My grandfather, Albert George Baker, Regtl No. 741978,
Private 1/25th London Regiment.
by Sheila Crowson
The National Archives at Kew proved to be a useful
source for finding records of my grandfather Albert's military service.
Medal records gave a clue as to the regiment he served in, since I knew
he'd been in India from his daughter, my mother, Kit Baker. The
records showed Albert G. Baker, served in India and the North West
Frontier, in the l/25th battalion London Regiment from 1916 to 1919.
He was born in September 1881. His grandfather William Henry was a
marble mason, his father Frederick had his own marble masonry business,
and Albert became the third generation marble mason in the Baker family.
The family worked on the construction of the Queen Victoria Monument at the front
of Buckingham Palace. They also installed a grand marble staircase
into Mme Tussaud's, which came from the dismantled home of a bankrupt
millionaire speculator, Baron Grant. Unfortunately this was
destroyed by fire in 1925.
Nothing is known of Albert's early years except that he lived in Lambeth,
and married Kate Elizabeth Duckett in July 1902. They had five
children. By the time he was conscripted into the army in August 1915,
times were hard. My mother, when writing about her childhood,
commented that the marble masonry business had gone into decline through
lack of marble imports from Italy and changes in fashion, and also by
1914 there was the threat of the First World War.
Albert attested on 2 December 1915 and enlisted on 5th August 1916, by
which time he was nearly thirty-five. Originally he was assigned
to 3/10th (Hackney) London Regiment, finally being transferred to 1/25th
London Regiment on 29th November 1916. He eventually caught up
with the regiment in December 1916. I found his details in the
'Burnt Records' for the 1914-18 war, showing he had "Field Service
NWFF (Peshawar)23.5.19. He was awarded IND GS AFGN, Roll NWFF
I do wonder if this means that he did not accompany the regiment to
Waziristan in 1917, since he does not have the bar for this campaign.
Perhaps someone knows the answer to this. If so, I should be interested
to hear from them. His Special Military Qualifications show
"Cook" which seems ironic for someone who was a marble mason!
Perhaps he was responsible for the much reviled stews. He
was also awarded a pension for about eighteen months for malaria, from
which I believe a high proportion of the regiment suffered.
The 'burnt records' astoundingly also included two letters written by
mygrandmother, Kate Baker, to the army trying to locate Albert when he
was discharged. He never returned to his wife and five children,
causing them much poverty. The army did not appear to respond to
her request. Because of his desertion of his family, I have no
personal memorabilia for Albert. I do however have a copy obtained from
the National Archives of the War
Diaries for 23 May to 30 June 1919, and for the month of July for the
1/25th London, including the action at Thal, on the North West Frontier.
© Sheila Crowson, March 2004
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