View Full Version : Raymond Baxter dies, aged 84

15th Sep 2006, 16:40
Brief info here (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/5350436.stm).

I always enjoyed his work - a real professional, enhanced no doubt by his personal experience.

15th Sep 2006, 16:44
There can be few broadcasters thought of with as much fondness by so many people, except perhaps David Attenborough.

What a gent.

Fly well, Mr. Baxter.

Gerry Mobbs
15th Sep 2006, 16:49
Sad news indeed.Just heard on local radio(BBC Essex) Raymond Baxter in an old interview "I have the highest regard for the United States.In two operational tours they were the only ones who managed to shoot me down"!

15th Sep 2006, 16:52
One of the last of a kind.

Pilot, Broadcaster of renown and Rally Driver from the old school having competed in the Monte etc.

He made one of the most funniest speeches I have ever heard at an Ecurie Cod Fillet (don't ask if you don't know!) re-union a few years ago.

Irreplacable, Rest in Peace Raymond.

15th Sep 2006, 16:55
A childhood hero of mine also much respected by my old man - and that must say something!!!

Recently bought & read his autobiography 'Tales of my Time' - surely a man of our times!!!

PZU - Out of Africa

Flying Lawyer
15th Sep 2006, 17:50
Very sorry to hear the news. He was a delightful man.

He helped me with my very first aviation case 25+ years ago. (Representing the late great Stef Karwowski accused of breaching Rule 5 - wrongly accused, of course. ;) ) And finally, only a few months ago, he was an enormous help when I was doing some research on the early days of the Arrows for the eulogy at Ray Hanna's memorial service.

I could happily listen to him talk for hours. He had such a wonderful command of language - as good as anyone I've met in my life - and the talent hadn't diminished with increasing age.

He's in this picture, emerging from St Clement Danes.


He was a success in many different spheres, and will be missed by countless admirers in each of them.

Rest in Peace, Raymond.

Tudor Owen

15th Sep 2006, 18:22
Very sad news indeed.
You couldn't meet a nicer chap...
Had loads of ability, plus time for everybody.

15th Sep 2006, 19:13
"And now from the Laffins Plain end.............!"

"Coming in over the Black Sheds..................!"

In the immortal words of Roger Bacon "Suddenly a cloud came and took all away."

RIP Raymond and thankyou.

15th Sep 2006, 19:41
I waws brought up on "Tommorrows World". My passion for technology and aviation is a direct result of Raymond Baxter's knowledgeable and passionate presentation.
The world is getting smaller.

15th Sep 2006, 19:42
My favourite quote as Concorde lifted off on its first yest flight - "It flies!"

Ex- Spitfire pilot, dies on Battle of Britain day, though I think his Spitfire days were a year later(?)


vintage ATCO
15th Sep 2006, 19:51
Top bloke. The voice of my childhood. Tomorrow's World was never the same.

What a sad loss. :(

PPRuNe Pop
15th Sep 2006, 20:13
I have only just heard of Ray's passing. While it is not a shock, because of his ill health, it is nonetheless a moment for those who knew him well, as I did, who find it hard to accept.

I have known him since 1977 during the days, months and years of Leisure Sport. He was much loved by all the team and staff there and enjoyed the many social hours we spent at what we called the "Big House" at Thorpe Park.

I invited him to at our Gatbash at the very place we are having the next one, at the Thistle hotel in Horley. He amused everyone with his brilliant repartee and then enjoyed the evening chatting to our friend John Farley and many others. It was only when his wonderful secretary, Margaret, said they should get back to his Thameside home that he bade farewell after midnight.

I will miss him personally, but there are perhaps millions who will miss him too, and remember his fantastic ability as a broadcaster. Others will remember his days as a very special Spitfire pilot who led many daring raids at very low level over Belgium.

RIP Ray, your memory will last forever.

15th Sep 2006, 20:26
As a fellow broadcaster, I can tell you that the daddy of us all will be sadly missed.
A great knowledgable chap. You knew when he did a prog that what he spake was thouroughly researched and spot on (unlike today's poor excuses).

