World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Peter Baker (British politician)

Article Id: WHEBN0004501411
Reproduction Date:

Title: Peter Baker (British politician)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Reginald Baker (film producer), GHQ Liaison Regiment, Christiaan Lindemans, Roy Jenkins, April 20
Collection: 1921 Births, 1966 Deaths, British Army Personnel of World War II, British Fraudsters, British Politicians Convicted of Crimes, British Politicians Convicted of Fraud, British World War II Prisoners of War, Conservative Party (Uk) Mps, Intelligence Corps Officers, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, People Educated at Eastbourne College, People from Willesden, Recipients of the Military Cross, Royal Artillery Officers, Uk Mps 1950–51, Uk Mps 1951–55
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Peter Baker (British politician)

Peter Arthur David Baker
Baker in 1939. From My Testament, facing p. 64.
Member of Parliament
for South Norfolk
In office
1950 – 1954
Preceded by Christopher Mayhew
Succeeded by John Hill
Personal details
Born (1921-04-20)20 April 1921
Willesden, Middlesex
Died 14 November 1966(1966-11-14) (aged 45)
Eastbourne, Sussex
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Gloria Mae Heaton-Armstrong
Children two daughters
Residence Brook House, Pulham St Mary, Norfolk
Alma mater Eastbourne College
  • soldier
  • politician
Religion Anglican
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1939–1945
Rank Captain
Unit Special reconnaissance
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Military Cross

Peter Arthur David Baker MC (20 April 1921 – 14 November 1966) was a British soldier, author, publisher and Conservative politician who served as a member of parliament (MP) for South Norfolk. He is chiefly remembered as the last Member of Parliament to be expelled from the House of Commons.[1] and as the inspiration behind the eccentric character of publisher Martin York in Muriel Spark's novel A Far Cry From Kensington[note 1]

Baker's arrest and trial received extensive media coverage from both the British and the International press.


  • Early life and family 1
  • Education and military service 2
    • Phantom 2.1
    • Contribution to World War II 2.2
    • Taken prisoner 2.3
    • Escape attempt 2.4
  • Post war 3
  • Political career 4
    • Parliament 4.1
  • Health 5
  • Downfall 6
  • Prison 7
    • Appeal 7.1
    • Second appeal 7.2
    • Release 7.3
  • Later life 8
  • Literary depiction 9
  • Works 10
  • Notes 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14

Early life and family

Baker was born 20 April 1921 in Willesden, north west London. He was the son of Major Reginald Poynton Baker (1896–1985) of Loddenden Manor, Staplehurst, Kent, [2] and his first wife Gwendolyn Emily Christabel Baker née Webb (1897–1962). Baker's father later became a successful movie producer based at Ealing Studios.[3] He claimed descent from Sir John Baker,[4] a Chancellor of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House of Commons in the 16th century, and Sir Richard Baker,[5] an author who was also a member of parliament, Sir Samuel White Baker,[6][note 2] the discoverer of Lake Albert and his younger brother, Valentine Baker,[7] a famous soldier who also spent some time in Wormwood Scrubs Prison[note 3]

On 5 June 1948 Baker married Gloria Mae Heaton-Armstrong, daughter of Colonel Charles George William Stacpool Heaton-Armstrong, at Kensington.

The Heaton-Armstrong family belonged to the Anglo-Irish Protestant landowning class and were related to soldier and MP, Sir Thomas Armstrong.[8] Armstrong was involved in the Rye House Plot.

Education and military service

Baker was educated at Eastbourne College.[2] He was preparing to study at the University of Cambridge until the imminent outbreak of World War II led him to enlist in the Royal Artillery.[9] Although he could have taken an immediate commission, Baker and a friend who had joined up at the same time determined to serve at least six months in the ranks[10] before accepting a posting to an Officer Cadet Training Unit in Catterick Garrison in March 1940. He was then posted to an artillery regiment based in Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire, and served for fourteen months across southern Scotland.[11] He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 7 September 1940.[12] Considering the job of an artillery officer boring, Baker accepted in October 1941 a posting to be a Staff Captain in Military Intelligence based at the War Office. He hoped that the new appointment would make it more likely that he could obtain an overseas posting.[13] After four months he applied for a transfer, although it took a further six months to persuade his superiors to let him leave.[14]


