy lost one destroyer and a minesweeper but all the merchantmen reached port safely. Angus accompanied the injured to hospital where he realised that he had two metal splinters on his right hand knuckle joints which were found to be too dangerous to remove. This shrapnel remained in his hand throughout his life.

HMS Onslow saw further action, in the Malta Convoys, the Casablanca Landings plus NW Europe, Malaysia and Burma.

Later in HMS Vigilant he was at Gold Beach in Normandy, on D-Day minus one, giving covering fire to minesweepers.

On December 19th 1944 Angus and Joan were married in West Acton, London.

Angus then sailed, as navigator of HMS Vigilant, for the base at Trincomlee. On May 16th 1945 the ship with 4 other destroyers of the 26th Flotilla engaged the heaviest Japanese cruiser, The Haguro, and sank her using gunfire and torpedoes. They were then present at the retaking of Singapore.

Angus was now 23 years old.

The medals that he so proudly wore were all deservedly awarded to a young man who served his country and they always reminded him of friendships made and some that were lost.  Each medal tells its own story.

In 1946 Angus joined Shaw Savill and Albion Co, Ltd, retiring in 1981. During this period he gained his Master’s Certificate. He sailed on a number of ships including the Northern Star, The Gothic and The Dominion Monarch but the Southern Cross was always closest to his heart. Alan Mitchell in his book “Splendid Sisters” describes Baber as burly, thick-set, with sideburns giving him a John Bull look who was a good man to have around.

Although Angus encouraged the social side of cruising he was firm in his role as Master.

On one occasion a tall, truculent Australian was found wandering round the Southern Cross by the Master at Arms late at night after sailing. He refused to answer questions and to give any information about himself. He was taken before Baber, and he continued to be truculent and uninformative.

“Master at Arms,” Baber said curtly, “are you and I the only two people on board who know this man is on the ship?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Then throw him overboard,” said Baber.

The Australian took a quick look at the two impassive faces and wilted.

He was appointed a Younger Brother of Trinity House, a Governor of the Thames Nautical Training College, a committee member of the Dreadnought Seaman’s Hospital as well as The Department of Trade and International Chamber of Shipping plus also Chairman of the Nautical sub-committee of the General Council of British Shipping. He served as a president of The Association of Old Worcesters and was honoured to be Life President of the Shaw Savill Society.

In 1974 he was admitted to the Freedom and Livery of London.

In 1967 he was elected to membership of The Honourable Company of Master Mariners where in 1980-81 he became Master.

Angus took all his duties seriously, enjoyed the social activities and respected the ceremonial occasions.

Two of his most treasured memories were when he represented the Merchant Navy at The Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday in 1964 and in Westminster Abbey in 1980.

In 1983 Angus and Joan moved to Devon, although he was still actively involved with his shipping connections and friends.

Time was spent with Joan, his two daughters and four grandchildren. He still loved to organise everyone, with Christmas being the highlight of the year even if it involved picking up a bucketful of stones from newly turned soil in the garden, before breakfast. The family have always enjoyed the beach and this has continued to the next generation, his 7 great grandchildren, with Exmouth Beach being reclassified as Great Grandad’s Beach.

In 2013 the Lord Lieutenant at the Exeter Flotilla Trafalgar Service presented Angus with the Arctic Star.

This is a man who has left a “Footprint in History.”


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