No. 415181, 487 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force
Killed in action on Tuesday 4 January 1944 (aged 21)
Runnymede Memorial, Surrey, England (Panel 263)
No known grave
Hugh Baird was born on 13 May 1922 in Greyabbey and he was a son of Hugh and Eliza Jane Baird (nee Taylor) of Ballyvester, Donaghadee. Hugh Baird Senior was a farmer and he also owned The Northern Bar, a public house in Greyabbey. Hugh Baird and Eliza Jane Taylor were married on 25 June 1913 in Ballygrainey Presbyterian Church and they had four children:
Agnes Jane (Jeannie, born 27 January 1914 in Greyabbey)
Elizabeth (Lily, born 10 February 1916 in Greyabbey)
Dorothy (Dolly, born 21 September 1919 in Greyabbey)
Hugh (born 13 May 1922 in Greyabbey)
In the mid-1920s the Baird family moved from North Street Greyabbey to Matangi which is situated between Hamilton and Cambridge in North Island, New Zealand. Hugh Baird Senior was a dairy farmer and, when he died, he was buried in Hamilton East Cemetery, New Zealand.
Hugh Baird was educated at Matangi Primary School and Hamilton Technical College. After leaving school he worked on his father’s dairy farm until he joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). He first applied to join the RNZAF in November 1940 when he was 18 years old. On 7 September 1941 he arrived at the Initial Training Wing, RNZAF Levin, to begin his Air Force training. On 18 October 1941 Hugh proceeded to RNZAF Bell Block to begin flying training with No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School.
Following this course, he left for Canada on 17 December 1941. He was posted for further training to No. 3 Service Flying Training School at Calgary in Alberta. He trained there on the twin-engined Cessna Cranes of the Royal Canadian Air Force. On 24 April 1942 he was awarded his flying badge (his wings) and promoted to the rank of Sergeant. On 19 May 1942 he was posted to No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario. There he trained on Avro Anson and Fairey Battle aircraft. He completed this phase of his training on 17 August 1942 and moved on to No. 34 Operational Training Unit at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick. He trained there on Lockheed Ventura medium bombers.
On finishing this course, Hugh Baird spent a short period of waiting at No. 1 ‘Y’ Depot, Halifax in Nova Scotia, before crossing the Atlantic to Britain in December 1942. In February 1943 Hugh was posted to No. 487 (New Zealand) Squadron at RAF Feltwell in Norfolk, where this bomber squadron was flying Venturas. He did a short course with No. 1508 Beam Approach Training Flight at Horsham St. Faith in March 1943, and he was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 May 1943. On 23 May 1943 he piloted a Ventura on a mission to bomb enemy targets at Zeebrugge in Belgium. In June he and his crew bombed targets in Caen and Cherbourg, both in France. In September 1943 Hugh Baird and his Squadron converted to de Havilland Mosquito aircraft, and over the next three months he took part in several raids over enemy territory.
At 9.20 am on 4 January 1944 Flight Sergeant Hugh Baird took off in de Havilland Mosquito FB VI aircraft (LR331/W) from RAF Hunsdon in Hertfordshire. As a member of 487 (NZ) Squadron, he was taking part in an attack against a Noball (V-1 rocket) site in Northern France. Though seen by other crews over the target and thought to be under normal control, Hugh Baird’s Mosquito never returned to base. The conclusion reached was that his aircraft crashed over the English Channel during its return. The body of his Canadian navigator, Flying Officer John Frederick Parker, was washed up three days later at Plage-St Cecile, Pas de Calais in France but Hugh Baird’s body was never recovered.
Flight Sergeant Hugh Baird (No. 415181) was 21 years old and he had accumulated 667 flying hours when he died on 4 January 1944. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey; on the New Zealand National War Memorial in Wellington and on the New Zealand Cenotaph Database in Auckland War Memorial Museum.