Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Daniel Thomas Baker (of Luddenham)
d. 15th March 1917. Aged 25 years.
109th Battery, Royal Field Artillery
281st Brigade, 56th Division
Remembered with Honour
FAUBOURG D'AMIENS CEMETERY, ARRAS
Plot 3, Row G, Grave 22
Killed in Action
Going back to his great grandfather, Daniel's family had strong and lasting ties with Herne Hill, including a spell in the Workhouse in 1851 when Daniel was only one year old. This extended family was largely made up of agricultural labourers. His father (Daniel John Baker) was one of ten children. His mother, Jane Frances (nee Smith) bore ten surviving children, with Daniel the youngest male out of ten children. Six sisters (Laura J, Anne E, Daisy F, Frances T, May V, and Ivy A.) Of his three older brothers Arthur Percy, Edwin Daniel and Charles John, only Charles appears not to have served in World War 1 and he continued his market gardening business. Both his other brothers enlisted (before the outbreak of war), Edwin Daniel survived (see below).
With his father living in Lower Tickham, Lynsted, in 1911, Daniel was lodging with his sister Laura's family and brother-in-law, Stephen Packham, in Wingham Well, Wingham. Both agricultural labourers.
Later, Canterbury records for 24th November 1913 reveal the marriage of Daniel, a 22 year old labourer, to Margaret Fanny Milham (aged 18 - spinster) whilst he was living at 4 Oaks, Murston.
The record doesn't help us visualize the man. So, we must turn to the military diaries to help us understand his experiences as a gunner in the Royal Artillery (Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery).
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 21st April 1917 doesn't reveal much more: "ROLL OF HONOUR
News has been received by Mrs. Baker, of Luddenham, that her husband, Gunner Daniel Thomas Baker, Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action on March 15th, Gunner Baker went to the front when the war broke out. He was home on leave a few months ago. He was 25 years of age and leaves a widow and one child."
We have no direct evidence of when Daniel first enlisted. However, Soldiers' Effects records show a War Gratuity of £11 paid to his widow. This gives a wartime enlistment of October 1914, consistent with the newspaper report (above). The record for Daniel's brother (Edwin Daniel, 9 years his elder) shows an enlistment date of 5th June 1906.
Daniel was living in Wingham in 1911 close to Canterbury, a principal recruitment centre. So, it is not unreasonable to speculate that Daniel first enlisted into the R.F.A. reserves there or at Oare around 1911. That year, Margaret Fanny Milham (soon to be Daniel's wife, 1913) was living in her parent's home, Elverton Cottages, Stone. These cottages sit north of the historic site of Stone Chapel (dedicated to "Our Lady of Elverton") in Luddenham Parish. The proximity of these cottages to the Artillery Range at Oare (and Gun Cotton Powder Factory) reinforces speculation of an early link with the RFA and training at Oare.
The 281st Brigade, RFA, was first concentrated at Saxmundum, on 17th August 1915, before travelling to Southampton and France on 4th October 1915. One year after he first enlisted.
However, we pick up the story in November, a year later in 1916, at LAVENTIE when the 109th Battery first came under the authority of the 281st Brigade, HQ. Following the close of the Somme Offensive that month, there was a reorganisation of artillery formations to support static trench warfare. As part of that reorganisation, the 109th Battery joined the 281st Brigade, RFA. Firstly, as part of its "Left Group."
The diary tells us:-
"8th November 1916: BETHONVAL FARM: 109th Battery forms part of the 281st Brigade dated 5th November 1916. Officers, NCOs & men of the 109th Battery taken on the strength of the brigade.
Registration commences with all batteries, little hostile artillery fire, no retaliation, a certain amount of trench activity.
10th: Registration continued.
14th: Inspection of Brigade by M.G. R.A. XI Corps at FREVIN CAPELLE accompanied by C.R.A. 56 Division, result satisfactory.
15th: No activity on the front.
17th: Lt. Col. C.C. MACDOWELL proceeds on leave to ENGLAND, Major FISHER assumes command of the Group.
18th to 30th: Zone very quiet, little artillery activity, no hostile retaliation.
