Reginald Baker was born and lived in Hanley Castle, he enlisted in Malvern. After being educated at Welland, he learnt the baking and confectionary business at Great Malvern and then joined the Army when 18 years old.
Reginald served throughout the South African War and was awarded the Queens South Africa medal with five bars. Clearly a career soldier, the 1901 Census found him at Thorncliffe Camp in Kent. He served a long time in India, but was available for departure with the Expeditionary Force in August 1914.
The Great War
Reginald landed in France on 15th August 1914 with the 5th Dragoon Guards – an Old Contemptible – part of the First Cavalry Division and took part in the Battle of Mons and was present in the retirement upon Paris. He and was one of only 32 of his regiment to come through the Mons unscathed.
As the war became static over the winter of 1914/15 the cavalry’s role decreased. Reginald remained unscathed until April 1917.
Battle of Arras
On 10th April 1917, the 5th Dragoon Guards, along with other cavalry units of their brigade, gave support to XVII Corps’ attack around Arras. It became clear as the unit came close to the front line that 12th Infantry Brigade had taken the village of Fampoux the previous day, but further advance had met resistance. German forces had dug in 500 yards from the village and covered their position with machine gun positions.
A mounted advanced party went forward, but found there was no way round the machine guns, the road leading to the position being a “regular neck of a bottle, with no chance of outflanking movement” according to the War Diary.
Shellfire was heavy and according to the War Diary “… although good cover had been taken, 5 men were killed and 11 wounded (two subsequently dying of wounds), 16 horses were killed and 32 wounded.”
Shortly after dark the Regiment was ordered to withdraw to a field east of Athies, and it was nearly midnight before they settled down into bivouac. The horses were kept saddled in readiness, and during this bitterly cold night. several further casualties were sustained among the horses.
Sadly, Reginald was one of those killed during the abortive action on the 10th April. , Captain Winterbotham wrote to inform his mother that he was struck by a shell and died immediately and without pain. He added:
“We all miss him very much as he was an excellent soldier and always did his duty well. He was a credit to the regiment. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.”
Lieut. Jordon sent home his effects, mentioning that he was killed “in the most advanced village we had taken, and was buried there.” The Lieutenant added:
“He was a real good old soldier and an example to the young men who are now joining us.”
Having trained in the baking and confectionary business at Malvern, he was commemorated on the Malvern Library Memorial in addition to his home parish of St Mary’s, Hanley Castle and Church of the Good Shepherd, Hook Bank. His mother applied for Reginald’s medals in February 1919 which were sent to Hook Bank, Hanley Castle. This address is also shown in Pension Records for 1919. Later, when supplying details to the Imperial War Graves Commission, they were living at Westfields, Welland.
Medal Index Cards
Upton on Severn News, 28/4/1917, 28/7/1917