Private George Baker

Reprinted from The Packet, March 24, 2016
by Lester Green

Caleb’s first son to enlist.

George Baker

Pte. George Baker killed in action October 9, 1917, near the town of Langemarck, Belgium.Photo credit: Royal Canadian Legion, Clarenville

Letter from Caleb Baker

Letter from Caleb Baker to Hon. A.E. Hickman, 1919. Source-RNR Military Records, Provincial Archives, NL.

Born at Fox Harbour (Southport) on February 19, 1891, George was the son of Caleb and Theresa (Smith) Baker. On April 16, 1915 he enlisted at St. John’s and became the first of two sons of Caleb to go overseas with Newfoundland Regiment.

He completed basic training at Pleasantville and was assigned to F Company, 2nd Battalion. His Company embarked St. John’s on the SS Calgarian and sailed overseas. Upon arrival, the troop boarded a train to Newton-on-the Ayr, Scotland and completed nine more months of intensive training.

Private Baker’s first saw active duty when he traveled to Rouen, France and joined the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment that were serving under the British Expeditionary Forces at Rouen, France on April 15, 1916.

After a month in the trenches on the battle field, Private Baker developed pulmonary tuberculosis and was admitted to 87 Field Auxiliary Hospital. He later transferred to the 18 General Hospital at Camiers, France. In late May, he was invalided to England aboard the H.S. Stad Antwerpen and admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth, London. His medical treatment continued until early July.

Due to his sickness, Private Baker was fortunate not to be involved in the fatal Battle at Beaumont-Hamel on July 1. He had escaped the claws of death due to his medical condition.

The Newfoundland Regiment suffered heavy losses in that July 1 battle and it would not participate in active duty for several months. The Regiment would return to the battlefields at Gueudecourt in October, 1916.

Between the summer of 1916 and spring of 1917, Private Baker continued his training and improved his overall physical strength. He received orders that the 2nd Battalion was to join the 1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment, 29th Division, British Expeditionary Force.

He left Ayr with Draft Number 23 and embarked at Southampton on April 25, 1917. He arrived at Rouen, France two days later.

For the next six months, Private Baker was actively involved at the front line as the troops moved from Monchy-le-Preux to the Ypres region. He fought at the Battle of Langemarck August 11- 16. The battalion was given a recuperative spell after this battle. They resumed offensive duty on Sept. 20.

On October 9, during the Battle of Poelcappelle, Private Baker would participate in his final battle. He was killed in action during the day near the town of Langemarck, Belgium.

History lists the Battle of Poelcappelle as being a successful military operation for the Newfoundland Regiment but for the Baker family, it was horribly unsuccessful. Their son had survived Beaumont-Hamel and several other deadly battles but yet fell during one of the more successful battles fought by the Allies.

A telegraph concerning his death was not received at Clarenville Telegraph office until October 20. Two telegraphs arrived — one addressed to Rev. E.P. Ward to inform the family of the death of their son; the other, to Mr. Caleb Baker. It read simply: “Regret to inform you Record Office, London today reports No. 1439, Private George Baker, was killed in action October ninth.”

There was no evidence of a memorial plaque, scroll, medals or letters from the King in his military files but the family, like all other families, should have received these medals on behalf of their son’s sacrifice.

He had served his country faithfully for two years and 180 days.

Royal Newfoundland Military Service Record

Private George Baker #1439

April 13, 1915: Enlisted at St. John’s, Nl

June 19/20, 1915: Embarked St. John’s SS Calgarian assigned to Company F.

August 31, 1915: Allotment of 60 cents, 30 cents to Caleb Baker and 30 cents to himself.

March 27, 1916: Enlistment papers signed the second time at Newton Park School, Ayr’s, Scotland.

March 28, 1916: Embarked for British Expeditionary Forces at Rouen, France.

March 30, 1916: Disembarked Rouen, France

April 15, 1916: Joined 1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment.

May 15, 1916: Admitted to 18 General Hospital Camiers, France with pulmonary tuberculosis.

May 25, 1916: Invalided to England aboard H.S. Stad Antwerpen.

May 27, 1916: Admitted to 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, London.

May 30, 1916: Telegram to Mr. Caleb Baker concerning son’s admittance to Wandsworth Hospital.

July 8, 1916: Approval for furlough from July 8-17.

April 25, 1917: Embarked Southamptom and disembarked Rouen, France two days later.

April 26, 1917: His Draft Number 23 troop left Ayr for British Expeditionary Forces.

October 9, 1917: Killed in Action at Langemarck, Belgium.

October 20, 1917: Telegraphs to Caleb Baker and Reverend E.P. Ward concerning death of Pte G. Baker.

May 9, 1919: Letter with enclosed check to estate of $62.07 sent to Caleb Baker.

July 23, 1919: Letter to Hon. A.E. Hickman, Minister of Militia from Caleb Baker concerning lost of his sons.

August 7, 1919: Letter to Caleb Baker concerning his two sons pensions.

Total service two years and 180 days

No record of medals awarded to Private Baker could be found in military files.

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