Tom Baker was born in Liverpool on 20 January 1934, the eldest of three children. His father was a steward in the Merchant Navy, and his devoutly Catholic mother worked as a barmaid and cleaner. The family was poor but aunts, uncles and cousins were kind and supportive, so it was not an unhappy childhood.
During the war, Tom’s mother chose to keep him at home rather than send him away with the evacuees as she couldn’t bear to be separated from him. As the war brought no harm to him or his family, Tom found it an exciting time, and became such a dedicated collector of shrapnel and salvage that he was presented with a certificate by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. He also became an altar boy revelling in the stupefying smell of incense, the incomprehensible mutter of Latin and the thrill and danger of Hell compared to which World War seemed fun.
View a clip from Tom’s This Is Your Life:
La Maison de Bon Secours in Jersey (now Highlands College) where Tom was first a monk.
Teenage in a monastery
Tom was not at all academic and struggled with everyday school work, failing the eleven plus. At 15, much to the delight of his family, he joined a religious order, the De la Mennais Brothers originating from Ploërmel in Brittany in France, and he dedicated himself to the monastic life. However as the years went by, disillusionment overwhelmed him, and at 21 he decided to leave. Tom later wrote about his time in the monastery in his autobiography “Who on Earth is Tom Baker?”
After God’s service came National Service: 2 years in the army medical corps. Initially Tom found himself in charge of the medical museum which nobody ever visited so he spent his time devouring books from the library. This wasn’t enough to suppress his boredom with the silence of the museum, so he managed to secure a posting as a hospital orderly to a military hospital in Germany.