He was assigned to the 1st Airborne Division. Phantom was renowned for the unusual selection of brilliance, nobility and idiosyncrasy, wit, achievements and even criminality exhibited by its officers. Following training and exercises in Britain, Baker was assigned in June 1943 to the Phantom unit in North Africa at camp Bugeaud in Bône, Algeria. The unit consisted of three squadrons (E,K and H) and the Assault Detachment under the command of Major Mervyn Sydney Bobus Vernon (1912–1991) of the Grenadier Guards. Baker joined E squadron, which was headed by Major Hugh Fraser. E squadron was supposed to have followed the Assault Detachment (led by Christopher Mayhew) into Sicily, but the invasion turned out to be much easier than anticipated.[15]

At the end of August, E squadron was ordered to Bizerta to be ready to take part in the invasion of Italy. The squadron's role was to carry out long-range reconnaissance, which it did initially from Taranto. Baker, with a small team, drove an unarmoured and lightly-armed jeep up to a hundred miles from the forward base to discover the location of German troops.[16] Late in 1943 the squadron withdrew to Trani, where Baker developed abdominal pains; he was flown back to Britain before Christmas, and was given four weeks' sick leave before being passed as fit for sedentary duty only.[17]

He was then recruited by Belgium in preparation for the forthcoming landings in France on D-Day; his section was attached to 21st Army Group under the ultimate command of SHAEF.[20] Assembling near Portsmouth at the end of May 1944, and crossed into France on D-Day itself[21][note 5](with the unit's support equipment crossing seven days later).[22]

Baker found that the established 'ratlines' for helping escapers to get out of France were significantly disrupted by the landings, and the French Resistance was increasingly interested in becoming an overt force. With assistance only from his second-in-command Captain Pringle Dunn and eight French agents, his unit were able to arrange for 146 people ('escaping Allied airmen or prisoners of war, evaders left over from unsuccessful attacks on D-Day and important political refugees') to get to Britain.[23] He volunteered to go over the front line to make initial contact with a party of 138 Allied pilots who had hidden in the Fôret de Fréteval near Châteaudun.[24]

He followed the Allied armies into Paris and Brussels when they were liberated, before arriving in the Netherlands and basing his unit in Eindhoven in September 1944. He formed links with the Dutch resistance (including with Christiaan Lindemans, codenamed 'King Kong')[25] and with help from informants was able to send back to London details of a number of new weapons including the V-2 rocket[note 6] and the type of fuel they used[26] (Liquid Propellant).The V-2 were later used on London[note 7] and Antwerp.[27]

Contribution to World War II

Baker's accomplishment in Eindhoven would pave the way for the development (Phase I) of the Navaho rocket,[28][note 8] a modified V-2 with wings (delta planform), eventually laid the foundation for numerous technologies including the Intercontinental ballistic missile and the Apollo program.

Taken prisoner

Baker's relationship with his commanding officer Airey Neave was difficult. Although Baker claimed to be an "old and esteemed friend",[29] Neave was wary of his interest in writing accounts of his activities for the American press (while admiring Baker's 'dash and enthusiasm').[30] In early October, Baker and Neave moved their unit to just west of Nijmegen,[31] and Neave obtained permission to send Baker (codenamed 'Harrier') through enemy lines to make contact with the Dutch Resistance. Neave was given permission provided Baker remained in his British Army uniform and did not leave the safe house.[32] On 11 October Neave took Baker and Private First Class Theodore Bachenheimer[33] (from the 504th Parachute Infantry in the US Army) to the River Waal,[34] where they crossed in a canoe, and eventually made contact with the Resistance, the same canoe was used to bring out Dutch diplomat Herman van Roijen (later Dutch foreign minister) with critical intelligence information for his government in exile.[19][35]

Baker smoothed over differences between two Resistance groups,[36] but disobeyed orders by exchanging his military uniform for civilian clothes and going to stay at a farmhouse where, hosted by the Ebbens family,[37] he and PFC Bachenheimer went for walks around the area within sight of German troops.[34][38] On the night of 16–17 October the house was raided by German forces with Baker and Bachenheimer arrested while sleeping and taken as prisoner of war;[36] the Ebbens family were all shot.[34]

Escape attempt

After interrogation he was taken to a transit camp at Amersfoort.[39] From there a five-day train journey took him to Stalag XI-B at Bad Fallingbostel where he was to stay until sent on to Oflag 79 in Braunschweig.[40] During the journey PFC Bachenheimer escaped, but was shot by German forces near the village of 't Harde on the night of 22–23 October.[41] Baker was forced to abandon his own plans to escape from the train,[42] but on arriving at Fallingbostel noticed that escape was possible there. Joining with a Belgian officer and a Malagasy French liaison officer named Jacques Hannebicque[43] to make plans.[44]

