How war hero and mace bearer John snubbed the German ambassador

Torbay Weekly

A Torbay Weekly story about a local war hero's medals has prompted Lionel Digby to come up with another piece of the Bay's history.

We revealed how the medals of war hero Private Walter Parnell had been brought home.

He died in battle during World War, but now his gallantry medals have been acquired by Bygones boss Richard Cuming and will be on display at the museum and attraction in St Marychurch, Torquay, not far from Private Parnell's former home in St Anne’s Road, Babbacombe.

Lionel,  a well-known Torquay businessman and local history lover and expert, said: "The story reminded me of a group of medals in my possession with a Torquay connection.

"John Henry Baker was born in Newton Abbot around 1872 - his father being a local policeman.

"He joined the 1st Lifeguards in 1890 at 18 years old and retired after 30 years’ service with

the rank from Trooper to Regimental Corporal Major.

"In World War 1 in 1914 he served in France with the 1st Lifeguards Mounted Regiment and in 1917 he was made Lieutenant Quarter Master of the newly formed Household Battalion, and left with the rank of Captain Quarter Master in 1920.

"He moved to Torquay in 1923 to be the town Mace Bearer - a post he held for 15 years. He then became the assistant manager at the old Regal Cinema and died in Torquay

in the 1950s."

Lionel added: "In 1937 the German Ambassador to Great Britain was Ribbentrop who came to Torquay to review the German Cadet training ship which was anchor in the bay.

"The mayor, Mr A.D. Phillips, and Captain Baker met Ribbentrop at the station and took him to a reception at Torre Abbey. When asked to serve Ribbentrop with a sherry, Captain Baker, a WW1 veteran, bluntly refused!"