Flight Lieutenant Julius Stafford Baker

Julius Stafford-Baker RAF

Story kindly supplied by Julius Stafford-Baker (Son) Unedited.

“My Father story went roughly as follows: Immediately after the bang he was told that it was almost certainly a drifting mine, which thanks to your wonderful web-site I now know is wrong, but also that quite definitely they would loose their place in the unloading queue at Algiers Docks.

He was a F/Lt in the RAF Intelligence Service with some sort of connection to a party On board of ground crew of 500 (County of Kent) Sqn RAF, but was very urgent to rejoin the aircrew party of 500 who had flown in already via Gibraltar in their Coastal Command Hudson a/c.

Wether his next action was on the ‘Abandon Ship’ command or, as I rather think , earlier on his own initiative (and knowing the man you would believe so), he decided to swim ashore. He was an extremely strong swimmer, and as a child could swim before he could walk. So filled kit kitbag with his kit including his paints, and made it sort of waterproof, and proceeded to swim.

He said the water was warm, but the beach proved very much further than it had looked from the ship. In due course his flotation aid kit bag sank, and he invaded North Africa as part of operation Torch in his underpants. Met by an American Infantryman he had a lot of explaining to do, but within a day or SO he was reunited with 500 Sqn crews at Blida aerodrome south of Algiers.

Blida was soon much involved with Special Duties work and had several units flying for various aspects of that work.

In addition to his usual duties he was also a War Artist for the RAF, and one other story may entertain: Wandering in Algiers Docks looking for a a subject he saw a ship partly on fire. There were lorries around being loaded by hand with material from other holds of the ship. One was an RAF ‘Queen Mary’ long trailer/tractor unit loaded with bombs. He was accosted by an MP asking could he drive. Dad said yes – as he could indeed drive a car. and was told to get in the Bedford tractor unit and drive it away anywhere for safety. Dad demurred a little, but was persuaded by the MPs revolver, never having driven such a vehicle before!

It was of course an ammunition ship, suspected of being sabotaged.”

Biography from the British Museum

BiographyPainter,draughtsman and printmaker.
Born 1904 in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, eldest son of the illustrator, Julius Stafford-Baker (1869-1961), who created the first newspaper strip cartoon in 1889: Tiger Tim for the comic The Rainbow, which Julius took over from his father, meanwhile teaching himself to paint. He joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1918, beginning a life-long fascination with the Royal Air Force. During WWII he was a squadron leader and became an intelligence officer in North Africa and N.W Europe, 1942-44 and later served as an artist with the RAF Public Relations Directorate. The War Artists’ Advisory Committee acquired many of his pictures of planes which are now in several public collections, including the Imperial War Museum. He continued as an illustrator after the war and exhibited at the Royal Academy. He compiled, together with Colin Bell, ‘Graphic Art’, a catalogue of his father’s wood engravings, published by Bell and Baker Press. He died in 1988.
A retrospective exhibition of his work, together with that of his brother, Philip Stafford-Baker (1908-55), was held at Sally Hunter Fine Art in 1989.

The First Lancaster Bomber Aircraft to Land in North Africa from England after Bombing the German Base at Friedrichshafen, 1943: This inaugurated a 'shuttle-bombing service'
The First Lancaster Bomber Aircraft to Land in North Africa from England after Bombing the German Base at Friedrichshafen, 1943: This inaugurated a 'shuttle-bombing service' © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 3322)