Private Richard Baker, 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, service no. 19992.
Richard was born in Fleetwood, Lancashire in 1891 to parents William Henry and Annie Baker. His mother died in 1894 when he was just three.
His father remarried to Susannah Chatburn in 1898 and in 1901 the family were living at 'Bold Venture' in Chatburn. He had a brother, James and a sister, Jane Alice. Richard was nine years old and his father was a carter at a limestone quarry.
At the age of 19 in the 1911 census he was working as a farm labourer for Ralph and Emma Holden, living at Dutton, near Longridge, Clitheroe, Lancashire. At some point he was resident at 6, Oldfield Lane, Oakworth, near Keighley, Yorkshire and was probably working on one of the farms nearby.
He enlisted in September 1914 at Southport, Lancashire with the third Battalion East Lancashire Regiment and entered France on May 27 1915, then to the 1st Battalion.
War diary for the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment:
August 8, 1916. Yser Canal. Trenches.
The 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment were relieving the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment when the Germans released poison gas upon our front line trenches. The troops responded to the sound of the gas alarms by donning their gas hoods but this made it difficult to carry out the relief so for the most part they stayed put. This difficulty was compounded by heavy and indiscriminate bombardments from the German artillery accompanied by heavy machine gun and rifle fire. The battalions were ordered to wait it out and used Lewis guns to repel an attempted German thirty man raid on our trenches. Eventually the bombardments ceased and quiet returned. There were several men killed, or injured by the gas and these were evacuated. Preliminary estimates of casualties were: 5 men killed, 5 gassed and 15 wounded.
Richard would have been one of the gassed men and he died the next day in number 11 Field Ambulance. He was buried in grave 10, row B, plot III of Essex Farm Cemetery.
Keighley News dated Saturday 2nd September 1916:
Private Richard Baker (25), of the East Lancashire Regiment, and of 6, Oldfield, Oakworth, near Keighley, died on August 9 of the effects of gas. Official intimation to that effect has been received from the Infantry Record Office, Preston. Mr W. H. Jeffries, of the Army and Navy Board of the four denominations, in a letter to Mrs Baker, said: "I did not know your son well, but the little I did know of him led me to form a high opinion of him. Being attached to the regiment, I often saw him when passing round, and he always appeared the same - a true soldier, cheerful and ready. He was doing his duty faithfully when he met his death. It will be some comfort to you to know that he suffered very little. We buried him in our own British cemetery just behind the lines, and the regiment has erected a cross at the head of the grave where he lies beside his gallant comrades. Private Baker was formerly employed at Dutton, and joined the Army in September, 1914, and went to France eighteen months ago.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service.
Richard is not named on any local war memorial, but he is named on the new Great War roll of honour for Oakworth, unveiled in November 2019
Birth, marriage and death records.
1901 and 1911 census.
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920.
Keighley News archives, Keighley Library.
National Archives war diaries WO95-1498-1/3