A World War II Spitfire engineer will be proudly re-presented with his medals this Wednesday (26 April) thanks to the work of an RAF Association befriender.
RAF Northolt will be the venue for a special ceremony for Ted Rexter-Baker. The 94 year-old, who kept the Spitfires of 72 Squadron flying during the war, had been awarded the Africa Star, the Africa Clasp, the Defence Medal and the 1935-1945 Star, but they were all stolen.
Since November 2016, Ted has been visited by Air Vice-Marshal Gary Waterfall as part of the RAF Association’s nationwide befriending scheme. This pairs RAF veterans with volunteers from their community. Befrienders visit regularly to chat, keep an eye out for the veteran’s welfare, talk about life in the RAF and to make sure their contribution is not forgotten.
“It was clear to me from the start of my relationship with Ted, that the loss of his medals had taken a part of him with them,” Gary said.
“It was the least I could do to help him try to get them replaced. This ceremony to re-present them to him will be very special – a proud moment for him and for his friends and relations who will be there too. It is very fitting to hold it at RAF Northolt too, given its historical association with Spitfires. I’m looking forward to chatting about the medals with Ted when I next visit him at home. ”
During his regular befriending visits, Gary discovered much of Ted’s service history: Ted had joined the RAF in September 1938 as a boy apprentice at RAF Halton. After graduation he was posted to RAF Sealand before moving on to become a Spitfire engineer with 84 Squadron – being posted as far as Tunisia. He served for more than 10 years and left from RAF Hornchurch, having become a Senior Technician. He now lives in north London.
With more than half of the UK Armed Forces veteran population aged 75 or over, relationship/isolation issues affect approximately 170,000 RAF veterans, with 85,000 of them specifically experiencing loneliness.
Rory O’Connor, Director of Welfare and Policy at the Royal Air Forces Association, said:
“Loneliness is a critical issue to the Royal Air Forces Association, and this service will ensure that more is done across the board to support our service men and women.
“The befriending service is an important initiative which provides invaluable welfare support for the 1.5 million strong RAF family. If you or someone you may know could benefit from befriending, we’d encourage you to get in touch with us as no veteran should ever feel lonely or isolated. A veteran’s service should be shared, celebrated, and never forgotten.”