Baker's group of three passed themselves off as French prisoners and joined a work party which was sent out of the prison camp to collect firewood on the morning of 7 November. When the party got to the wood they broke away and started walking west. Baker claimed that "the most effective way to pass unsuspected was to salute everybody in uniform", whether military or civilian.[45] The three had got 60 km away from their camp after two days, when they were detected by a German soldier, and failed in their bluff of being 'Men of confidence' (who were trusted to take charge of other prisoners of war). Baker decided to reveal his real identity long before he was given over to the Gestapo, to avoid mistreatment in their hands;[46] however he believed they were only saved from being shot as spies when the farmer where they were discovered objected to the shooting happening on his land.[47] He was sent to Stalag X-B at Sandbostel where he was interrogated with violence, and then spent 35 days in solitary confinement in various prisons before finally going to Oflag 79.[48] His fellow escapee Hannebicque survived the war and later became a respected writer and photographer.[49]

Arising out of his escape plans, Baker and his colleagues were

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Maj. Christopher Mayhew
Member of Parliament for South Norfolk

expelled 16 December 1954

Succeeded by
John Hill
Preceded by
Roy Jenkins
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Tony Benn
  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Peter Baker
  • The Peter Arthur David Baker
  • Diss Community Partnership: Hero and Shyster The Fallen MP

