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Horace Benjamin Baldwin

Sapper 500201 Horace Benjamin Baldwin, 61st Signal Company, Royal Engineers.

Horace was born in 1896 the son of Benjamin Baldwin and his wife, Alice née Green. Benjamin came from Cholsey, near Wallingford moving to Newbury to work on the railway in 1888. Initially they lived at Washwater on the southern rural fringe of the parish (at 2 Elm Cottages) before moving in 1900 to Railway Terrace near the centre of town.


Horace Baldwin

Horace Baldwin

After his schooling Horace became an apprentice at the Newbury Weekly News, a job he combined with part time soldiering as a member of the Newbury Company of the Royal Berkshire Regiment’s 4th (Territorial) Battalion. He was too young to serve abroad but responded to the call up in August 1914 and trained with the battalion. He then transferred to the Royal Engineers, still as a Territorial, serving with the Signalling Company that covered the Newbury area, the 2nd Midland Signalling Company.

 

Newbury Weekly News, 24 June 1915, p8 - Local War Notes
Mr and Mrs B Baldwin, of Railway-terrace, are proud to know that all their sons, four, are serving King and Country. The eldest son, Albert Victor, hs served nine years in the Royal Garrison Artillery, and has been in India for a good part of that time. The second son, Walter Charles Baldwin, enlisted last August in the City of London Fusiliers, and has risen to the rank of corporal, his regiment being now stationed at Cairo. He was for some time a ticket collector at Newbury Railways Station, but for some time had been a ticket examiner at Paddington from whence he enlisted. William John, the third boy, was formerly employed at Wyman’s Bookstall, Newbury Station, and had been promoted to relief manager, being on duty at Northampton when he enlisted in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry. The youngest son, Horace Benjamin, 1/4th Royal Berks, had served about four years of his apprenticeship at the “Newbury Weekly News” printing office when he was called up with the Newbury Territorials on the outbreak of war. He has since transferred to the Signal Service, Royal Engineers as a driver, and is now at Chelmsford with his company. Mrs Baldwin had also three nephews on service, Ernest Harry Brooks, who went down on the Bulwark at about the same time his brother, William, was gazetted second-lieutenant. A third brother, John, is also “doing his bit.”

 

His Company went to war as the 61st Signal Company, Royal Engineers, part of the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. This division was made up from home service volunteer Territorials (their terms of service meant they could not be sent overseas; these men were asked early in the war to volunteer for overseas service, a great many did so and went to war in 1915 (in the case of Berkshire Territorials they went to France with the 1st South Midland Divsion). On 27 January 1916 the Military Service Act swept aside the home service option offered by the Territorials enlistment terms and they were all deemed to be available for overseas service. In May 1916 the 2nd South Midlands Division was the first of these '2nd Line' Divisions to be sent to war.

 

A signal company was responsible for all aspects of communication between the various elements of the Division. The most effective means of communication was the telephone, which necessitated the laying of miles of cabling – all of which was vulnerable to enemy shelling and in almost constant need of repair, replacement, and maintenance. .The signallers would also use wireless methods of communication, not necessarily radio (which was in its infancy) - semaphore, flags, lights and pigeons were all used extensively.

 

The Baldwin Brothers

The Baldwin Brothers

The 61st Division, as part of the Fifth Army (XIX Corps), was involved in the infamous Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) or the Battle of the Mud as it is sometimes known.  The Fifth Army under General Gough was the main attacking force, aided by a Corps from General Plumer’s Second Army. The battle did not go well with only minor gains being made. Following the phase known as the Battle of Langemarck (16-18 August 1917) Gough’s tactics were discredited and the Fifth Army was moved north, out of the battle and General Plumer was given command of the British attack.

 

Horace’s death is recorded as the 21 August 1917, during the period when the 61th Division, along with the rest of the Fifth Army would have been relocating north. However, his grave is in a cemetery associated with a number of casualty clearing stations, field hospitals where wounded soldiers would be treated before being moved further away from the front.  The cemeteries alongside these Stations demonstrate that they could not save all the wounded men who reached them.  Horace evidently died of wounds received earlier, probably during the Battle of Langemarck.  His body lies in Mendinghem Military Cemetery, grave IV.F.28.

 

Horace’s elder brothers Albert, Walter and William also served; all four brothers were pictured in Berkshire at War, a special wartime publication from the Reading Standard, they were also mentioned in the local newspaper of Horace's death:


Horace Baldwin's name on Newbury War Memorial

Horace Baldwin's name on Newbury War Memorial (centre left)

Newbury Weekly News,

30 August 1917, p8 - Local War Notes
The sad news has been received that Signaller Horace Baldwin, son of Mr and Mrs Benjamin Baldwin, of Railway-terrace, was severely wounded in the head by a shell, and died from the effects on August 21st. The deceased, who would have been 21 years of age in October, was a member of the Newbury Territorial Company when war broke out, and he went into training with the 1/4th Battalion at Chelmsford. He afterwards transferred to the Royal Engineers signal service, and trained on Salisbury Plain. He had been in France 15 months, and was expected home on leave on Saturday. Relatives met the train by which he was likely to arrive. On Monday came the telegram announcing his death. A Newbury comrade, Driver Harry Aldridge, who had been on leave, went to see him on Sunday as he lay wounded. Baldwin was one of the three apprentices in the “Weekly News” office who were called up at the beginning of the war. He was a stalwart lad, and his death is much regretted. There are three other brothers in the Army, Albert, nine years in India; Walter, a sergeant, wounded in the Dardanelles, now on home service; and William, in the Yeomanry, expecting orders for abroad

 

Locally he is remembered on Panel 3 of the Newbury Town War Memorial.

 

His brothers all survived the war, as did his cousins Frederick John and Alfred William Brocks who were mentioned in the newspaper item from 1915. Two more Brocks brothers, Albert Baldwin and Arthur Percival, joined up after the article was printed. Arthur died on 16 June 1917 while serving with the 2nd/3rd Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers).

 

On a final note - the local paper reported on one those odd incidents that occured throughout the war, this one involving Horace's brother Walter:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 9 March 1916 - Local War Notes

An interesting memento of the Dardanelles reached the Vicar of St John's a few days ago in the shape of a Prayer Book, picked up at Suvla, with the inscription; "St John's, Newbury, Elder Lads Bible Class, 1906 - Walter Baldwin" - the writing being tyhat of Miss Luckett, who has had the bible class for so many years. The book was forwarded by a chaplain who remarked that it had evidently been well used, and would probably be greatly valued by its owner if he could be traced. The book is now in the possession of Sergt Baldwin's mother, Railway-terrace, and we are glad to hear the Sergeant is safe and sound with his regiment. Balsinw was originally employed on the Great Western Railway at Newbury. He was afterwards removed to London, and joined the City of London Fusiliers. He is one of four brothers who are with the Forces.
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 Died this day:
22 June 1944
Ernest G Scott
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