Eulogy for Peter Baldwin delivered by his son Paul
Two hats, one his RAF head dress the other his umpires hat two sticks; one his Warrant Officers cane, the other a cricket stump; Two hats, Two sticks, one person, symbolism of what he loved and what he lived for. My Mum was his greatest companion throughout his life, but these objects defined his life for nearly all of his 73 years.
But what did they mean to him, what did they help him achieve?
So we’ve gone full circle. The camp where the funeral was held, Bruggen, was one of Dad’s favourite postings and yes it was their last posting in Germany, but having been at Rheindahlen in the 60’s, Ramstein in the 70’s, Gutersloh in the 80’s and Bruggen in the 90’s. Mum and he then decided to move back to live in Germany in the 00’s and sadly he died there in the teens. For over 50 years Germany was important to Dad and not just important, he felt that except for Tollesbury it was his home where he loved to be and amongst the people he loved.
The irony is, I suppose, that as RAF Germany has closed and BFG is all but closed, so Dad’s life has closed albeit unexpectedly. We all thought RAFG and BFG would go on forever, but everything has to end despite those closest and most involved not wanting it to.
As an RAF veteran of 38 years’ service to the Crown, from Boy Entrant to retirement from the service at age 55 as Warrant Officer, then Chairman of the RAFA Germany branch, a heartfelt thank you to those standard bearers who represent RAFA here today and of course as Treasurer of the RAF Photographers Association, many of whom Members are here today.
Dad never lost touch with the RAF from the age of 16 and a half, the Royal Air Force was his way of life and of course through him ours too, as the 30 odd house moves and postings that we made will attest to!
He was, in his prime, a Combined Services and RAF representative cricketer, and footballer of note and once he’d hung up his boots he became a poacher turned game keeper in both of his favourite sports as an umpire and referee, he gave back what he took out of each job and each sport, each moment that he enjoyed, each final that he played or officiated in. That is reflected in the many comments and messages Mum and I have received, a man who was respected, admired, honourable and giving.
Air Marshall Sir Chris Colville emailed me after hearing the news of Dad’s death and sums up what I have been trying to say; “Peter’s legacy will live on. More than most, he led from the front, and when others stood in the background, he took the leading role. We will all miss him immensely.”
In his later years it was cricket and umpiring that he enjoyed most and when he hung up his white coat for the last time he continued his love of the sport vicariously by following my career – to the point I would have radio commentators approach me after the game to tell me that Dad had been in touch with them by email, to put them straight on things they were saying about me! We would always chat about the game and the matches I was involved in.
I will always carry our last conversation on Wednesday the 11th of December, when he told me that I had managed to give him the best Christmas present he had ever had, but 10 hours later he was gone, but he was a happy man proud and smiling – and I’m glad I gave him that present.
A good friend and cricketing team mate of both Dad and I and who some of you will know, Charlie Booker, said to me prior to the funeral in Germany, that Dad will be up there as the umpire for Bradman, Hughes, and Fredericks.
So therefore Dad, better than anyone, should have known that as an opening batsman as he was in his playing days that he shouldn’t have planted his leg in front of middle, but last Wednesday night he did and despite the hope that he was outside the line of off stump, he looked down those 22 yards the big umpire in the sky thought about it for a moment, nodded slowly and raised his finger…
The final entry in the score book reads; P A Baldwin: 73 – Method of dismissal: LBW
By kind permission of the RAF Photographers Association magazine ‘Flashback’