External links

  1. ^ a b c "Mr. Peter Baker" (Obituary), The Times, 15 November 1966, p. 12.
  2. ^ a b "Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1952", Business Dictionaries Ltd., London, 1952, p. 277.
  3. ^ a b Muriel Spark, "Curriculum Vitae", New Directions Publishing, 2011, p. 196.
  4. ^ "Foreign News Young Wizard"," Time Magazine", 13 December 1954.
  5. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 213-4.
  6. ^ "My Testament", p. 247.
  7. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 213.
  8. ^ "A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland ,Volume 1", by Bernard Burke
  9. ^ "My Testament", p. 11-14.
  10. ^ "My Testament", p. 15.
  11. ^ "My Testament", p. 19-20.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 34950. p. 5634. 20 September 1940. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  13. ^ "My Testament", p. 23.
  14. ^ "My Testament", p. 24.
  15. ^ "My Testament", p. 25-7.
  16. ^ "My Testament", p. 37-8.
  17. ^ "My Testament", p. 61-2.
  18. ^ M. R. D. Foot and J.M. Langley, "MI9: Escape and Evasion", Bodley Head, 1979, p. 218.
  19. ^ a b Paul Routledge, "Public Servant, Secret Agent", Fourth Estate, 2002
  20. ^ Airey Neave, "Saturday at M.I.9", Hodder and Stroughton, 1969, p.261-2.
  21. ^ "Confession of Faith", Falcon Press, London, 1946, p. 78.
  22. ^ "My Testament", p. 62-3.
  23. ^ "My Testament", p. 75-6.
  24. ^ Airey Neave, "They Have their Exits", Hodder and Stoughton, 1953, p. 158.
  25. ^ Anne Laurens, "The Lindemans affair", Allan Wingate, 1971.
  26. ^ "Was Arnhem Betrayed ?", Encounter, June 1981, p.8-14.
  27. ^ "My Testament", p. 118.
  28. ^ "After Sputnik The First Fifty Years of Space Flight", by Martin Collins, published by the Smithsmosian Institution, p. 30.
  29. ^ "My Testament", p. 89
  30. ^ Paul Routledge, "Public Servant, Secret Agent", Fourth Estate, 2002, p. 146.
  31. ^ "My Testament", p. 121.
  32. ^ Airey Neave, "Saturday at M.I.9", Hodder and Stoughton, 1969, p. 285.
  33. ^ "My Testament", p. 133.
  34. ^ a b c "Public Servant, Secret Agent", p. 152.
  35. ^ Airey Neave, "Saturday at M.I.9", Hodder and Stroughton, 1969, p.287.
  36. ^ a b "My Testament", p. 138-43.
  37. ^ "My Testament", p. 131-3.
  38. ^ "Saturday at M.I.9", p. 287-8.
  39. ^ "My Testament", p. 147-8.
  40. ^ "My Testament", p. 151-2.
  41. ^ Phil Nordyke, "More than Courage", Zenith Press, 2008, p. 290.
  42. ^ "My Testament", p. 150-1.
  43. ^ "My Testament", p. 154.
  44. ^ "My Testament", p. 159.
  45. ^ "My Testament", p. 165.
  46. ^ "My Testament", p. 173.
  47. ^ "My Testament", p. 175.
  48. ^ "My Testament", p. 181-2.
  49. ^ Jacques Hannebicque, "Madagascar, ma terre-aux-mille-contrastes", Editions Siloë, Paris 1989.
  50. ^ "My Testament", p. 196-9.
  51. ^ "My Testament", p. 209.
  52. ^ "My Testament", p. 200.
  53. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37204. p. 3955. 2 August 1945. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  54. ^ "My Testament", p. 20-22.
  55. ^ "My Testament", p. 63.
  56. ^ "My Testament", p. 210-2.
  57. ^ "My Testament", p. 240.
  58. ^ Joe Haines, "Maxwell", Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1988, p. 147.
  59. ^ "My Testament", p. 243
  60. ^ "Who's who of British members of parliament, 1945–1979", published by Harvester Press, 1981, p. 15.
  61. ^ Peter Baker, "The Silent Revolution", Falcon Press, 1946, p. 7.
  62. ^ "The Silent Revolution", p. 43.
  63. ^ "Confession of Faith", Falcon Press, London, 1946, p. 8.
  64. ^ "My Testament", p. 213-4.
  65. ^ F. W. S. Craig, "British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–49", 3rd edition, Parliamentary Research Services, Chichester, 1983, p. 434.
  66. ^ "My Testament", p. 215-7.
  67. ^ "McCarthy Invited to see 'Democracy' in Britain", The New York Times, 12 June 1953, p.11
  68. ^ "Invites McCarthy to UK to see Democracy Work", Ottawa Citizen, 12 June 1953, p.4
  69. ^ "Commonwealth Venturers, $1,000,000 Fund Appeal", The Glasgow Herald, 20 July 1953, p.3.
  70. ^ "New company formed", The Straits Times, 4 August 1953, p.10
  71. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 1.
  72. ^ "My Testament", p. 255.
  73. ^ "My Testament", p. 209-210.
  74. ^ "My Testament", p. 256-257.
  75. ^ "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 10 May 1954: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 27 November 2012.
  76. ^ a b "Time Out of Life", p. 55.
  77. ^ "A wreath for the sheriff's officer ...". Daily Express. 17 July 1954. p. 5. 
  78. ^ The Glasgow Herald, 11 September 1954, MP remanded in custody.
  79. ^ "Time out of Life", p. 2.
  80. ^ "Sentence on M.P.", The Times, 1 December 1954, p. 8. See also "Certified copies of the indictment, conviction and sentence of the Court in the case of the Queen against Peter Arthur David Baker", House of Commons Paper 11 of session 1954–55.
  81. ^ Publisher's note, "My Testament", p. 288.
  82. ^ Hansard, HC 5ser vol 535 col 1986.
  83. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 45.
  84. ^ a b "I Blame Docker". Daily Express. 13 May 1955. p. 1. 
  85. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 89.
  86. ^ "I want a new trial says Peter Baker". Daily Mirror. 13 May 1955. p. 20. 
  87. ^ a b "Time Out of Life", p. 83.
  88. ^ a b "Time Out of Life", p. 125.
  89. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 91-2.
  90. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 110.
  91. ^ "Peter Baker". The Times. 22 November 1955. p. 13. 
  92. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 118.
  93. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 118-9.
  94. ^ "Ex-M.P.'s Application Withdrawn". The times. 17 December 1955. p. 3. 
  95. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 156-8.
  96. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 158-9.
  97. ^ "Former MP Appeals to Commons from Gaol". Daily Mirror. 25 November 1957. p. 6. 
  98. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 166.
  99. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 184-5.
  100. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 189-90.
  101. ^ "Baker, ex-M.P., leaves jail". Daily Express. 24 October 1959. p. 7. 
  102. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 244.
  103. ^ Chesworth, Arthur (2 November 1959). "My family, my future and Fate". Daily Express. p. 13. 
  104. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 231-3.
  105. ^  
  106. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 245.
  107. ^ The London Gazette: no. 41499. p. 5703. 16 September 1958. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  108. ^ The London Gazette: no. 41871. p. 7292. 17 November 1959. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  109. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42677. p. 4081. 18 May 1962. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  110. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42988. p. 3990. 7 May 1963. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  111. ^ Joe Haines, "Maxwell", Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1988, p. 147.
  112. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. 81.
  113. ^ "Time Out of Life", p. vii.
  114. ^ "Ex-M.P. cleared in road case". Daily Express. 4 March 1961. p. 9. 
  115. ^ "Ex-M.P. Baker gets divorce decree". Daily Express. 21 November 1961. p. 7. 
  116. ^ "Attlee helps ex-Tory MP". Daily Mirror. 23 September 1963. p. 2. 
  117. ^ The London Gazette: no. 44068. p. 8573. 29 July 1966. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  118. ^ The London Gazette: no. 44139. p. 11038. 11 October 1966. Retrieved 18 May 2013.
  119. ^ "Ex-MP dies at 45". Daily Mirror. 16 November 1966. p. 4. 
  120. ^ Professor Martin Stannard, "Muriel Spark", George Weidenfield and Nicholson, 2009, chapter 19.
  121. ^ Muriel Spark, "A Far Cry from Kensington", Constable, London, 1988, p. 85.
  122. ^ "A Far Cry from Kensington", p. 44-5.
  123. ^ "A Far Cry from Kensington", p. 40.
  124. ^ "A Far Cry from Kensington", p. 43-4.
  125. ^ "A Far Cry from Kensington", p. 23


