Hubert Baker ‘Baron’
PIONEERS & CHAMPIONS
‘I was eager to fight for Britain, and lied about my age’
1925 - 1996
Jamaican born Hubert Baker, better known as Baron Baker, was reported to have said many years after settling permanently in the UK. He had served as an RAF policeman.
At the age of 19, Baron volunteered in 1944 for service in the RAF and had informed them that he was 21 years of age. He found the local people welcoming but his first experience of racism was in a pub in Gloucester where American soldiers refused to drink alongside Black customers. He was undefeated against their attacks. Baron had joined the RAF to fight fascism and continued to do so even after the war was over in May 1945. After being demobilised in 1948, he fought against British Government plans to repatriate West Indian servicemen. Thousands were demobbed to the colonies. He remained in England.
After MV Empire Windrush arrived on 22 June 1948, many of them faced immediate difficulties in their attempts to find shelter. Baron gave an interview which was published by South London Press, The Voice Newspaper and Lambeth Council in 1988 and called ‘Forty Winters On’ to mark the 40th anniversary of the ship’s arrival. He told them that in 1948 he played a key role which helped passengers who had nowhere to stay on 22 June.
He went to see Major John Keith at the Colonial Office but they had made no arrangements to accommodate anyone who was homeless. Baron said, “So I suggested he used the Clapham Common Deep Shelter. They had used the air raid shelter to house Italian and German prisoners of war and even myself when I came to London sometimes and couldn’t find a bed, I had to use it so why not open it for the people on the Windrush?” Baron remarked that his suggestion was accepted by the Colonial Office.
The fight against fascism and racism also became physical and in August 1958 Baron and his friends, using their own military experience, met hundreds of White terrorists in Notting Hill, London. He often made speeches against racism at Hyde Park Corner. He often heckled fascist Oswald Mosley during meetings.
Racist landlords and employment issues plagued West Indian settlers in the UK. Oswald Mosley called for their repatriation to the colonies in fiery speeches.
As a Ladbroke Grove resident, threats on the streets were unavoidable and violent. Attacks on Black people living in North Kensington increased. Baron and his friends saw the need for resistance and organised; collectives formed to protect members of the black community.
Matters came to a head in August 1958 race riots, when marauding local racists terrorised communities for two days. On the third day – despite the authorities advising black people to stay indoors – Baron and others pushed back and a now-infamous ‘ battle’ took place at 9 Blenheim Crescent which was the informal ‘headquarters’ of the black community in the area.
Using his military experience, Baron and his friends meticulously prepared, and hundreds of angry White rioters were met with fierce resistance. Molotov cocktails were thrown from windows and running battles took place. Baron and his friends succeeded in chasing the rioters out of the area but the police arrested him for his part in the riots.
He participated in anti-fascist campaigns and fought tirelessly for better housing for West Indians.