Philip Baker

Timelines: Ribbon of Remembrance Philip Baker
Announcement Date: July 23, 2018

Marcia Howard submitted this photo of her father, Philip Baker (right) and her Uncle Leslie – both ready to defend King and Country in 1915. The story she has to tell connects the First and Second World Wars:

“Philip my father and Uncle Leslie were the two youngest of the boys in their large family. With an ‘Army’ father in the Hampshire Regiment, it depended on his posting as to where each child was born. Uncle Leslie b.1907 was born in Bermuda, although by the time my dad arrived, they were back in England and he was born 1910 in Winchester. Older siblings had been born in various locations including County Cork, Aldershot and Hampshire. My grandfather Ernest Benjamin Baker was discovered to have haemophilia, a condition which eventually caused his demise, but with an Army Pension, was retained as an Army Messenger as far as I am aware. My grandfather, who died well before I was born, suffered a nose bleed after falling off his bike which caused him to bleed to death.

From checking the National School Admission Register, Leslie went to St Thomas’s Higher Grade National/Service Church of England school in Winchester. I couldn’t find details of where my father Philip went to school, but I do recall him telling me during my early teenage years, that he had hated school, and one day had just walked out, never to return. It was a year before he was officially allowed to leave. Fortunately for him he was both intelligent, and practical with his hands, and with a strong work ethic, became a self-taught engineer.

He married my mum Ivy in 1936, and at the outbreak of war in 1939, now with a young son (my eldest brother b.1938), was living in Bedfordshire. He worked as an Maintenance Engineer & Tool Fitter in the factory of ‘Malleable Iron Founders & Engineers’. As a ‘Key’ man, he was left to run the factory which had solely gone over to the production of Ammunition for the duration of the war, manned mainly by a workforce of women. It was a difficult time for my father as he suffered abuse on the street, still being fairly young but dressed as a civilian. My mother in later years told me he had also been given white feathers, as had happened to others in the Great War. He was a proud man and suffered great shame during this time, as he would have loved to have ‘gone off to war’. He was however on regular night-time fire-watch for the duration. Soon after the end of WWII he moved the family, which by this time had increased to 5 with the arrival of 3 more children, to London, where I was eventually born in 1948.”

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  • Dixon Overfield

    Si Wheeler submitted the story of his great grandfather, Dixon Overfield, but it’s also a great example of the impact of war on all those connected to the soldier who served. “Dixon was married to Margaret and they had a daughter Madge, born in 1915. Dixon enlisted in Filey in September 1916. He originally joined the Royal Field  Artillery but soon got transferred to the 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment. He was sent to France and saw action at Arras, before being moved to Belgium. Dixon survived this fight, but twelve days later he too was killed in action at the Battle of Poelcappelle on the 9th of October 1917 when a shell burst just above himself and several comrades. Their bodies were never recovered. Dixon is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Dixon’s wife died in 1924, leaving my grandmother, Madge, aged 9, an orphan. Raised by two aunts, then entering service at 13, Madge was taken under the wing of her housekeeper boss, Lizzie Andrew and became part of her extended family. Aged 18, Madge moved to London to train as a nurse, working through the Blitz and marrying a Dunkirk evacuee soldier, my granddad, Harry Wheeler. Harry didn’t mind where they settled to start married life, so they moved to Swanland in East Yorkshire, where Lizzie lived. My parents live there to this day.”          

  • John MacKenzie

    Elspeth De Montes told us about her grandad John MacKenzie, a carpenter, who was called up in August 1914. “John had been working as a carpenter for James Bryce in Clephanton since April 1910 when he was called up on 4th August 1914. He enlisted with the Highland Mounted Brigade at Nairn eventually being posted to to Egypt in 1916. He worked chiefly on the wagons, greasing and making slight repairs but he also saw action throughout his time in Egypt. During an air raid at Ramleh on 27th November 1917 5 men were killed along with approximately 100 horses.” John survived his time in Egypt, returning home on 4th April 1919. He kept some of his equipment in the Princess Mary Tin he received during his service. Elspeth still has his Princess Mary tin. He passed away in 1980.

  • 2nd Lt. Hadow

    Gerald Francis Hadow was born in Scarborough in 1895, the son of Colonel A de S Hadow of the XIX Regiment of Foot (the Green Howards). He was commisioned as a Second Lieutenant on 15th August 1914 and promoted to Lieutenant in March 1915. His first actions were at the battles of neuve Chapelle and Festubert. His death at Givenchy on 15th June 1915 was recorded at the time: “He had reached the German barbed wire and finding he was practically alone, returned to his own trenches, which he reached untouched. Here he found his captain killed and all the other officers dead or wounded. His company went into action 180 strong and had 142 casualties. he returned to report to the C.O. and on the way, was struck on the head by a piece of shell. A captain under whom he served wrote; ‘I feel I have lost a young friend whom I had got to know and tested in perhaps the most severe time – war time – and he never failed. He was such a gallant little fellow and quite ready to die for the good cause.’”