See also

  1. ^ British poet and critic Derek Stanford's chronicles of the Neo-Romantic movement during the forties untitled Inside the Forties, Literary Memoirs, 1937–1957 give some insight into Baker's character.Stanford is also one of the main protagonists of "A Far Cry From Kensington", he appeared as the unfortunate writer Harold Bartlett, nicknamed by Mrs Hawkins, Le pisseur de copies (he urinates frightful proses).
  2. ^ In "My Testament", p. 247, Falcon Press published in 1949 a work on Sir Samuel White Baker untitled Baker of the Nile, written by Dorothy Middleton (1909–1999).She was asked by Baker to wrote the book, (author's foreword, 20 July 1948).
  3. ^ Baker give a somewhat sketchy details account of his family tree in his autobiographical books, My Testament and Time Out of Life, Baker's assertion is questionnable unless it was intended as a literary device, expressing the idea that he embodied his "ancestors" attribute, in the same manner and for other end he makes judge Mervyn Griffith-Jones and actor Griffith Jones brothers, "My Testament", p. 281.
  4. ^ The regimental badge was a white letter P on a black background."SAS Heroes Remarkable Soldiers, Extraordinary Men", by Peter Scholey, published by Osprey Publishing 2009.
  5. ^ With the Irish Guards (Baker original corps).
  6. ^ The V-2 schematics were brought with the Peenemünde files at White Sands for analysis and afterwards studied by North American Aviation's chief scientist Dr .William Bollay, a former von Kármán's student and a member of the 1936 GALCIT Rocket Research Project.Bollay made new additions, including a more powerful engine.Von braun borrowed heavily from Bolley's engine for the Redstone rocket.
  7. ^ The first V-2 launch took place on 8 September 1944 from the dutch town of Wassenaar and was directed to London, two days later at a Brussels conference, Eisenhower agreed to launch Operation Market Garden.The V-2 rocket was in theory capable of delivering an radiological warhead.
  8. ^ The Navaho rocket shared some similarities with its german predecessor, the ill-fated A-4b (V-2) program, a stepstone into space exploration.
  9. ^ The Thursday club's spirit was that friends would meet once a week, no issues of importance would be allowed, no international question would be solved, eat well, tell stories and swap reminiscences
  10. ^ In "Time Out of Life", p. 31-32, Baker claims he had to write a second time because the Wormwood Scrubs authorities always tore up the first letter any prisoner sent to an MP.
  11. ^ Baker later said that he had refused all requests for interviews except this one, because an executive on the paper was an old friend.[102]
  12. ^ In "My Testament", p. 247, Baker acknowlegded his careless driving in a 1949 dinner event, Baker offered British conservative Anthony Eden to drive him to the House of Commons, Baker drove so fast that he completed five circuits of the roundabout on the Embankment before delivering Eden, green and apprehensive, at the House. Eden never forgave Baker for that.