Here's a toast to you Raymond!

15th Sep 2006, 21:30
...today. A voice that I grew up with watching Tomorrows World. As well as being known for his TV work he was also an ex RAF WW2 Spitfire pilot.
BBC News Item (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/5350436.stm)

15th Sep 2006, 21:37
What a great shame, his is the voice I shall always remember from the televised airshows of the 80s and early 90s.


PPRuNe Radar
15th Sep 2006, 22:12
As recounted by PPRuNe Pop, his appearance at a GatBash is fondly remembered. A legend and someone etched forever in my memory (especially the G-VTOL ski jump take off).

Mind you, a friend of mine was at an Air Britain quiz night whilst at Uni way back in the 80's when Raymond was quizmaster. He was more drunk than the students apparently, before the night even started ;)

A star !!!

John Eacott
15th Sep 2006, 22:13
RIP. He was such a fascinating man to listen to, and will be sadly missed. :(

15th Sep 2006, 22:14
What a nice guy, head and shoulders with the other Ray (Hanna) in my opinion. I wish they were both still with us. Bless you Ray...

John Farley
15th Sep 2006, 22:23
The word professional is sometimes used a bit loosely these days but if ever anybody deserved to be so described it was Raymond. I was fortunate to fly with him several times including broadcasting live from Farnborough. His command of the language and sense of occasion was superb.

But for me the best thing he ever did was at the Fairford RAF 75th Birthday show when he broadcast live from the behind the pilot in the BBMF Lancaster as it led a formation of current RAF aircraft across the field.

He had just less than a minute to do justice to 75 years of the Royal Air Force. He used 116 words.

(You will have to imagine the background sound of four Merlins as well as the strains of the Royal Air Force March which the producer mixed in behind Raymond's words)

"If ever there was a flying shrine to courage, you join me there now. In these confined spaces brave men fought and died.

The history of the Royal Air Force is punctuated by great names both within and without the Service. Some defied the politicians, some defied the accepted rules of technology, some defied the enemy in the face of fearful odds.

But the people who made the Royal Air Force what it was and is today are anonymous. They are the men and women who were, and still are, prepared to serve and simply go on doing the job in hand, to the best of their ability whatever the circumstances and however great the cost"

How many people could match that?

I shall miss him.

15th Sep 2006, 22:29
Not a great surprise, but not welcome nonetheless. Bless you Ray.

I remember him fondly from my impressionable years, not only from his influence upon me at the RAeS during my aeronautical engineering degree, but also as a very respected commentator and Tommorow's World presenter.


15th Sep 2006, 23:14
Commentating during the 80's and 90's......and the 60's and 70's before that!



Footless Halls
16th Sep 2006, 11:50
My recollection was that the BBC grew less than enamoured with him as he persisted in praising the achievement of Concorde and was unwilling to broadcast 'knocking copy' or pander to environmentalists, etc.
Good for him!
I may be wrong - anyone care to shed light on this aspect of his life?

16th Sep 2006, 13:04
This from another forum I frequent:

"In the 1950s my dad used to race motorbikes and Shell made a film about the Worcester Auto Club, of which he was president. The film was narrated by Raymond Baxter and when it was done some folks fron Shell came round, with Raymond Baxter to show it. Being an old spitfire pilot and a bit of a hero to my Dad and his mates who'd all been in the services during the war, everyone wanted to meet him and buy him a drink. At the end of the night, the men from shell had to carry an unconcious baxter out to the car to drive him away. My Dad and all present were very impressed by this and as a result of that tale, I've always held the man in high regard as a bloke who wasn't afraid to get stuck and wasn't afraid of making a fool of himself, a fear which has held all of us back at some time in our lives. Raymond Baxter was a real old school character and personality, the like of which are pretty thin on the ground these days and so, in my eyes, was my Dad. RIP the pair of you."

