Passing Out Parade At RMA Sandhurst. Not for me, thanks...

I’m A Baker You Know…

‘I’m a Baker you know. One of the Bakers of the Raj’.

I’m told that my Grandfather on my Mother’s side of the family ‘owned half of Norfolk’.

That’s a little over 1000 square miles of prime agricultural real estate. Nice one Grandad.

That is a million miles from the truth. But he was still a wealthy man. Jim Beddows was his name and he had various business and commercial interests in myriad places including, believe it or not, in France. So he got about a bit. I guess I must have inherited that element of his DNA as I’m very much like that myself. I like to keep myself on the go and am involved in lots of projects, many of them good causes that I derive a great deal of pleasure from. Like Jim, I’m never still, I’m always on the move, travelling to different places, meeting people, some good, some not so good. But making the most of every opportunity and contact that comes my way. People tease me at times, they reckon things sometimes just fall into my lap but that’s never been the case. I work hard for them.

So I reckon Jim would see a bit of himself in me. Which would make me feel proud of myself as it seems he was quite the man back in the day.

Jim was probably seen as something of a maverick at the time, as my family, traditionally, was one that expected all of its young men to ‘do the right thing’ and join the military, in our case, the Army. Doing your duty and all that, King and country. So there’s something else that Jim and I have in common. That wasn’t ever going to be the life for him just as it wasn’t for me either.

Which is, in good old retrospect, a little bit of a surprise as my family has long had a distinguished connection with the British Army. No, ‘distinguished’ is the wrong word here. Let’s just say that where history was being made in the Empire, the Baker family wasn’t that far behind. Because, as I only found out fairly recently, there was a connection between the family and the old British Raj in India on my Father’s side. That came as a bit of a surprise to me but it is part of the Baker story which I might, one day, explore a little further as I think it’s fascinating. I only found this out when, as part of some work I’d become deeply involved with (we’ll go more deeply into the ‘hush hush’ stuff later in the book), I was advised by Special Branch that, whilst they’d been vetting me, my family background had been explored and, with all the attention to detail and élan that they are renowned for, they’d discovered this connection with the Raj.

Wow. That made me think. Is that a good thing? Probably not all that, if I’m honest. The British Raj, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, refers to the period of British rule over the Indian subcontinent from 1858 to 1947. That was a time when the India we know today was referred to as ‘British India’ and was regarded as one of the jewels of the Empire. With my ancestors, according to Special Branch, playing their part in the administration of that part of the world.

I can just see all of the Bakers of old settled down in the Officers Mess. They’ve taken Tiffin and are now complaining bitterly about the quality of the port on offer. Seems we were up there amongst the best people at the time, Officers and Gentlemen all. Which raises the question as to why all that tradition and discipline didn’t filter its way up the family line and find me banging at the gates of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst on my 18th birthday, demanding that they let me in.

‘I’m a Baker you know. One of the Bakers of the Raj’.

You might have been able to get a commission using that tactic once upon a time. But I don’t think it would cut any ice (gin and accompanying tonic optional) today. Not that I was interested, of course. But it did, at least, raise the question as to why I never took an oath of allegiance to HRH myself, nor, it has to be said, had any interest whatsoever in doing so.

This is, after all, the very same Army that my Father, Richard Peter Baker chose to join in his formative years before, upon leaving it, commencing a career in business as a salesman before eventually taking up that most excellently of all British institutions by becoming shop keeper. I’m sure that he was an excellent soldier and maybe their trawling through the records had confirmed this to Special Branch who were, not unreasonably, now wondering why I hadn’t chosen to follow in his footsteps?

My reply to this query was because I was, and remain, as far as my family is concerned, the one who has always preferred to walk a slightly different path to everyone else. I’m not, if I am truly honest, that interested in the family tree, indeed, there is, for me, a fairly substantial indifference to this subject as far as this book is concerned but that’s not so much out of a lack of interest in the past as more of a yearning to look to the future and what is either about to happen or might be about to happen. In anycase, there are plenty of members of my immediate family who are interested in looking back whilst I look forward and I have made sure that they are aware that, whenever they find out something of interest, they are to let me know immediately so, rest assured, if there are any skeletons in the cupboard that belongs to Lord Russell, then they’ll be appearing here in all their bony glory!

Shall we get started then and see what happens?

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