  • The Beggar's Lute (set of twenty-one poems), Favil Press, 1940
  • Confession of Faith, Falcon Press, 1946
  • The silent revolution, Falcon Press, 1946
  • Land and Empire, Falcon Press, 1948
  • My Testament, John Calder, London, 1955
  • Time Out of Life, Heinemann, London, 1961


Baker is depicted as Martin York in Muriel Spark's novel A Far Cry from Kensington.[120] York, like Baker, is sentenced to seven years' imprisonment "for multiple forgeries and other types of fraud"; the date of his imprisonment is also 1 December 1954.[121] In the novel, Nancy Hawkins (based on Spark) describes how Martin York frequently makes promises to publish books written by his friends, but the books they write are not always acceptable, and she turns down one manuscript from a friend of York's who had been offered a contract during a drinking session.[122] York relays to Hawkins advice to send a cheque for a random amount in income tax, so that it cannot be tallied with any amount owing and results in the taxpayers' file being passed around and eventually lost.[123] She describes seeing York signing documents in his own handwriting but in other people's names.[124] York remarks to Hawkins that "if it is widely enough believed that you have money and wealth, it is the same thing as having it. The belief itself creates confidence and confidence, business".[125]

Literary depiction

Attempts to overturn his conviction or to hold an inquiry continued. In September 1963 Baker persuaded Earl Attlee, former Labour Prime Minister, to support an inquiry.[116] Baker unsuccessfully petitioned for a Royal Pardon in 1965.[1] On 4 April 1966 his creditors filed a new bankruptcy petition against him; a receiving order was made on 22 July 1966,[117] and on 26 September he was again adjudicated a bankrupt.[118] He died in hospital in Eastbourne on 14 November 1966, aged 45.[119]

In March 1961 he was cleared of causing death by dangerous driving,[note 12] having knocked down a pedestrian on a crossing in the Strand; Baker said that he overtook a taxi whose driver had signalled to him that it was safe to do so.[114] He was divorced from his wife in November 1961, on grounds of her desertion.[115]

In February 1960, Baker asked Robert Maxwell for an appointment as a Director of his new publishing company; Maxwell refused.[111] He wrote his prison memoirs, published under the title "Time Out of Life" by Heinemann in 1961; in them Baker claimed his financial downfall was caused by his financial guarantors repudiating their signatures, and that he had always believed them to be genuine.[112] He could not explain why he had pleaded guilty.[87] The book included a foreword from Pakenham, by then the Earl of Longford, who praised it as a "valuable contribution" to understanding the prison system.[113]

Baker's creditors received only 0.1611d. in the £ (or 0.067%), in the first dividend paid after his bankruptcy;[107] when he applied for discharge from bankruptcy on 17 December 1959,[108] the discharge was suspended. In April 1962 his discharge from bankruptcy was allowed after a two years and six months suspension.[109] A supplemental dividend was paid to creditors in May 1963 of 0.196d. in the £ (or 0.08%), making less than 0.15% in total.[110]

Later life

On 4 November, Baker called a press conference on "the weaknesses of justice and prison administration in Britain",[105] which he explained as an apology for hiding from the press, and an attempt to prove that this was not from fear.[106]

Baker was released from Wormwood Scrubs on 23 October 1959, being met at the prison gates by his father and by Lord Pakenham.[101] Shortly after his release he gave an interview to the Daily Express,[note 11] in which he declared his intention to bring back his wife and children from Australia, where they had moved without warning in the summer of 1958, leaving no address but arranging for letters to be forwarded through a bank.[103][104]


From there Baker sent a request to the Speaker of the House of Commons asking that his case be referred to the Committee of Privileges, to inquire into why he pleaded guilty and to allegations of perjury and withholding of evidence.[97] He claimed to have received "more than seventy letters of encouragement" when his request was publicised.[98] His attempts to circumvent restrictions on letters from prison were detected and resulted in his transfer back to closed conditions, first at Horfield[99] and then back to Wormwood Scrubs.[100]

At the end of 1956 Baker prepared a second application for leave to appeal, with his solicitor Brian Hetreed preparing a large bundle of documents and witnesses (including, according to Baker, two former Chief Justices). However junior counsel John Mathew was doubtful of the chances of a retrial unless Baker had been insane when he pleaded guilty. On 28 January 1957 Baker was indeed refused leave to appeal, to argue for a change of plea, for extension of time, to call new witnesses and to produce new evidence, with the Lord Chief Justice Lord Goddard pointing out that his plea of guilty must stand.[95] Immediately after this appeal was dismissed, Baker was transferred from Wormwood Scrubs to HM Prison Leyhill, an open prison.[96]