Dan Air 87
16th Sep 2006, 13:50
Like a lot of other posts, I well remember as a kid Tomorrows World and how well he hosted the programme. I also will never forget his expert commentaries on air shows. He was a wonderful man and he will be sadly missed. Thanks Raymond for opening my eyes to new technology. You will never be forgotten.

16th Sep 2006, 14:01
Few people (if any) have done more to further understanding and broaden the appeal of aerospace and automotive engineering amongst the greater masses.

I raise my glass to a man who literally got inside his subject, enriching all our lives through the professionalism with which he plied his craft.

Unfortunately, with Raymond Baxter’s passing, it does feel as if the lid has truly been put an age of great British engineering triumphs.

RIP Raymond, you were pure class in every respect!

16th Sep 2006, 15:00
Don't think there's much I can add to what's already been said, except to thank John Farley for posting Raymond Baxter's words spoken aboard the BBMF Lancaster. Reading them just now was a fitting reminder of his inimitable style and voice.

Big Tudor
17th Sep 2006, 18:25
John Farley
That last paragraph should be mounted in every Whitehall corridor in letters two feet high. And every politician and officer of air rank should memorise it upon taking up their post. Says more in 50 odd words than any piece of propaganda that their airships churn out.

And the whole piece should be studied by anybody who performs a public speaking duty. RBs delivery, choice of words and the emotion he conveyed are, IMHO, unequaled amongst broadcasters. His passion and enthusiasm for his subject were obvious for all to hear.

An exceptional broadcaster and one of natures finest gentlemen. RIP.

Phil Royle
17th Sep 2006, 19:16
His voice will always be synonomous with Tomorrow's World and his fascination and passion for aviation. A true professional in all respects, anyone who has met him will agree that he had charm and wit bat his fingertips, he will be sorely missed. He was an inspiration to all of us who aspired to aviation. Rest in Peace

17th Sep 2006, 20:19
Mr. Baxter was the man who enthused me about flying, and I am grateful to him for that.

19th Sep 2006, 12:13
I remember Baxter commentating for Farnborough Airshow broadcasts (live) in the '50s.

Dave Unwin
20th Sep 2006, 13:41
He did fall out with the BBC over Concorde. I had lunch with Raymond at his house earlier this year, when I interviewed him for a ‘Pilot Portrait’ in Today’s Pilot. Raymond was a passionate supporter of Concorde, and when the new editor of Tomorrow’s World devoted an entire edition to attacking the project his position became untenable and he resigned. This was entirely typical of the man. He had his principles - and stuck by them. How many of today’s TV presenters would do the same?
A true Gentleman.

24th Sep 2006, 16:22
I don't know if anyone else saw it but last night on ESPN Classic was a a re-run of the "incident-packed" 1973 British F1 GP. Commentary by RB. He was never lost for words, and 99% were a lot more sensible than what passes for sports commentary these days. I had forgotten how "proper" his diction was.

Can I recommend his autobiography:
(Tales of My Time by Raymond Baxter and Tony Dron), the latter no mean writer. A great read that shows RB was skilled in many fields. Sadly missed.

29th Sep 2006, 01:42
Raymond Baxter was my hero and inspiration when I was as a schoolboy. Wartime Spitfire pilot, motorsport competitor and enthusiast, superb commentator, broadcaster and a great gentleman. It was indeed a privilege to hear him again at the Goodwood Revival Meeting earlier this month when he did the commentary for the Spitfire flypast. We shall not see his like again.


Flying Lawyer
6th Jan 2007, 16:36
Although best known for his love of aircraft and fast cars, Raymond Baxter also loved music and poetry, and occasionally wrote poems.
I thought fellow admirers of the great man might like to read one.

It's included in a tributes feature in the December issue of Guild News, the bi-monthly journal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators - of which he was a Liveryman until his death.

Recall those warm, dulcet tones as you read it .......

