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Gough Richard Baker

Gunner 162689 Gough Richard Baker, No. 7 Signal School, Royal Field Artillery


Gough Baker's grave in Shaw Cemetery

Gough Baker's grave in Shaw Cemetery

Gough was born in Watersfield, Sussex in 1886, the third and youngest son of David Baker and his wife Sarah (née Penfold). David was a gardener, born in East Woodhay, who moved around a lot working in Sussex, Berkshire and Hampshire before returning to the Newbury area by 1901, when the family were living at North Lodge, Beenham. Gough is found in the 1891 and 1901 census returns as ‘George’; this is probably an error of transcription (census enumerators copied the names of the householders’ forms in summary books – which are all that survive today).

 

By 1911 Gough had completed his schooling and was working, according to their census return, as a game keeper – although ‘game keeper’s assistant’ may have been more accurate.  However, he did not settle to a life on the land, instead he learnt the trade of bootmaking and set up a boot repair business in Newbury.

 

Gough was not among the many young men who ansered Lord Kitchener's appeal for recruits in 1914, or Lord Derby's in 1915. It was not until conscription was introduced that he took action - and appealed against his call up:

 

Newbury Weekly News, 29 June 1916 - Borough Tribunal

Boot Repairer's Business

The sole proprietor of a boot repairing shop in London-road, Gough Richard Baker, said he was the only one who could run his business, He was 31, and married. Conditional exemtion was granted.

 

Conditional exemption was only a temporary reprieve; sadly the newspaper item does not indicate for how long Gough was granted - sometimes it would be a week or two in order to give a man time to settle his affairs before joining up, some times it would be for six months (the maximum), after which a further appeal might earn more time. All such decisions by the local tribunals could be appealed at the county tribunal, and many were - especially those which reprieved men from service.

 

It is possible that Gough was only given a short reprieve, or that the military won an appeal against his exemption (the county tribunal was poorly reported in the criticial period). Either way Gough closed down his business and answered the summons to military service. On 19 August he joined the Royal Field Artillery and was sent to Aldershot for training. After basic training he was sent to No 7 Signal School to learn a specialist skill, vital to the artillery. During this training he was taken ill and admitted to the Military Isolation Hospital at Aldershot, where he died on 23 November 1916 of acute pneumonia. He was buried five days later at Shaw Cemetery in grave 2414.

 

His funeral was reported in the local paper:

 

Newbury Weekly News 30 November 1916 p5 – Sad Death of a Townsman
The many friends of Mr G R Baker, of 17, London-road, Newbury, were saddened by the news of his death, which took places at the Military Isolation Hospital, Aldershot, on Thursday last. The deceased had carried on a successful boot repairing business for some time, and closed down on August 19th, when he joined the RFA as a gunner. After some preliminary training, he was taken ill with pneumonia, which proved fatal. The funeral took place on Tuesday, at the New Cemetery, Shaw, when a large number of friends and relatives attended, including Gunners Featherstone and Dunnet, RFA, neighbours of the deceased, who were given special leave to attend. Gunner Baker was also a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites, who were represented by Bros Steptoe (secretary(, Edwards, Sainsbury, Eggleton, etc. The family mourners were:- Mrs Baker (widow), Mr D Baker (brother), Mr John Baker (brother), Mrs A Baker (sister-in-law), Mr Henry Baker (uncle) and Miss J Baker (aunt). Mrs Brenchley (sister-in-law), Miss A Sayer and Miss E Sayer (sisters-in-law), Mrs Keel, Miss M Clark, Miss Evelyn Allen, Miss M Hurat, and Mr A Collins. The coffin, which was covered with the Union Jack, was of polished elm, with brass fittings, and was inscribed:


GOUGH RICHARD BAKER
Died 23rd November, 1916.
Aged 31 years

 

A large number of floral tokens of respect and esteem were sent by the following:- Mrs Baker (wife); Officers and Men of A Battery RFA Borden; Mr and Mrs H Baker (Reading); Edie, Ethel, and Alf; Annie and George; Eva and baby; Mrs A Baker, Mr Collins, A Parsons (Devizes); Mr and Mrs Rawlings; Gunner and Mrs Featherstone; Gunner and Mrs Dunnet; Mr and Mrs Green; Corpl and Mrs Hayward; Mrs Keel; Nurse Miller and family; Little Hilda; Miss Evelyn and Miss Elsie Allen; Miss Clark; Mr and Mrs and Miss Piper; Mr and Mrs Coventry; Mr and Mrs Bew and family; Mr and Mrs W H Kemp; Miss E Ford; Miss M Hurst; Mr and Mrs Smith; “Willie and Baby”; “An Old Pal”; Sapper and Mrs Harmer. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs E Hart and Son of Northcroft, Newbury.


His gravestone reads:

Gough Richard Baker
Gunner in the R.F.A. who died at Aldershot
Hospital. Novr 23rd 1916
aged 31 years.
“His sun is gone down while it is as yet day”
Also
Arthur Lloydd Baker
Nephew of the above
who died 11/2/1917
aged 5 years.

 

Gough’s age appears to have been a problem: although he was only 30 when he died his gravestone and coffin plate both make him a year older. The announcement of his death in the Newbury Weekly News Births, Marriages & Deaths column also gives his age as 31, indicating that the family believed he was a year older than he was. His age was given accurately in the 1891 and 1901 censuses, but the 1911 return - completed by Gough himself - added a year to his age.


Losing a son to sickness before he even left for the front was tragic, but worse was to come in 1918. First Gough’s nephew, Arthur Lloyd Baker, died in Newbury, aged only 5 - he shares his uncle's grave. Presumably he and his mother, Sarah (née Claridge) were staying with his grandparents while his father was serving abroad.

 

Then Arthur Lloyd's father and Gough's brother, Arthur James Baker (Pte 201585, 2/4th Battalion Hampshire Regiment), was killed in action on 10 April 1918, in Palestine and was buried in grave Q49, Ramleh War Cemetery.

 

Gough Baker's name on Newbury War Memorial(left)

Gough's name on Newbury War Memorial

(left)

Then the third and final brother, John Henry Baker (Pte Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry), died of wounds on 25 August 1918. He is buried in grave III.E.12 at Bac-du-Sud British Cemetery at Bailleval, France.

 

Only Gough is remembered locally - on Panel 5  of the Newbury Town War Memorial and on the Speenhamland Shrine as well as on his grave in Shaw Cemetery.

 

Neither of his brothers ever lived in Newbury and both were married and had settled elsewhere: Albert in Weston-super-Mare and John in Chalfont St Giles (where his name is recorded on the village war memorial). However, it is likely that their names would have been accepted for commemoration on the Newbury Town War Memorial had their parents put them forward. It seems that they did not do so; perhaps believing that only Newbury residents would be accepted.


Thanks to Karen Newbery for her help researching this casualty.

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 Died this day:
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