Second appeal

Baker later claimed that Hugh Quennell had obtained assurances that the Home Office intended to procure his release by March 1956 at the outside, and so he reluctanctly agreed to withdraw his appeal and let the Home Office proceed.[93] The appeal was withdrawn on 16 December, his solicitors announcing that there were legal and technical difficulties in appealing after a guilty plea and in arranging a new trial.[94] Baker's memorandum to the Home Office was met only with an official rejection.[88]

Baker duly petitioned to the Home Secretary in May 1955, asking for either a retrial, an appeal out of time (with permission to change his plea to not guilty), a public inquiry, or an immediate release.[89] Talks between Baker's solicitors and the Home Office were inconclusive,[90] so Baker's solicitors applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal. Mr Justice Donovan refused Baker permission for leave to appeal out of time against his conviction on the papers, so Baker renewed his appeal at a hearing in the Court of Criminal Appeal on 21 November 1955. The hearing was adjourned on application of Baker's counsel,[91] because they were not ready.[92]

During his evidence, Baker had told the court that he intended to petition for a retrial;[86] he had previously decided that he would only do so after he had been expelled from the House of Commons, and a by-election in South Norfolk and a general election had been held.[87] As he was bankrupt, his legal case was funded by friends including William Rees-Mogg, Anthony Nutting, William Teeling, Martha Gellhorn and his legal adviser Hugh Quennell.[88]


On 12 May 1955, during the general election campaign, Baker was taken from prison to the Bankruptcy court for his public examination. His liabilities were stated as £335,598 8s 10d, and he had assets of £10 19s 1d.[84] Baker presented the court with 212 pages of evidence,[85] and spent three hours in the witness box. He blamed his bankruptcy on the withdrawal of support by Sir Bernard Docker, and at the end of his evidence he asserted that his plea of guilty had been incorrect.[84]

Baker's literary agent Anthony Blond and publisher John Calder were allowed to visit him occasionally to discuss the publication of his book, for which he had left only "a chaotic welter of hand-written chapters, and extracts from articles, newspaper interviews and broadcasts" which Blond and Calder had to assemble into a logical sequence. Blond and Calder eventually published the book under the title "My Testament", which Baker had not approved.[76] While in Wormwood Scrubs, Baker met up with Raymond Blackburn, a former MP who had also been imprisoned for fraud. Baker had not known Blackburn well when in Parliament (Blackburn had been a Labour MP) but had become friendly with him afterwards.[83]


He was subsequently convicted on all seven counts and was sentenced at the Old Bailey to seven years imprisonment.[80] Immediately on his imprisonment at HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, Baker was given permission by the Prison Governor to write to the Speaker of the House of Commons.[note 10] Explaining that he had discovered he was "unable to vacate my seat in any way while the matter was sub judice", he stated that he was not going to appeal and therefore "you can now dispossess me of my seat without delay".[81] The Leader of the House of Commons Harry Crookshank then put down a motion "That Mr. Peter Arthur David Baker be expelled this House" which was agreed without a division on 16 December 1954.[82] In the subsequent by-election in January 1955, South Norfolk elected Conservative John Hill as its new MP.

When Baker's companies came into financial trouble, he forged signatures on letters purporting to guarantee their debts.[78] Baker was arrested and charged with seven counts of uttering forged documents, and pleaded guilty to six of the counts.[1] Prosecuting counsel were Christmas Humphreys and Mervyn Griffith-Jones, while Baker was defended by Richard Levy and James Burge.[79]

Falcon Press began encountering financial difficulties in the early 1950s. The official receiver was called in to Falcon Press (London) Ltd in 1954, and discovered a total deficiency of £290,823. A creditors' meeting in July 1954 was told that the company was "well on the rocks" by March 1950, and so often had a sheriff's officer attended at the company offices that the staff had bought a wreath on learning of his death. With Baker himself in the nursing home, his father (who was also a director) claimed that high production costs, insufficiently selective choice of books to publish and insufficient sales pressure, were responsible for the failure.[77]


Baker suffered a nervous breakdown in 1954, which he ascribed to his excessive workload as both a member of parliament and a businessman single-handedly running many companies (which were in financial difficulties). He claimed to have had multiple day-time blackouts and to have attempted suicide twice before he became a voluntary patient in a nursing home.[74] In May 1954 he announced that he would not seek re-election due to ill-health.[75] While in the nursing home he agreed to revise his war memoirs "Confession of Faith" and add his post-war life story, which he intended to be published under the title "Testament of Faith".[76]

When he had arrived back in Britain at the end of the war, Baker's doctor had given him a check-up and told him to take six months' rest, the first half in bed, as his heart was in a poor state. The military authorities also recommended two small operations. Baker disregarded their advice and went straight into business.[73]