30th: Orders received for the relief of the 56th Divisional Artillery by the 3rd Canadian Artillery, Letters from CRA 56th Divisional Artillery and MG RA XIV Corps. Appendix A (below)
1st: BERTHONVAL ST. ELOI: All batteries 281st Brigade RFA relieved by 3rd Canadian Artillery and moved to wagon lines ACQ and CAPELLE FERMENT. Headquarters move to ACQ.
2nd: ACQ: The brigade marched to area AUCHEL-RAINBERT via LES 4 VENTS and DIVION.
3rd: RAINBERT: The brigade continued the march to HAVERSKERQUE
4th: HAVERSKERQUE: Battery commanders proceed to LAVANTIE to reconnoitre positions. Sections relieved Sections of the 6th Divisional in the line.
5th: Remaining sections relieved, all batteries of the brigade in action around LAVANTIE forming LEFT GROUP 56th D.A.
6th: Wagon lines established at LA GORGUE. The LEFT GROUP consisting of A281, B281, D281, B280 & D280. Group Headquarters in LAVANTIE. Enfilade sections B281 and B280 at PETILLON.
7th: Colonel MACDOWELL returned from leave and resumed command.
8th: LAVANTIE: Registration continued by all batteries little hostile activity front very quiet, a deal of water in trenches, telephonic communications bad, battery positions want a great deal of work put in them and repairs alternative positions in a bad state. O.P.’s good but observation poor owing to weather conditions.
9th: 23550 Gunner R. MATTHEWS 109th Battery awarded the M.M., Captain J.R. COOPER joined for duty and took over the appointment of ADJUTANT to the 281st Brigade.
12th: Captain J.V(B?). GRAY joined for duty and was posted to command D281. Captain HAMILTON transferred to B281.
15th: Major DYMOTT left for ENGLAND for a course of instruction School of GUNNERY.
20th: Captain HAMILTON returned from leave and is attached to command B281.
21st: LAVENTIE: Artillery School from 56th Division opened at LAVENTIE first course commenced this day.
22nd: During the month there has been slightly increased activity on the whole front the batteries at irregular intervals dealt with points East of the RIVIERE DES LAIES in the main communication trenches causing some retaliation on the trenches and FAUQUISSART.
23rd: Captain R.T. LEE returned from England and resumed command of A281.
24th: 7pm: Operations commenced with an intense bombardment by all batteries of the group on selected points, the bombardment continued with periods of slow until 8am 27th December. There was no retaliation of any importance. During the daylight the enemy registered batteries with 77mm and 4.2mm.
28th: Major H.G.FISHER proceeded on leave (21 days). CAPTAIN FARDELL assumed command of 109th Battery.
1st: Considerable heavy shelling of GROUP FRONT during the day – apparently retaliation for our shelling of 24th-27th ult.
3rd: Lieut Colonel C.C. MACDOWELL, R.F.A. assumed command of RIGHT GROUP being relieved by Lieut Colonel E.C. POTTINGER, R.F.A. The RIGHT GROUP consists of 93rd – 109th – A280th – A282nd – D282nd – C282nd – Batteries R.F.A. The GROUP ZONE extended from DEVIL’s JUMP to SIGN POST LANE.
LT COL. C.C. MACDOWELL R.F.A. commanding 281st Brigade R.F.A. and MAJOR H.G. FISHER, R.F.A. commanding 109th BATTERY R.F.A. were awarded the D.S.O. and A/Battery Sergeant-Major BATH B281 BATTERY and Brigadier HOGBEN (since killed in action) were awarded the MILITARY MEDAL for bravery in the field.
8th: LAVENTIE: Hostile T.M.’s have shown considerable activity on the front during the past few days. A scheme of retaliation has been carried out in conjunction with the HEAVY ARTILLERY which, for the time being, has effectively dealt with the enemies T.M.’s. C/282nd BATTERY was heavily shelled today and tried to evacuate the position, taking up another in the adjoining area.
MOATED GRANGE, a very useful O.P. from which most of this ZONE could be observed was heavily shelled and rendered useless.
