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John Sonny Baker

Portrait of Second Lieutenant John Sonny Baker, Auckland Weekly News, 26 April 1944. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19440426-22-43.

Portrait of Second Lieutenant John Sonny Baker, Auckland Weekly News, 26 April 1944. Sir George Grey …


  • Title
  • Forenames
    • John Sonny AWMM
    • John Lionel Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015 - Military Personnel File, Whanau/Family records
  • Surname
    Baker AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
    • Jacky AWMM
    • Jack Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015 - Whanau/Family records
  • Service number
    WWII 64195 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
    • Ngāti Rongomaiwahine AWMM
    • Te Aitanga a Mate, Te Whanau a Iritekura, Te Whanau a Rakairoa Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015 - Whanau/Family Whakapapa (genealogy)
  • Waka
  • Rohe
    Tairawhiti Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015 - Whanau/Family Whakapapa (genealogy)
  • Religion
    Anglican, Christian Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015 - Whanau/Family records

Civilian life

About birth

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  • Birth
    16 July 1918 AWMM TikitikiWaiapu River AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
    • WW2 Unknown AWMM Ruatoria, New Zealand AWMM
    • The Bungalow
      Waiomatatini Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015 - Whanau/Family records
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    WW2 Mrs R. Baker (wife), Mangatuna, Tolaga Bay, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Pre 21 July 1943 AWMM Married/WWII AWMM


Wars and conflicts

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  • War
  • Campaign
  • Armed force / branch
    Army AWMM
  • Service number
    WWII 64195 AWMM
  • Military service
  • Promotions/ Postings/ Transfers

Military decorations

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  • Medals and Awards
    • Military Cross and bar (MC*) AWMM
      21 June 1945 AWMM
      Bar to the M.C. Lieutenant - London Gazette 21/6/1945 2/Lt. Baker took over command of a rifle company on 26 July 1944 when his Company Commander was seconded to Advance Base. On the night of 30/31 July 1944 he commanded a forward company in an attack during the advance to Florence. The task of the company was to capture the battalion's right objective: a high feature known as Point 250, a depth of approximately 1000 yards into rough wooded country. His company met with very strong enemy resistance, heavy mortaring and Spandau fire supported by two Tiger tanks. Realising that further attempts to dislodge the enemy from the objective where the Tiger tanks were firing from would cause heavy casualties,he consolidated until daylight. At first light, acting on his own initiative he obtained the support of one troop of tanks from the unit on his right flank, and began to attack another Point 250 about 800 yards beyond, which was to have been the battalion's second objective. By by-passing the first Point 250, his company again met very strong resistance during which one of his supporting tanks was knocked out. With dash, he led his company in a bayonet charge, completely over­throwing the enemy and capturing the objective. The Tiger tanks pulled away, and the enemy commenced withdrawing on his left flank. Appreciating the advantage, he re-grouped immediately and started an attack on Balbani, the battalion's objective for pending attack for two days later. By skilful use of tank fire support, Bren carriers in conjunction with infantry, he led his men in a determine attack wherein the objective was gained after many of the enemy were killed and several taken prisoner. By superior tactics and inspiring leadership, he performed this outstanding feat with minimum casualties to his men thus giving the battalion much tactical advantage. On the morning of 2 August 1944 his company was given the task of attacking another objective at Giogoli, approximately 2000 yards beyond. With tanks, carriers, and 3 in. mortars under his command, this officer pressed home the attack and captured the objective, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Heavy shelling, mortaring and machine-gun fire were encountered throughout the attack, the enemy using Panther tanks in conjunction with his infantry to beat off the attack. It was only through the skilful use of the support arms under his command and the use of artillery that this officer was able to break through the enemy defences and lead his company on to it's objective. During this determined attack one Panther was knocked out. On the following morning he was given a further task of establishing a bridgehead across the River Greve with his company. This he did, realising the enemy's disorganisation and weakness at this particular point, he decided on his own initiative to continue the advance and in a very short time his company had covered two to three miles in pursuit of the enemy when he was finally held up. In all operations before or after this action this officer has shown moral courage of the highest order, and his outstanding initiative and skill has been a source of inspiration to those under him. The National Archives. Recommendation for Award for Baker, John Sonny. (Ref. WO 373/12/540). Military Cross. (Ref. WO 373/12/540). Bar to Military Cross. During the attack on Pascuccio Ridge on 7 December 1943, 2/Lt. Bake commanded his platoon with outstanding dash and vigour. He organised fought his way across the Ortona-Orsogna road and was reorganising on his objective when enemy tanks counter-attacked. 2/Lt. Baker immediately sent word to the neighbouring company, and personally directed the fire of his PIAT mortar on to the leading tank, so disconcerting It that time was gained for his own platoon and the neighbouring company to withdraw to a reverse slope. His PIAT continued firing, in spite of the concentrated return fire of several enemy tanks, until all ammunition was expended, the last round being fired at 15 yards range. 2/Lt. Baker's devotion to duty undoubtedly made good the withdrawal of his own and his neighbouring company. (London Gazette 6/4/1944 (i)) The National Archives. Recommendation for Award for Baker, John Sonny. (Ref. WO 373/12/540). Military Cross. (Ref. WO 373/12/540). Bar to Military Cross. AWMM
    • War Medal 1939-1945 AWMM
    • New Zealand War Service Medal AWMM