Air Thoughts GroundedBy Raymond Baxter

There is a world I deeply love,
And thither would I roam,
Where I can find true solitude
And be at peace alone.
And feel the living pulses
Of the thing they call “my kite”,
The feeling of belonging
As part of it in flight.
Up where the air is clear as ice
In the realm of living light;
Where the silence is eternal,
Save for the song of flight.
There shimmering mountain masses rear
Their rounded heads in space;
And I would soar above them, turn
And dive upon them. Race
Along their clear cut canyons
With speeding, weaving ease,
Then bore into the hillside
Where swirling vapours freeze,
Blanketing the senses.
For I can spin the Earth before my eyes,
and throw it o’er my shoulder,
Because I love the skies!
These fancies flit before me
As I watch the patch of blue,
Framed by the ward’s white window
Which is my prison view.
And I think of those I flew with,
Of those who fly no more,
Patrols and sweeps and “doggers-ho”
Above the fields of war.
The never-ending searching
Around the glaring skies:
The hunter or the hunted
Its he who has the eyes,
The skill, the nerve, the quickness,
And Lady Luck’s sweet kiss,
It’s he who lives to shoot the line
And claim his pretty miss!
But there is heart ache to it,
There’s tragedy and fear!
But who recalls the horrors
When there’s singing, and there’s beer?
Yet when the songs are ended,
And there isn’t any beer,
Come the shadows of the heart ache
And agony and fear,
Blanketing the glamour.
But I can spin the Earth before my eyes,
And toss it o’er my shoulder,
And still I love the skies.



6th Jan 2007, 18:57
Thank you, Tudor, a wonderful poem from a great man.

And one to keep tucked away, to suggest as a reading at the funeral of a pilot who had been a POW. It would be an unusual and moving replacement for the familiar High Flight.

23rd Jan 2007, 10:12
I never met the great man personally but remember watching TW and the airshow reports as a kid and can still 'hear' his commentaries now...

Another side of the man was his membership of the ADLS-Association of Dunkirk Little Ships....
Basically this is a group that operate boats/ships that were used in the Dunkirk evacuations. They still sail across at 5 year intervals with a naval escort.
Anyway, Mr B had a boat called Orage if I remember correctly. He was in constant battle with my ex girlfriends father for the 'most famous boat' - He(my exs' pa) has a boat called Naiad Errant that has a well documented history, including photos taken at the time of a gunner on the bows with some sort of M/G mounted. This pic made it to the front cover of a book and caused much friction between the two of 'em:p There are other tales of the rivalry, but I shant bore you with them here:oh:
Think mr B was Commodore of the ADLS at some point too.

Anyway, one of broadcastings heroes. A great loss and the end of an Era- it's all shouty presenters now, with no idea how to 'present':(

23rd Jan 2007, 18:11
Watched him on Tomorrow's World in the 60's and stood behind him at Barclay's Bank Heathrow in the 70's . A professional and grand gentleman .

Flying Lawyer
22nd Apr 2007, 21:52
A Memorial Service was held at RAF St Clement Danes last Thursday, attended by many distinguished figures from the worlds of aviation, broadcasting and motor racing.

The eulogy was given by John Farley, who has kindly allowed me to copy it here. I feel very privileged to have been asked to say a few words to you about the flying side of Raymond’s life.

As we all know Raymond had many talents, interests and facets to his professional life but flying was something very special to him.

At the Farnborough airshow in 1974, Bill Bedford, then the Hawker Siddeley Aviation sales manager, suggested to Raymond that he should take a ride in the company two seat Harrier G-VTOL. Raymond being Raymond, was very keen to do this and in due course the word filtered down through the HSA PR system and I was asked to take him along during my display.

At that time my knowledge of Raymond was limited to his Farnborough commentaries and of course seeing him on Tomorrow’s World and I am afraid my initial attitude to having anybody - not just Raymond – as a passenger during my display was pretty negative.

