CWG: Private Thomas Baker

Private Thomas Baker

Thomas Baker was born in 1877, the youngest of four children – all boys – to John and Anna Baker from Meare in Somerset. John was a farm labourer, and it was rural trades that his four sons followed, Thomas himself also becoming a farm worker.

Thomas married in August 1896; Phoebe Ann Willis was also from Meare and was just seventeen when the couple married. While I am sure there was love involved, something more practical might have prompted such a young marriage as, six months later, the couple had their first child, Henry.

Thomas and Phoebe went on to have four children, three of whom – Henry, Florence and Amy – survived. By the time of the 1911 census, the family were living in their home village of Meare, with Henry following in his father’s – and grandfather’s – line of work.

Full details of Thomas’ military services are not available. He enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment as part of the 13th Works Battalion and, while there is no documentation to confirm when he joined up, it was probably early in 1917.

Thomas and Phoebe’s son Henry had enlisted in 1915, joining the Gloucestershire Regiment. It seems likely he fought on the Somme, and he was killed in action in November 1916, aged just 20 years old. It may have been this loss that prompted Thomas to do his duty, albeit on the Home Front.

Whenever it was that Private Thomas Baker had enlisted, it was Phoebe that was to suffer the ultimate price. Having already lost a child young, her boy had died in the fields of France, and her husband was also about to add to that loss.

Thomas contracted pneumonia in the winter of 1916-17, and passed away in a military hospital on 22nd February 1917. He was 40 years old.

Thomas lies at rest in the graveyard of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary & All Saints in his home village of Meare in Somerset.


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