Training and Enlistment

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  • Military training
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
    WW2 Clerk AWMM
    GisborneGisborne AWMM
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment

Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes

Biographical information

Biographical information

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  • 'The axis road was very badly cratered and all vehicles were re-routed through 23 Battalion's area and the attackers told to wait until they arrived. Meanwhile the engineers with the bulldozer were working on the Maoris' road. The engineers were under fire and were having an awkward time.
    One 17-pounder was through before daylight and B Company, ordered to fill a gap between the forward troops, was in close support. Patrol reports indicated that the enemy was pulling back again and the advance was resumed. The objective, a ridge top (Point 250), was but 100 yards away when a tank duel ended with the loss of one Sherman and C Company was again withdrawn to the protection of some houses. A Company reported that it was sheltering in a wadi a quarter of a mile further back.
    An artillery stonk induced the Tigers to depart but not to any distance. Captain Baker, quite fed up with the prospect of further delay, decided on a bold and hazardous move. No. 13 Platoon had lost its commander (Sergeant Matchitt) and five others who had been wounded by a shell or a mine while crawling through a line of grape-vines and was drawn into reserve with 15 Platoon (Lieutenant Mahuika). No. 14 Platoon (Lieutenant Paniora), with the help of two tanks still with the company, was directed to work around the enemy and cut the road behind them.
    The Tigers recognised the danger and departed, this time for good. No. 14 Platoon, accompanied by the tanks and supported by machine-gunners, ended the movement by a 500-yard attack with the bayonet towards the road. Germans behind rows of vines were trapped and killed, some twenty of them, and the road was reached without a casualty.
    No. 14 Platoon was in high good humour for the exhilaration of the charge with the tanks and the business at its conclusion was recompense for the days of marching over the Tuscan hills and through the Tuscan timber. Lieutenant Paniora was wounded before Captain Baker arrived and although the objective was passed the Ngatiporou leader had the bit in his teeth. A huge villa set on a small knoll took his attention. He sent 13 and 15 Platoons at it and acquired an enemy RAP complete with staff, lacking only a doctor. C Company was now a mile ahead of where it should have been and prudence suggested consolidation. No. 14 Platoon was ordered forward to another casa near by and after a sharp fight took possession. The company casualties for the day were twelve for about 30 Germans killed, 6 wounded, and 6 prisoners. For this action Captain Baker was awarded a bar to his MC.' (Source: Cody, J.F. 28 Maori Battalion. pp. 398-399.) AWMM
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About death

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  • Death
    23 May 1986 AWMM
    Age 67 AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
    Papatoetoe Cemetery, 357 Puhinui Road, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM RETUR-B-905 AWMM
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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  • Memorial name

Roll of Honour

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Leave a tribute or memory of John Sonny Baker

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  • Known affectionately to his whanau/family, friends, mates and colleagues as Jack or Jacky, he was a loving husband, dad, pop/papa, uncle, brother, nephew & cousin. A very staunch and loyal supporter of the Mt Wellington RSA and the 28th Maori Battalion Association. Always ready with a smile and a warm greeting.
    Public - Petena (Tena) - Child - 23 January 2015



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  • External links
  • References
    • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. (1945). Nominal Roll Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force No. 12 (Embarkations from 1st July, 1943 to 31st December, 1943). Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
      WW2 12: WW2 10 AWMM
    • Borman, C. (1954). Divisional Signals. Wellington, N.Z.: Department of Internal Affairs, War History Branch. AWMM
      p.72. AWMM
    • Cody, J. (1956). 28 (Maori) Battalion. Wellington, N.Z.: Department of Internal Affairs, War History Branch. AWMM
      pp.319, 330, 333, 373, 396, 398-9, 402, 407, 414, 434, 483. AWMM
    • Kay, R. (1967). Italy. Volume 2. From Cassino to Trieste. Dept. of Internal Affairs, Historical Publications Branch, Wellington, N.Z. AWMM
      pp.163, 187. AWMM
    • Ko te Reo Huringa Tau o te Ope Maori Tuarua, i noho ki Remuera, Ohaeawai, 1942-43: The Anniversary Magazine of the Second Maori Battalion, Remuera, Ohaeawai 1942-1943. Patrick Smyth Papers, MS-2002-147, Auckland War Memorial Museum. AWMM
    • Nominal Roll of Members of the 2nd Maori Battalion, 26th January 1943. Part of the 2nd Maori Battalion Anniversary Magazine. (MS-2002-147). Auckland War Memorial Museum. AWMM


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DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
02 August 2022Lorraine MonaGisborneResearcher
23 January 2015Petena (Tena)Gisborne NZChild

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