Charles was one of ten children. His brothers and sisters were
William G born1887
John H born 1889
Sydney born 1893
Frederick born 23 November 1895
James born 3 December 1897
May Mary Ann born 27 May 1900
Mabel Sarah born 27 April 1902
Albert Edward born 17 July 1905
His parents George and Anna Maria (nee Youngman) lived in Shotesham St. Mary, Norfolk when he was born on 1 May 1891. Baptismal records for the family indicate that by 1893 the family had moved to Saxlingham Nethergate.
Charles lived with his parents in Saxlingham Nethergate, where he worked as a farm labourer, until he joined the army. He enlisted in the Norfolk Regiment in Norwich on 25th November 1914.He was 23 years and 6 months old, 5 feet 6 inches tall with a chest measurement of 37 inches and weighed 129 lbs.
Whilst he was training, along with several other men, he contracted measles and from 17th March till the 2nd April 1915 he was in the hospital at St John’s School, Felixstowe. His brother Sydney Baker, who was also in the Norfolk Regiment was in the same hospital at the same time with measles.
He remained in England training until 11 May 1915 when he was posted to France.
He received a gunshot wound to his right shoulder on 4 September 1916. After being treated at a Casualty Clearing Station he was transferred on 5 September to 1 Canadian General Hospital at Etaples. On 6 September he was taken by the Hospital Ship Brighton to receive treatment in
England. He then spent twelve days at the VAD hospital in Eastbourne, Sussex before being transferred to the Red Cross Hospital in Northampton. He was there from 18 September till 21 October 1916. His treatment continued at the Military Hospital in Eastbourne till 1 November 1916. It is presumed that he then went home for a month to recover further. He eventually embarked from Folkestone to France on 1 January 1917 and joined his regiment on 23 January 1917.
On 25 September 1917 he was sentenced to Field Punishment No. 1 for 28 days, this was for “Quitting fatigues without permission” whilst In the Field. This must have been considered a serious offence as the punishment was severe.
This punishment was first introduced in the Army in 1881 to replace flogging.
A commanding officer could order this punishment for up to 28 days and it was often administered in the Field. This meant that a soldier was still at the Front with his Regiment whilst being punished.
The man was shackled in irons or by straps or ropes to a fixed object. It was sometimes to poles or to the wheel of a cart or gun carriage. He could be fixed for only two hours out of 24 and for no more than three days out of four at a time. Sometimes this was one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon and in areas under shell fire. He was put there in all weathers as an example to others and to humiliate him. Some of the commanding officers were cruel and shackled the prisoner with his feet barely touching the ground putting a great deal of strain on his arms and legs. At times the arms were stretched out and the feet tied together, at other times the prisoners were strapped in an X shape with their legs wide apart. In such cases the soldiers nicknamed it the crucifixion.
In January 1917 the War office produced a watercolour drawing of what it should look like. Officers were told it should not look like a cross. The feet had to be on the ground and were not to be tied more than 12 inches apart. If a man’ s arms or wrists were fastened he had to have 6 inches play between them and they had to be at his sides or behind his back not outstretched.
The prisoner was also subjected to hard labour and a reduction in pay.
Just a matter of weeks after the end of his punishment Charles was involved in the battle of Cambrai in France. (For more details of this battle see the entry for Charles’s brother Frederick Baker who was killed. Frederick was initially reported as missing but subsequently it was presumed that he had been killed on 30 November 1917.His body was never found and he has no known grave)
On the 30 November 1917 Charles was also reported as missing and his father was informed of this on 29 December 1917. The War Office Daily List reported this fact on 14 January 1918.
He had in fact become a prisoner of war and his father was notified of this on 31 January 1918.The War Office Daily List of 11 February 1918 confirmed he was a prisoner in German Hands.
The Red Cross received information about the men who had been captured and where they were being held. Their records show that Charles was captured at Cambrai on 30 November 1917 and he was held at a camp at Le Quesney, France. They had access to this information along with his regimental number, date of birth and name of next of kin, on 19 January 1918.
On 1 May 1918 they had information that he was being held at a prisoner of war camp at Dulmen in Germany. The report reiterated what had previously been said but also indicated that he had not been wounded.
The conditions in the camps varied greatly depending upon the attitude of the commander. In most though there was a shortage of food as Germany was subjected to a blockade and the civilian population in general suffered. The prisoners relied greatly on Red Cross parcels and parcels of food sent by their families to supplement their meagre diets.
Dulmen was one of the better camps where the prisoners were treated reasonably. They were expected to work in the nearby forests.
(More information about the Prisoner of War Camps can be found in a supplement to this entry about Charles Baker)
Charles was released from the camp at the end of the war and arrived back in England in Hull on 26November 1918. He had been a prisoner of war for 361 days. He arrived back in Norfolk where he was demobilised on 1 February 1919.
In the early part of 1921 Charles married Ellen Riches, a widow who lived in Saxlingham and who had a daughter Kathleen, who had been born in 1914. Her husband George Riches had died in Baghdad on 26 July 1917 of heat stroke.
Charles and Ellen’s daughter Mabel Baker was born on 18 June 1921.
According to the Electoral Roll Charles was living, before he married, near Low Farm, Saxlingham Nethergate.
In 1939 the family were living in New Cottages, near Low Farm, Saxlingham Nethergate. Also living at the address was Kathleen Riches, his step daughter, and Mabel Baker, his daughter, who was working as a shop assistant. Charles was working as a farm labourer. He was known as Charlie.
After the war Charles returned to his job as a farm labourer working on the English family farm on Pitts Hill. He was well liked by the family.
Charlie is the first on the left of the photograph.
According to his grandson he also” continued being ‘a one for the pot poacher’ filling the family larder with rabbits, hares, pheasants, partridges and pigeons right up to the 1950s. His poaching weapon of choice was a pitted rusty-barrelled Belgian 12-bore, the only gun he could afford to buy which he kept wrapped in a sack and shoved into a hollow ash tree up the lane leading to the fields where he worked.” Only Charles and his grandson knew where the gun was hidden and after his death his grandson had the gun. His grandson said that Charles’ seven grandchildren were always grateful that because of his poaching they were never hungry. (Danny Keaney, grandson)
The English family knew about the poaching but turned a blind eye to it.
Charles Baker died in Norfolk in 1958.
British Army WW1 Service Records
England & Wales, Birth, marriage, death index 1837-2005
UK Census Collection
1939 Register in www.findmypast.co.uk
Norfolk Electoral Rolls – Southern Division, Saxlingham Nethergate and Thorpe, (Absent Voters Lists 1918, 1919)
Information about Field Punishment No1 – John Simkin ( firstname.lastname@example.org) and Wikipedia
Prisoner of War Records held by the Red Cross. https://grandeguerre.icrc.org
Photograph of Dulmen Prisoner of War camp- Courtesy of Australian War Memorial
Photographs and family information, Danny Keaney, grandson.
Olive English for stories about Charles