14th: On the nights of 14/15 and 16/17, C/282 BATTERY was relieved by C/280 BATTERY. Major G.L. DYMOTT returned from overseas course today.
18th: A raid was carried out by the 1/13th BATTALION LONDON RREGIMENT with ARTILLERY support, but met with little success.
20th: A raid was carried out at 7.0pm by the 1/12th BATTALION LONDON REGIMENT. Artillery was ordered to stand by ready to take part if called upon, support was not required.
23rd: LAVENTIE: The HOWITZER BATTERY (D/281) was made into a 6-gun BATTERY by the addition of 1 Section of A/282nd HOWITZER BATTERY. Major G.L.DYMOTT assumed command of D/281 BATTERY.
Major S.W.L. ASCHWANDEN reported for duty from sick leave and was posted to command A/281st BATTERY.
Major H.G. FISHER, D.S.O. returned today from leave of absence and resumed command of 109th BATTERY.
Lieut Colonel C.C. MACDOWELL, D.S.O. proceeded to ENGLAND for a GUNNERY COURSE.
Major S.W.L. ASCHWANDEN assumes command of the 281st BRIGADE R.F.A. and of the RIGHT GROUP.
24th: A raid was carried out by the 1/4th BATTALION LONDON REGIMENT. The artillery was ordered to stand by but were not called upon for support. The raid was not successful.
25th: The D.D.V.S. FIRST ARMY today inspected all horses in charge of the BRIGADE, his report was currently satisfactory.
27th-28th: The 109th BATTERY was relieved by C/282nd BATTERY.
30th: LAVENTIE: The GROUP Commanders of the RIGHT and LEFT GROUPS changed commands this day.
31st: Two batteries of LEFT GROUP were registered by enemy today. Two sections of B/282 BATTERY left the GROUP.
Considerable enemy T.M. and 5.9 activity took place during the night. Retaliation was requested by the Infantry and given.
2nd: LAVENTIE: B/282nd Battery relieved by A/281 Battery. D/280th (1 section) left the LEFT GROUP.
3rd: Successful Aero registrations in the snow. 7.45pm: Offensive shoot on back areas. Heavies co-operating.
5th: Composite Howitzer battery formed (one section D/281) moved to V. Divisional Area. 109th Battery attached to V. Division.
6th: Offensive bombardment of back areas by night.
8th: German heavy bombardment on New Zealand Division (on our left).
10th: Left Group supported raid by 1st Battalion London Regiment on German trenches, no prisoners captured, but raid satisfactory.
11th: 109th Battery returned from V Division to their wagon lines and one section D/281 rejoined at battery positions. Inspection of Group front by C.R.A. 56th and 5th Divisions and G.S.O. 1st Division XI Corps.
12th: LAVENTIE: Silent raid by 2nd Battalion London Regiment no Germans seen. Major FISHER joins for temporary duty XI Corps. R.A.
13th: 109th Battery and D/281 in action with Right-Group 56th Division Artillery. No.442 Sergeant T.W. HALL awarded the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in the SOMME.
14th: Offensive shoot on back areas, HQ’s, dumps & C.
15th: General Carey, GOC RA XI Corps visited OP’s.
17th: Left Groups supported raid of L.R.B. by barrage fire, D/281 (one section) joined the group. Lt. Colonel C.C. MACDOWELL DSO rejoined from Overseas Artillery School and assumed command of Left Group.
18th: Major ASCHWANDEN assumes command of A/281. Major LEE assumes command of B/281. 1 Section 109th Battery relieves enfilade section A/281. A/281 Battery heavily shelled with 4.2’s. 2 direct hits on pits no casualties.
20th: Camouflet blown opposite WICK SALIENT at midnight very successful. Some 200 yards of German gallery secured, D/281 bombarded in co-operation.
23rd: Warning Order received to move into 3rd Army area on the 4th, 5th, and 6th March. 56th Divisional Artillery to be relieved by 49th Divisional Artillery guns to be taken over in pits.
24th: B/281 Lone Gun in action at DEAD END LANE (100 rounds)
25th: A/281 Lone Gun in action in BEDFORD ROAD.
