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Harry Baker Locke (1919–1999)

by David Sutton

This article was published online in 2023

Harry Baker Locke (1919–1999), air force officer and commercial pilot, was born on 1 October 1919 at Kyabram, Victoria, son of Tasmanian-born Alfred Henry Baker Locke, bank manager, and his Melbourne-born wife Ida Claudine, formerly Williams, née Claringbold. He had a half-sister born from his mother’s first marriage. Harry was educated at Shepparton High School, then as a boarder (1934–36) at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, where he played Australian Rules football and studied chemistry, history, economics, and geography. He then worked as a clerk at the Footscray branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

On 26 April 1941 Locke enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for service in World War II. After training as a pilot in Australia and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), he was commissioned on 20 June 1942. Arriving in England on 5 September, he continued his training with No. 19 Operational Training Unit, Royal Air Force (RAF), with which he flew six sweeps over the Bay of Biscay in Whitley medium bombers. He was promoted to flying officer on 20 December.

After converting to Lancaster heavy bombers, Locke served (May-November 1943) in No. 467 Squadron, RAAF, and was promoted to acting flight lieutenant on 16 July 1943 (substantive 20 June 1944). In a September 1943 raid over Frankfurt, his load of incendiary bombs was set alight mid-flight by an attack from a German aircraft. The bomber’s crew was able to jettison the load, but the fire severed the Lancaster’s controls and braking system. Locke nonetheless successfully piloted the aircraft safely back to England, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

Promoted to acting squadron leader on 4 November 1943, Locke was posted to No. 463 Squadron, RAAF. In April 1944 he and his crew joined No. 97 Squadron, RAF, a unit of Pathfinder Force and subsequently of No. 5 Group, in both roles flying ahead of the main body of aircraft to mark bombing targets. On the night of 16–17 August 1944, during a mine-laying raid on Stettin Harbour, Germany, Locke’s low-flying Lancaster ‘O-Orange’ was picked up by searchlights and came under fire from a small enemy flak ship, damaging the hydraulic system and two of its defensive gun turrets. Despite the damage, Locke and his crew dive-bombed to strafe the enemy vessel, and then flew below tree level to escape from surrounding defensive systems. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions.

Locke flew a total of fifty-four bombing raids over occupied Europe. He later recalled, ‘I came from a very strict family and neither smoked nor drank before enlisting. However, due to the lifestyle and stress of my service, I took up both to assist me with the strain of enemy action’ (Howells 1999, 14). Standing five feet seven inches (170 cm) tall, he had earlier played cricket for the Elsternwick Cricket Club and Australian Rules football with the Old Melburnians. In December 1944 he helped to organise a series of Australian Rules football matches played by Australian servicemen in England.

On 24 January 1945 Locke received both his DFC and DSO from King George VI, one of eight RAAF pilots to be honoured at a private investiture at Buckingham Palace. Returning to Australia in February, he transferred to the RAAF Reserve on 29 March and joined Qantas Empire Airways Ltd for training as a civilian aviator. On 29 March 1946 at the parish church, Rumney, Cardiff, he married Elizabeth (Bette) Jeanne Bouckley, whom he had met in 1943. Qantas granted him leave for the marriage, which doubled as an advertisement for the airline’s new Lancastrian aircraft, in which his bride flew to Australia in July.

In 1947 Locke moved from Qantas to Trans-Australia Airlines. Based in Melbourne, he flew Douglas DC-3, Convair CV-240, Vickers Viscount, Lockheed L-188 Electra, and finally Boeing 727 aircraft. He was regarded as a dependable pilot who drew on his experience to assist younger pilots. Retiring in 1972, he moved to Sawtell on the New South Wales north coast. Survived by his wife and their son and daughter, he died on 5 November 1999 at Port Macquarie and was cremated.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Austin, Ron. ‘Memories from the Flight Deck.’ Trans Australia Airlines Museum Newsletter 56 (June 2008), 3. Copy held on ADB file
  • Australian War Memorial. AWM65, 3215
  • Howells, David. ‘Harry Locke, DSO, DFC.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 27 December 1999, 14
  • National Archives of Australia. A9300, LOCKE H B

Additional Resources

Citation details

David Sutton, 'Locke, Harry Baker (1919–1999)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/locke-harry-baker-32502/text40331, published online 2023, accessed online 16 July 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1 October, 1919
Kyrabram, Victoria, Australia

Death

5 November, 1999 (aged 80)
Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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