BAKER - FREDRICK - NGA-PUHI - HOKIANGA - NZ - 1942 ------ 1958
edmondsallan -Hello -The planning for the battle of El Alamein was now under way. Baker attended a conference on the proposed campaign and memorised the map details. At battalion headquarters he set up a sand tray, on which the battalion officers fought actions in preparation for the battle. Baker now demonstrated his attention to detail. The Maori Battalion was attached to a British brigade. The planning was careless and the locations of landmarks were inaccurate so that the force would have lined up over a mile south from where it should have been. Baker got his intelligence section to put down the starting-line tapes at the correct place. After considerable discussion he persuaded the other battalion commanders to move north into their correct positions. Half an hour into the assault Baker was seriously wounded. He was appointed an immediate DSO for his aggressive leadership and was invalided home. The wounds, to his mouth and tongue, were severe and he spent almost a year convalescing and undergoing surgery to restore his ability to speak. In his four months of command he had taken the battalion through a series of highly successful operations.
Baker does not seem to have identified strongly with his Maori ancestry. He wrote about the Maori soldiers he commanded with detachment, even some initial scepticism. Yet he came to admire their fighting ability, and the rank and file of the battalion apparently regarded him as Maori: Ngati Porou officers writing to Sir Apirana Ngata in February 1943 begin by lamenting the loss of the two Maori colonels, Love and Baker. When the history of the battalion was being compiled, Kippenberger raised the question of Bakerís Maori ancestry with Sir Bernard Freyberg and classified him among the Maori colonels.
Baker was appointed as director of the Rehabilitation Department in November 1943 by a government anxious to put rehabilitation on a proper footing. Based in Wellington, he was a member of the Rehabilitation Board, which aimed to see ex-servicemen placed in employment or provided with the means of earning a livelihood, and to see them suitably housed. It found housing by preferential allocations of state houses for over 17,000 personnel and housing loans for over 73,000. By 1963 there were 217,179 service personnel recorded with the board, for whom it also provided trade training, educational bursaries, settlement on the land or business loans.
At the height of the Rehabilitation Departmentís activity between 1946 and 1953 its annual expenditure averaged £19 million and it employed over 1,100 staff. Baker himself was very much at the centre of this activity. He was on all the executive and advisory committees of the board and provided the main co-ordinating link in the rehabilitation structure. He was also appointed to the Organisation for National Development, the Labour governmentís abortive attempt to provide for planning after the war.
Maori resented the way their soldiers had been treated by rehabilitation policies after the First World War, and the government had stated as early as 1940 that it would treat Maori and Pakeha ex-servicemen equally. It was Bakerís responsibility to ensure that this happened. He accepted that a special organisation was needed for Maori and supported the establishment of the Maori Rehabilitation Finance Committee. The Rehabilitation Board used the Native Department, and later the Department of Maori Affairs, as its agent and Baker was insistent that the services to Maori reach the same standard as those for Pakeha ex-servicemen. When he was not satisfied that these standards were being reached he kept up a steady pressure to force changes. By this policy he honoured Ngataís promise that if Maori paid the price of citizenship they would receive its rewards.
In April 1954 the Rehabilitation Department was abolished and made a division of the Department of Internal Affairs. Baker remained its director but was also appointed to the Public Service Commission on 15 September 1954. He died of a heart attack in Wellington on 1 June 1958, survived by his wife and their daughter and son. Til we meet again - Regards -edmondsallan