27th: Extension of LEFT GROUP southwards to WINCHESTER STREET readjustment of battery zones. C/280 joins the group. 4 guns Le Epinette Farm and 2 guns at PONT LOGY.
OC and Battery commanders 246th Brigade R.F.A. 49 Division reconnoitred battery positions and OP’s with a view to taking over the front covered by 281st Brigade.
4th: Four Portuguese officer attached to the Brigade on the night of the 4/5th two section per battery relieved by the 246th Brigade RFA and marched to CALONNE.
5th: Remaining sections marched to CALONNE on being relieved, Group command handed over to O.C. 246th Brigade, and Brigade H.Q moved to CALONNE.
6th: CALONNE: Brigade remained at CALONNE.
7th: Brigade marched to LIETTRES (A/281 in ESTREE BLANCHE) via BUSNES and LILLERS, there billeted.
8th: LIETTRES: Brigade marched to HEUCHIN via FEBIN-PALFART, there billeted.
9th: HEUCHIN: Brigade marched to CONCHEY and MONCHEL picking up the guns of the 246th Brigade at BOUBERS.
10th: CONCHY: Brigade marched to LUCHEUX via FREVENT and there billeted.
11th: O.C. and battery commanders reconnoitred positions in ARRAS.
12th: Brigade marched to SIMONCOURT taking over lines and billets of 14th Divisional Artillery (46th Brigade at that place)
13th: Brigade Headquarters moved from SIMONCOURT to No.1 RUE BEFFARA, ARRAS, one section per battery came into action on outskirts of ARRAS.
14th: ARRAS: Remaining sections came into action, forming 56th Divisional Artillery Group, covering the 167th Infantry Brigade Zone from the salient N of BEAURAINS to the cross roads 1000 yards S of the village. 14th Divisional Artillery on Left, 30th Divisional Artillery on right.
15th: Registration of all batteries and building of battery positions, 109th Battery 4 men killed and 2 wounded in their position near the STATION ARRAS.
17th: A/281 battery, 1 killed and 2 wounded at battery position (STONEMASONS YARD near STATION). The enemy evacuated BEAURAINS village occupied by our patrols.
18th: Infantry front line established East of BEAURAINS enemy heavily shelled the village. Continued advance by our infantry towards NEUVILLE VITASSE. 2nd Lts KAY and HOLLIS accompanied infantry forward.
Night of 18th: B/281 battery moved forward to position behind embankment East of ACHICOURT.
19th: All batteries active on NEUVILLE VITASSE and area continued and gradual increasing shelling of ARRAS by enemy’s heavy guns.
O.C. made reconnaissance of advanced battery positions in our front line and enemy’s line under BEAURAINS.
One section of each battery (except B/281) came into action on BUCQUOY near BEAURAINS.
Infantry patrols report NEUVILLE VITASSE strongly occupied by enemy considerable work being done on its defences and wire, Group H.Q. established in dugouts 500 yards W of BUCQUOY ROAD.
20th: BEAURAINS: 109th battery (two remaining sections) advanced to forward position D/281, brought forward another section.
1st March 1917: LA GORGUE: Quiet Day
2nd: Quiet Day
3rd: Group and Battery commanders of 49th Division made a reconnaissance of 56th Division Artillery’s (D.A.) positions.
4th: Two sections of each Battery of 49th D.A. relieved two sections of Batteries of 56th DA in the line.
5th: Relief of 280th Brigade by Brigades of 49th DA completed.
6th: 10a.m.: C.R.A. 49th Division assumed command of front. Headquarters 56th DA moved to CALLONNE.
7th: CALLONNE: Headquarters 56th DA moved to FME ST. ANDRAE FIECHINELLE.
8th: FIECHINELLE: Headquarters 56 DA moved to HEUCHIN and came under administration of III Army.
9th: HEUCHIN: Headquarters 56 DA moved to FREVENT.
10th: FREVENT: Headquarters 56 DA moved to LUCHEUX and came under administration VII Corps.
