Harry Baxter

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Henry Baxter
Born (1921-04-08)8 April 1921
County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died 10 January 2007(2007-01-10) (aged 85)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Brigadier
Commands held Ulster Defence Regiment

Brigadier Henry Joseph Patrick "Harry" Baxter CBE GM KM (8 April 1921 – 10 January 2007)[1] was an Irish [2] born fourth generation soldier who overcame the handicap of being blind in one eye to join the army and rose to command one of the largest and most controversial regiments in the British Army.

Indian Army[edit]

Harry Baxter was born a "child of the regiment" to the Royal Irish Fusiliers.[3] Despite being blind in his right eye as the result of a childhood shooting accident in India he was determined to join the army in 1939. The medical officer who tested him was impressed to meet someone who was trying to cheat his way "into" the army that he passed him fit for the Indian Army.[3] He gave up a scholarship place at Oxford University and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. to the Punjab Regiment[disambiguation needed] on 11 October 1942 with the number 363915. Baxter's service in India was mostly wartime and he served in Burma.[2] His Emergency Commission was changed to a Permanent Commission in the British Army on 25 May 1946 when he joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers (RIF) as a Lieutenant.[1][4]

Royal Irish Fusiliers[edit]

In 1947 Baxter transferred to the RIF on a regular (permanent) commission and served in Palestine, Egypt, Greece, Germany and finally Malaya where he was Mentioned in Dispatches[2][5] During this time he spent four years on Extra Regimental Engagement (ERE) to Lord Mountbatten's staff. Between 1963 and 1966 he was the commander of the North Irish Brigade's depot bases in Eglinton Barracks County Londonderry and St Patrick's Barracks County Antrim and also spent a period as a staff officer with the Berlin Brigade before being appointed Brigadier UDR. He was awarded the OBE in the 1968 Queen's Birthday Honours list.[6]

George Medal[edit]

Baxter was awarded the George Medal for his actions at Gough Barracks, Armagh when, as a major, he and Captain Henry Chavasse removed a viable bomb from outside the armoury and drove it to a safe place for disposal. The detonator of the bomb exploded whilst it was in transit but the device did not explode.[7][8]

Ulster Defence Regiment[edit]

Baxter assumed command of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) in April 1973 from Brigadier Denis Ormerod.[9] Like Ormerod, Baxter was a Roman Catholic commanding a locally raised and predominantly Protestant regiment during a time of intercommunal strife.[10]

He was in command during the notable Ulster Workers' Council strike in 1974 which was considered to be a "turning point" in the regiment's history and "coming of age" comments listed by Major John Potter in his unofficial history of the regiment.[11]

Having a brigadier as regimental commander was unusual in the modern British Army but the size of the Ulster Defence Regiment with its 11 battalions and over 9,000 men and women (at its peak) demanded an officer of higher rank than colonel.

Baxter was the commander of the UDR at the time of the Miami Showband killings, when several soldiers of the regiment were involved in the killing of musicians outside the town of Banbridge.

He returned to the UDR in 1977 as Colonel Commandant of the regiment until 1986.[12][13]


  1. ^ a b Houterman, Hans; Koppes, Jeroen. "Officers of the Indian Army 1939–1945 -- B". World War II Unit Histories & Officers. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Ryder, p. 69.
  3. ^ a b Doherty, pp. 37–8.
  4. ^ "No. 37577". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 May 1946. p. 2506. 
  5. ^ "No. 41079". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 May 1957. p. 3157. 
  6. ^ Ryder, p. 70.
  7. ^ Ryder, pp. 69–70.
  8. ^ "No. 41632". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 February 1959. p. 1061. 
  9. ^ "No. 46046". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 August 1973. p. 9388. 
  10. ^ Potter, p. 102.
  11. ^ Potter, p. 132.
  12. ^ "No. 47346". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 1977. p. 12788. 
  13. ^ "No. 50485". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 April 1986. p. 5183. 


  • Doherty, Richard (2010). In the Ranks of Death: The Irish in the Second World War. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military. pp. 37–8. ISBN 1-84415-966-3. 
  • Potter, John (2001). A Testimony to Courage: The Regimental History of the Ulster Defence Regiment 1969–1992. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books. ISBN 0-85052-819-4. 
  • Ryder, Chris (1991). The Ulster Defence Regiment: An Instrument of Peace?. London: Methuen Publishing. ISBN 0-413-64800-1.