It is with great sadness that we heard of the departure of a dear member of our community – Baden Hall, a Second World War veteran, who visited us in Cambridge several times over the past decade.
Baden took part in the “Evening of History and Memories” at Churchill college in 2015, where he shared memories of his wartime experiences together with other Arctic Convoy veterans. He met with a group of veterans from Russia during their visit to Cambridge in May of 2016, and was one of four veterans interviewed by local students in 2017 as a part of The Arctic Convoy’s documentary filming project. We also had the pleasure of Baden and Eunice Hall’s company at the CamRuSS 20th anniversary concert The Splendour of Russian Music in Cambridge in October 2019. Baden also featured in our VE-75 presentation in May 2020 (page 5) and in the brochure Remembering the Second World War in November 2020 (page 7)
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Baden was born on 1st June, 1925 in Deanshanger, Northamptonshire, the eldest of four children. He attended the local school until he was 14, found a job as a gardener in the next village, and, at the age of 15, took up an apprenticeship at Wolverton Carriage Works working on a variety of trains including the Royal Train.
He was called up when he was 18. He famously said to the recruiting officer at the desk “I don’t want to join the Army, I want to join the Navy” to which came the very blunt reply “Get in there!”. So Baden was enlisted in the Royal Navy and received his basic training in Phywelli, Wales. His first posting was at Portsmouth Barracks, which served as a hoofing post, until a permanent place was found. He was there for only six weeks and was then sent to a seamanship training course on HMS Revenge in Faslane, Scotland. After completing it, he was sent to Southampton to join HMS Zodiac, a Z-class Royal Naval destroyer which took part in the Russian Arctic convoys during WW2. This ship became his home for the next 3 ½ years. They sailed either from Loch Ewe or Scapa Flow out into the North Sea, to make their way to Murmansk, Arkhangelsk (Archangel), and Polyarny in the north of Russia. The purpose of these convoys was to transport goods in merchant ships to Russia which were protected from enemy attacks by Royal Navy boats during the perilous journey. Each convoy took 10 days, weather permitting, and then spent 10 days in Russia before making the homeward voyage, bringing the now empty merchant ships back home. Baden spent VE-Day in Denmark and received many awards for his service.
Baden left the Navy in November 1946, and returned to complete his apprenticeship at the Wolverton Carriage Works. Not long after this, he met a young girl called Eunice at a dance one evening and, after 10 happy years of courtship, they got married at Holy Trinity Church in Bedford on 5th April 1958. Baden and Eunice celebrated their Diamond wedding anniversary in 2018.
After several years working at the Carriage Works, Baden took up employment at Vauxhall Motors in Luton, where he remained until his retirement at the age of 55. He returned to his favourite pastime, gardening and doing odd jobs, usually for ladies who lived on their own, and made many good friends over this time.
In recent years, Baden joined the Kennington Russian Arctic Convoy Club and, with his wife Eunice, went to Russia on many occasions (at least four!), visiting St Petersburg, Murmansk and Archangel. Baden was awarded the Medal of Ushakov along with other Arctic Convoy veterans. He loved making annual trips to London on Remembrance Sunday and joining in with thousands of other veterans in the march past the Cenotaph. Baden also enjoyed attending the Royal British Legion meetings. His lifetime’s hobby was music, so he spent many happy hours in the Corn Exchange at concerts. He was a man of great wit and artistic talent, and his cross-stitching embroidery pictures won awards. He liked to laugh, have a joke and enjoy life.
Baden, who celebrated his 97th birthday last June and was looking forward to celebrating his 65th wedding anniversary with Eunice in April this year, passed away in Bedford hospital on Tuesday, 21 March. His funeral took place on 12 April and it was attended by family, friends and members of the local chapter of the Royal British Legion, Clapham, Bedford chapter.
He had a long and wonderfully fulfilling life, and he will be missed immensely by his family, but his spirit will live on in the wonderful memories that they hold dear. He is survived by his wife Eunice, daughter Alison, son-in-law Chris, granddaughters Hannah and Emily. Our thoughts are with Eunice, his widow, and the family.
Dear Baden, rest in peace now that you have crossed the bar.