11th: LUCHEUX: Major J.A. DAN D.S.O. returned from leave and took over Duties of Brigade Major from Major H.G. FISHER D.S.O.
12th: 281st Brigade proceeded to SIMENCOURT.
13th: One section of each Battery 281st Brigade went into action.
14th: 11.30pm: Relief of Batteries of 14th Division Completed. Headquarters 56th D.A. moved to GOUY-EN-ARTOIS in accordance with verbal instructions from VII Corps.
15th: GOUY-EN-ARTOIS: One Heavy and one medium T.M. Battery of 2nd Division attached 56 Division.
16th: GOUY-EN-ARTOIS: Quiet Day.
Curiously, we only found a record for the British War Medal and the Victory Medal but the absence of the 1914/15 Star may simply reflect that he was not posted overseas at the outbreak of war.
Brothers: Arthur Percy Baker (Killed in Action 1916) and Edwin Daniel Baker - Survived
Born 1880 in Herne Hill, he and his wife Annie Maria (nee Hodges) were living at 50, Ivy Street, Rainham, Kent (via Addisham, Wingham, Blean, and Bapchild where the first four of his five children were born - Elsie Lily, Ethel May, Albert Percy, Winifred Iris, and Margaret Elizabeth). He was employed as a train conductor. On 2nd November 1915, he enlisted at Chatham into 6th Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, aged 34 years an 11 months. He joined the British Expeditionary Force on 13th March 1916 and was killed in action on 3rd July 1916 in the opening days of the Somme Offensive and remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
He was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 131 lbs with a chest measurement of 36½" (expansion 2½").
Born on 19th May 1881 in Selling, Kent, a sail maker, he joined the 8th Company, Army Ordnance Corps in 1906 as a tent-mender at 25 years old (otherwise 23rd years) with a clean sheet. He had previously served in the 3rd Battalion, The Buffs (Purchase corps). He later appears in the 1911 Census in Okehampton Artillery Camp, Okehampton, Devon. On 9th June 1913, he was given a Sobriety Certificate at Pembroke Dock as his original term came to an end.
He was described as 5 feet 4½ inches tall, weighting 126 lbs with a chest measurement of 35" (expansion 2½"). Fresh complexion, brown eyes and hair. He had a short spell in hospital with Gonorrhoea (June/July 1915). He was granted leave at home - 9th to 22nd December 1917. The day before leave, he was appointed "local Corporal" (temporary). Records show that by 28th August 1918, his wife (next of kin) was living at 30 Diamond Avenue, Plymouth where he enjoyed leave from 18th December 1918 to 2nd January 1919.
At home, 27th February, he appeared before a Medical Board giving his current address as 47 Ivy Street, Rainham.
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APPENDIX A - Letter regarding the reorganisation from The Somme to Trench Warfare
Now that the 56th Divisional Artillery has resumed normal Trench Warfare I would like you to let your Officers and men know how much I appreciated the work they did during the two months on the SOMME. Their shooting was uniformly excellent, and was acknowledged to be so by all the Divisions whom they covered. Both the Brigadier General R.A. XIVth. Corps and the C’s.R.A. of the 4th and 6th Divisional Artilleries under whom the 56th Divisional Artillery at times worked, made complimentary remarks on the information sent back by F.O.O.’s, which reflects credit on both the officers and the signallers concerned.
I would like particularly to mention that the continuous hard work involved in ammunition supply is realised, and the uncomplaining spirit shown by officers and men, up to the end, in spite of long hours and trying weather conditions, fully appreciated.
I have told the Major-General Commanding R.A. First Army that I feel proud to command the 56th Divisional Artillery and that their work has been excellent throughout.
The MG RA First Army proposes to inspect the Divisional Artillery in the course of a few days and I have every confidence that when he does so he will find that the same spirit which was shown on the SOMME, will shew itself in the efforts made to turn out horses, harness and equipment in such a way as to uphold the reputation of the 56th Divisional Artillery.
Signed R.J.G. ELKINGTON, Brigadier General. Commanding Royal Artillery, 56th Div. 10th November 1916.
To: Lt. Col. C.C. MACDOWELL, 281st Brigade, RFA.