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Veteran from Long Melford shares memories of Second World War after being recognised for service at VE Day presentation



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A 94-year-old veteran from Long Melford was commended for his service during the Second World War on the 75th anniversary of VE Day last week.

Richard Baber was presented with a commemorative certificate by members of the Royal British Legion at his home in Borley Road on Friday.

In 1944, at the age of 18, Mr Baber was conscripted into the Essex Infantry Battalion to train as a front-line soldier, before being enlisted to the 4th Battalion of the Somerset light infantry for 18 months.

Richard Baber, 94, is being presented with a letter from members of the Royal British Legion in recognition of his service during the Second World War and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day...Picture: Richard Baber with his granddaughter Hayley....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (34557515)
Richard Baber, 94, is being presented with a letter from members of the Royal British Legion in recognition of his service during the Second World War and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day...Picture: Richard Baber with his granddaughter Hayley....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (34557515)

He subsequently served in France, followed by spells in Belgium, Holland and a year in Germany, where he remained until the end of the Second World War in 1945.

Mr Baber recalls meeting a young holocaust survivor at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany, the day before thousands of enslaved Jews were liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945.

The harrowing experience still remains a vivid memory for Mr Baber, who has shared stories of the conflict with his granddaughter, Hayley Norton.

Richard Baber, 94, is being presented with a letter from members of the Royal British Legion in recognition of his service during the Second World War and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day...Picture: Richard Baber with his granddaughter Hayley....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (34557543)
Richard Baber, 94, is being presented with a letter from members of the Royal British Legion in recognition of his service during the Second World War and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day...Picture: Richard Baber with his granddaughter Hayley....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (34557543)

“To this day, he still has a terrible reflection of that time,” said the 34-year-old. “I remember him not being able to hold back his tears telling me about it as a little girl.”

Serving in the war at just 18 years old had been a daunting experience for Mr Baber.

“He was worried, but knew it was his duty,” said Mrs Norton, who has gained an insight into the conflict from her grandfather’s first-hand accounts over the years.

Richard Baber, 94, is being presented with a letter from members of the Royal British Legion in recognition of his service during the Second World War and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day...Picture: Richard Baber with his granddaughter Hayley....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (34557542)
Richard Baber, 94, is being presented with a letter from members of the Royal British Legion in recognition of his service during the Second World War and to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day...Picture: Richard Baber with his granddaughter Hayley....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (34557542)

“It was a real eye-opener and it has made me ask more questions about when he was a young boy,” said the mother-of-two from Sudbury.

Mr Baber has fonder memories of meeting a young woman and her family while stationed in a village in Belgium during the war.

He recalls her surprise that he had been able to serve as a soldier despite being so young.

Mr Baber remembers how disappointed he had felt when his troops had to leave the village.

“We had orders to pack up in a hurry and we were away that night, so, sadly, I never saw her again; but I often think about her,” he said.

Born in Cockfield in 1926, Mr Baber moved to Long Melford at the age of four with his parents, William and Ethel.

An only child, he attended the village primary school, before studying at Sudbury Grammar School.

After leaving school at 16, he worked at his parents’ poultry and egg business in Sudbury.

His role involved collecting eggs, before grading and distributing the goods to various farms.

“I have lovely memories of working with my dad,” said Mr Baber, of Borley Road.

He recalls losing £5, which equated to a week’s wages, while cycling home from work in Sudbury.

“He was upset,” said Mrs Norton. He laughs about it now, but it was worth a lot during those days.”

Up until the coronavirus lockdown, Mr Baber had worked at Ranger Produce farm shop in Rodbridge, which he runs with daughter, Jill.

Mr Baber had been married to his late wife, Margery, for 44 years. He has two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.