Like any fast jet display it took the aircraft to its g limits and involved violent rolling manoeuvres. Not really passenger stuff. Then there was the little matter that the rear cockpit was designed for an instructor so it had full dual controls together with flap and undercarriage selectors that overrode those in the front cockpit.

It seemed to me any one of these items - not to mention the throttle and nozzle levers - were all too handy for a passenger to grab in the heat (or perhaps cold) of the moment.

As if realising what was going through my mind the PR man said:

“He used to fly Spitfires during the war you know”.

Well for me that changed everything.

Now I was being asked to fly a man without whose efforts - and those of so many of his generation - I would simply not have been free to live the life I did.

At once the trip changed from being hazardous to something that just needed careful planning and briefing.

That evening after the show Raymond and I met up and went to where GVTOL was parked.

I took to him instantly because for some unknown reason he treated me like a gentleman. 45 minutes later he had hoisted aboard the principles of how the Harrier did its VSTOL thing and we both had a clear idea of the kit he would use to record his commentary.

We then got airborne on a shake-down flight to Dunsfold so that Raymond could see for himself the manoeuvres involved and the recording equipment could be checked out.

Imagine my delight when I gave him control en-route and he did a couple of splendid twinkle rolls. The phrase duck to water comes to mind. After a while we reluctantly dragged our minds back to the task in hand - so I flew while Raymond talked.

To hear a polished talker do his act is one thing, but to be with him at the time and KNOW the extremely difficult circumstances in which he is finding just the right words is to be left in awe of a consummate professional.

By the time we had done a second trip to sort out a few snags in the recording system and returned to Farnborough for a run-through of the actual display we were both very happy and confident with our plan. On the day therefore I had no concerns and just got on with my normal routine as if I was on my own.

As I did so the man in the back talked in his totally polished way throughout the display. We finished with a couple of high speed rolls followed by a 5g break in full reverse thrust where he was faced with losing 450 kts in a 180 deg turn, arriving stationary at 1000 ft above the field, before the nose went down very steeply to set up a vertical landing on a pad.

Raymond handled all that without turning a hair as indeed he handled so many other commentary trips for example with Duncan Simpson in the first Hawk - again at Farnborough - and when he flew with the Red Arrows.

But what else would you expect from a 14 year old who pretended to be 16 in order to fly as a passenger with Cobham’s Flying Circus?

What else would you expect from a man who flew countless low level Spitfire 16 sorties against V1 and V2 sites during the war?

Quite apart from the fact that he was being shot at, aeroplanes in those days were not as well designed as they are today. Therefore they were much harder to handle. Raymond did not survive that period just on luck. He had an aviator’s talent and an aviator’s hands.

Four years after our initial Harrier trips together he produced another brilliant commentary when he explained live to the audience what it was like to go up the ski-jump at the 1978 Farnborough show.

Impressed though as I was with his performances in the Harrier, for me the best airborne commentary he ever gave was during the RAF’s 75th Birthday flypast over Fairford.

During this Raymond broadcast live from the behind the pilot in the BBMF Lancaster, as it led a formation of current RAF aircraft across the field.

In a moment when I read out what he said you will have to imagine the background sound of four Merlins as well as the strains of the Royal Air Force March which the producer mixed in behind Raymond's words.

Raymond had just less than one minute to do justice to 75 years of the Royal Air Force.

He used 116 words.

"If ever there was a flying shrine to courage, you join me there now. In these confined spaces brave men fought and died.

The history of the Royal Air Force is punctuated by great names both within and without the Service. Some defied the politicians, some defied the accepted rules of technology, some defied the enemy in the face of fearful odds.

But the people who made the Royal Air Force what it was and is today are anonymous. They are the men and women who were, and still are, prepared to serve and simply go on doing the job in hand, to the best of their ability whatever the circumstances and however great the cost"

How could anybody improve on that?

What a man.

Raymond left a letter with his solicitor saying that, in the event there was a Memorial Service for him, he would like it to be at St Clement Danes and for John to give the address.
What better indication of the enormous regard he had for John.