Serial Number: NZ415181
RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 7th of September 1941
Rank Achieved: Flight Sergeant
Flying Hours: 667 hours
Date of Birth: 19th of May 1922, at Grey Abbey, County Down, Northern Ireland
Personal Details: Hugh came to New Zealand with his family at a very early age. He was the son of Hugh and Eliza Jane Baird, who lived at Matangi, north of Cambridge. He was educated at Matangi Primary School and Hamilton Technical College. He worked on his father's farm till he joined the RNZAF
Service Details: Hugh applied to join the RNZAF as a pilot in November 1940, but it was not till the 7th of September 1941 when he arrived at the Initial Training Wing, RNZAF Levin, to begin his Air Force training.
On the 18th of October 1941 Hugh proceeded to RNZAF Bell Block to begin flying training, with No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School.
Following this course, he embarked for Canada on the 17th of December 1941. He was posted for further training to No. 3 Service Flying Training School at Calgary, Alberta. He trained there on the twin engined Cessna Cranes of the RCAF. On the 24th of April 1942, he was awarded his flying badge - or his wings - and was promoted to Sergeant.
Hugh moved to his next challenge on the 19th of May, 1942, when he was posted to No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain View, Ontario. Here he trained on Avro Ansons and Fairey Battle aircraft. He completed this phase of training on the 17th of August 1942, on which date he moved onto No. 34 Operational Training Unit at Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick. He trained there on Lockheed Ventura medium bombers.
On finishing this course, Hugh spent a short period of waiting at No. 1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia, before crossing the Atlantic to the United Kingdom in December 1942.
In February 1943, Hugh was posted to No. 487 (NZ) Squadron at RAF Feltwell in Norfolk, where this New Zealand 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 was promoted to Flight Sergeant on the 1st of May 1943.
On the 23rd of May 1943 he piloted a Ventura on a raid 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 and his squadron converted onto de Havilland Mosquito aircraft, and over the next three months he was involved in many raids over enemy territory.
Details of Death: At 09:20 hrs on the 4th of January 1944, Flt Sgt Hugh Baird of Cambridge took off in De Havilland Mosquito FB.VI (coded LR331/W) from Hunsdon, 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, Baird's Mosquito never returned to base. It is thought the aircraft crashed over the sea during its return.
The body of the Canadian navigator also on board washed up three days later at Plage-St Cecile, but Baird was never found.
Commemorated at: Hugh is commemorated on Panel 263 on the Runnymede Memorial. He was aged 21.
Connection with Cambridge: Hugh was formerly a resident of Matangi, just outside of Cambridge, New Zealand prewar
Notes: Details of this airman's death were sourced from the excellent volumes of 'For Your Tomorrow' by Errol Martyn. The photo of Hugh was kindly supplied by Arthur 'Digger' Arculus