b. 14/04/1912 Lintz Colliery, Newcastle upon Tyne. d. 07/12/2000 Coventry, Warwickshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 17/05/1929 Durham.
John Thomas “Tom” Baker (1912-2000) was born on 14th April 1912 in Lintz Colliery, Burnopfield, Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of James and Sarah Baker (nee Robinson). Tom attended the Leazes School in Lintz village and although he passed the 11+ examination to enter grammar school, he couldn’t take up his place due to the family’s poor financial situation. As a result, Tom, like so many of his age at the time, went into the mining industry. In his spare time, he was a keen amateur rugby player. He then moved employment to work at the South Garesfield Colliery in County Durham in the late 1920s.
On 17th May 1929, he was at work at South Garesfield when Deputy Richard Lowes was injured during blasting operations. Baker went down the pit with James Purvis and Overman Robert Glendenning; collecting a tram and stretcher, they went in search of the deputy. They were joined by Hewers John Kenny and Samuel Hughff. Meanwhile another party of 5 men had attempted a rescue, but 4 of them had become overcome with gas while the 5th crawled out just in time. The overman organised his party and through repeated efforts they succeeded in extricating the 5 men, 3 of whom were dead. The rescue party were all affected by the fumes and both Kenny and Hughff were overcome and had to be removed. For an hour, during which time the atmosphere was thick with smoke and gas, they knowlingly and repeatedly risked their lives in determined efforts to save the lives of their colleagues. There is no doubt that the death toll would have been higher if it was not for their actions.
On the 16th November 1929, the London Gazette announced the awards of an Edward Medal in Silver to Robert Glendinning and Edward Medals in Bronze to John Thomas Baker, Samuel Hughff, John Kenny and James Sidney Purvis. Following the accident, Tom decided to change careers and began to train as a chef, having joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.
During WWII, he served in Europe, Palestine and India. Following demobbing in 1946, he returned to Coventry as his parents had moved there during the war. In 1948 he married Wendy Weatherby in Coventry, and they had a son Edward. Tom transferred onto the Reserve until 1950 while in civilian life he was successively a hotel chef then the warden of a hostel for displaced people (mostly from Eastern Europe). He then changed jobs and began work in a car factory. His final employment came as a boiler house worker at Brico Engineering in Coventry. He decided to exchange his Edward Medal for a George Cross in 1971, and retired from Brico in 1977.
Tom died on 7th December 2000 in Coventry and his ashes were interred in Windmill Road Cemetery in a grave of his wife’s family. His medals including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 and 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, Boy Scouts Bronze Cross and Certificate of the Carnegie Hero Trust Fund are privately held. His Edward Medal was sold at auction for £2,880 in 2017 to a private buyer.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GEORGE CROSS IN PRIVATE OWNERSHIP.
EDWARD MEDAL SOLD AT AUCTION IN MARCH 2017. (SOLD FOR £2,880)
BURIAL PLACE: WINDMILL ROAD CEMETERY, COVENTRY, WARWICKSHIRE.
ASHES INTERRED – CREMATED AT COVENTRY CREMATORIUM.