In the 1950 general election Baker won his seat with a total of 18,143 votes, beating the Labour candidate Christopher Mayhew (15,714 votes) who was the poll favourite. Aged 28, he was then the youngest MP ("Baby of the House"). He was returned again in the 1951 general election and took an interest in agricultural matters in Parliament. In June 1953, Baker invited US Senator Joseph McCarthy to come to England and see Democracy at work and even offered to put McCarthy up at his London home or at his house in Pulham St Mary, Norfolk,[67][68] he later became chairman of an ill fated movement called the Company of Commonwealth Venturers[69][70] whose main goal was to promote a 'new Elizabethan Age' among Commonwealth countries. Baker improvised a Pageant to fill the Royal Albert Hall in 1954, 15,000 supporters wanted the 8,000 seats available.[71][72]


Persuaded by his friend James Thomas, at the time Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, to enter active politics, Baker agreed to let his name go forward for selection as the Conservative Party candidate for South Norfolk. The South Norfolk division was near where he had grown up, but Baker found that the local Conservatives were divided between an official Conservative Association and an Independent Conservative Association.[64] The South Norfolk Independent Conservative Association had been set up by supporters of John Holt Wilson in 1944, after a dispute over the previous selection.[65] Although feelings between the two Associations were still tense, both participated in the selection. Baker won easily, beating Eric Smith and John Holt Wilson. He had already decided that he needed to reunify local Conservatives, and brokered a joint constitution in which officers of both would be represented at every level. His solution was accepted despite breaking most of the model rules sent by Conservative Central Office.[66]

While a prisoner of war, Baker wrote an essay "in political diagnosis" to explain to a fellow prisoner why he supported the Conservative Party. After the war, he published the essay as "The Silent Revolution.[61] He added an epilogue written late in 1945, giving some of his diary entries for the latter part of the war and reflecting on the impact of peace on the purposefulness of the wartime generation.[62] At the same time he also completed his war memoirs, which he had begun writing while a prisoner of war; the resulting book was titled "Confession of Faith", and was also published by his own publishing company Falcon Press in 1946.[63]

Political career

He was a frequent visitor at the "Thursday Club",[59] a raffish luncheon club located at Wheeler's oyster bar, in Old Compton Street, London, a men's eating and drinking group dedicated to "Absolute Inconsequence";[note 9] other members included the actors David Niven James Robertson Justice and Peter Ustinov, the future Duke of Edinburgh, the intelligence officer Kim Philby, celebrity photographer Stirling Henry Nahum, known as Baron and Baker's friend, Colonel Sean Fielding, editor of Tatler magazine and later of the Daily Express. Baker was also a member of the Junior Carlton Club[60]

After the war Baker became a publisher with financial backing from his father; the company he founded, Falcon Press, was named after the armoured car which Baker had used during the war. As wartime paper rationing was continuing and Falcon Press was a newcomer without a large quota, he printed books in several foreign countries instead. The business was initially successful, enabling Baker to build up a "minor business empire" including four publishing companies, printing works, a wine merchants and a whisky distillery, aircraft research company, and a property business.[56] Muriel Spark worked for Falcon Press from 1951.[3] When Falcon Press ran into debt, Baker and Robert Maxwell (then making his name as a leading British publisher) planned to merge their respective publishing businesses; however the plans fell through.[57] Maxwell eventually bought the British Book Centre in New York from Baker in 1952.[58]

As early as 1940 Baker had found himself in charge of editing a broadsheet of poems, including some he had himself written. The collection was known as the "Resurgam Poets". Baker later adopted the pseudonym 'Colin Strang' to edit two anthologies and write poetry reviews for newspapers and magazines, until he was posted to Africa.[54] In early 1944, while he was back in Britain, Baker's poem sequence "The Land of Prester John" was published, to what he thought was a poor critical reception.[55]

Post war

On 2 August 1945 Captain Peter Baker (148257) of the Intelligence Corps, Staplehurst, Kent was awarded the Military Cross in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in North-West Europe.[53]

[52] He weighed 7 stone 2 lbs when he returned to England.[51] and then back to London.Ghent, from where he flew to Venlo. Baker got permission to make his own way home and drove in a requisitioned Mercedes to US Ninth Army During the spring of 1945, rations ran short in the camp as the Allied armies moved closer, and the camp was liberated on 12 April 1945 by the [50]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.