Rifleman Isaac Baker
R/3635 9th Bn., Kings Royal Rifle Corps
who died of wounds on 21 June 1915, age 21
Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension I.B.126
ISAAC BAKER was born on 17th April 1894 at Newbold, the son of Edgar Baker and his wife Hannah Eliza (Nicholson) and younger brother of Charles (1893). The family later grew with the births of Stanley (1899), John (1903), Kathleen (1906), Edmund (1910) and Edgar (1913).
Isaac’s father, Edgar, was a labourer in a pig-iron blast furnace, presumably for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company as they later moved to Barrow Hill where houses were let only to employees of that Company. In the 1911 census, Edgar is described as a foreman at the blast furnace and this is reflected in the family being allocated a new home at 6, Devonshire Villas, one of a small row of larger houses newly built for supervisors and managers of the local iron works. Charles is listed as a fitters’ labourer/engineer whilst Isaac, aged 16, is working as a blacksmith’s striker.
Isaac later worked at the Furnace Department of the Devonshire Works belonging to the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, where his paternal Uncle, also named Isaac Baker, was an official.
Just one month after war was declared, on 5th September 1914, Isaac enlisted at the Sheffield Corn Exchange. He was aged 20 years and 144 days when he joined “B” Company of the 9th Bn., Kings Royal Rifle Corps. The 9th (Service) Battalion had been raised at Winchester on 21st of August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s First New Army and joined 42nd Brigade, 14th (Light) Division.
Isaac’s medical examination on 8th Sept 1914 reveals him to have been 5’6” tall, weighing 132lbs and with a 36”chest. He is described as having a dark complexion, dark brown hair and brown eyes, with a tattoo on his left arm. His service records indicate that his religion was Church of England.
From Isaac’s records, we know that he arrived at the Winchester Depot of the KRRC on Thursday 10th September and was posted to the 9th battalion on Saturday 12th. It would have been at this point that he would have been assigned to the strength of “B” Company.
The 9th Battalion initially trained at Aldershot, moving to Petworth in November, and returning to Aldershot in March 1915. Isaac’s military conduct sheet lists him as being “absent off pass” twice during this period for which he lost a number of days pay each time. He was also absent from 23rd to 29th December and was docked 6 days pay when he returned. It is perhaps possible that he came home to spend Christmas with his family one last time.
Whilst at the Talavera Barracks, Isaac again went “absent off pass” for 2 days between 11th and 13th April. No reasons for this are noted on his record but his punishment was loss of pay and 7 days confined to barracks.
The battalion embarked for France, landing at Boulogne, on the 20th of May 1915 with the British Expeditionary Force.
The following account of the action in which Isaac was severely wounded is taken from ‘Celen Et Audax,’ a record of the 9th K.R.R.C. 1914/1918 by the battalion Inteliigence Officer.
“The Fifteenth of June found the Battalion settled into dug-outs near the Lille Gate and in reserve for an attack on Bellewarde Farm. At 1 p.m. on the 16th the Battalion moved up to the assembly trenches to the north of the Menin Road – the movement involving the whole of the Brigade (42nd) which then comprised of the 9th K.R.R.C., the 9th R.B., and the 5thShropshire Light Infantry and the 5th Oxs & Bucks L.I.
“B” Company under the command of Capt. E.W. Benson, reached a position some 250 yards in front of “Rifle Fare” or about 700 yards from “Hell Fire Corner”. “A” Company, however, came under heavy shrapnel fire and the Battalion Adjutant, Lieutenant B.G.W. Bourke was killed and Lieutenant Stow wounded. In addition, during the attack near Hooge, the Battalion lost 5 men killed, one died of wounds and 58 were wounded.
After a short period of rest at Vlamertinghe the Battalion returned to the trenches, proceeding via Ypres and through the Sally Port – a narrow culvert under the Ramparts near the Menin Gate and just about large enough for a man to lead his horse through. Then on, past the school “Ecole De BienFaisance” to the G.H.Q. which is just in rear of Hell Fire Corner.
During this move, a shell bursting near 8 Platoon of “B” Company wounded 15 men.
One of these wounded men was Isaac Baker who was taken to the 42nd Field Ambulance on 19th June 1915, and then to 3rd Casualty Clearing Station. He had shrapnel injuries to his head and legs and died of his wounds on 21 June 1915, aged 21. He had served 287 days in the army and just one month on active service.
Isaac is buried in Plot I.B.126 at Bailleul Communal Cemetery extension in Nord, France, near the Belgian border.
In a letter to his parents from an officer, Isaac was described as “the best soldier in the platoon, and beloved by officers and men.” The only personal effects returned to his family were several letters and a photograph. His father, Edgar, was not satisfied and queried some other effects which were missing, notably shirts and handkerchiefs which had been expensive for the family to provide.
His parents also received a Princess Mary gift box on his behalf. An advertisement had been placed in the national press inviting monetary contributions to a ‘Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund’ which had been created by Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. The purpose was to provide everyone wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a ‘gift from the nation’.
© Ann Lucas