David and George Baker

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David and George Baker:

Father and son, soldiers


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George Frederick Baker


David Baker and his son George Frederick both had notable military careers, the father serving in the Army in several countries, notably in Spain and France in 1813 during the Peninsular War, when he was only 11 years old; and the son being one of the star rifle shots of the Jersey Militia


Boy soldier

It seems difficult to believe, but his baptism and service records indicate that David Baker joined the Royal Sappers and Miners as a drummer in 1811 at the age of nine.

He served 29 years and 160 days in the Army before being discharged because of chronic rheumatism, but this did not count the time before his 18th birthday, which was discounted for pension entitlement. From the time he joined until he reached 18, his service record simply shows him as 'under age'.

Although he was eventually promoted to the rank of Sergeant, the young drummer Baker had a chequered military career, twice being court martialled for insubordination. This did not happen in his early years of service, but when he was serving in Canada with the Royal Sappers and Miners in his early twenties.

His service records and medal entitlements indicate that, at the tender age of 11, he had already participated in the Peninsular War in Spain, gaining battle honours at St Sebastian, and then at Nive and Nivelle in France as the Duke of Wellington moved his Army north in the lead-up to the Battle of Waterloo.

David Baker

Family

David Baker was born in St Helier, Jersey in 1802. Histories of the British Army in the early 19th century suggest that boy soldiers were recruited as early as ten years old, but it would seem that David beat this deadline by a full year.

His father John, about whom little is known, died in 1807 when David was five years old, and he was then brought up by his mother, Susannah, until, on 14 August 1811, he enlisted at Woolwich, Kent, in the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners, which was founded in 1772. His service record shows that his occupation was that of painter at this time.

The record is somewhat vague in some respects, but it shows that he served 11 months in Spain, two years in the Netherlands, a year in France, 8½ years in Canada and 6½ years in Bermuda. These totals are believed to refer to his service after the age of 18, everything before then being counted as 'under age' service.

The record does not show what happened between the French battles in 1813 and his arrival in Canada in 1820.

As a private in Canada in 1824 he was court-martialled for disrespectful conduct to the officer on duty and disobedience of orders and sentenced to four weeks solitary confinement, ten days of which were remitted. Seven years later he was court-martialled for drunkenness and riotous behaviour while on duty and sentenced to three months imprisonment, two months of which were remitted.

These must have been viewed later as youthful misdmeanours, because, at the time of his discharge on medical grounds in 1946 it was noted that his character was 'very good'. In July 1836 he was promoted to Second Corporal, and only three months later to Corporal. He served as a Sergeant from 1 May 1839 until 13 October 1846, when he was discharged.

Return to Jersey

He must then have returned to Jersey with his wife Sarah, nee Jackson, whom he married in Quebec in 1826, and their children Susannah (1827-1894), Alfred (1829-1897), Mary Frederika (1834-1892). George Frederick (1837-1913). Richard John (1839-1902) and James Alexander (1843-1895).

The birthplaces of the children show how much David Baker's military career moved the family around: Susannah and Alfred were born in Quebec, Mary in Woolwich, George Frederick in Chatham, Kent, Richard in Woolwich, and James in Bermuda.

Tragedy struck when, about a year after they returned to Jersey, his wife Sarah died as St Aubin in 1847 at the age of 39. Within 18 months he had married again to Arabella Julian, in St Helier in 1849. And, in 1866, at the age of 64, he married for a third time to Margaret Davies (1842-1896), who was 40 years younger than him.

It is not clear exactly what his status was, but in 1871 he was resident at Mont Orgueil Castle when he died at the age of 69.

George Baker outside his undertaker's business at 56 New Street

George Frederick

His second son, George Frederick, born in Chatham in 1837, was a joiner by trade in 1860, and the following year's census shows him as an undertaker. He ran his own business in New Street.

He joined the Royal Militia Island of Jersey and was evidently a crackshot, because his family have a number of medals he was awarded for shooting competitions between 1860 and 1897, including one for an international competition in France.

He married Mary Long Parris (1834-1892) at St Martin in 1860, and they had three sons and two daughters between 1861 and 1878. Mary died in 1892 and George Frederick married again two years later to Elizabeth Pauline Perrier (1856-1917). He died four years before her in 1913 and was buried at Almorah Cemetery.

The 1861 census shows that his brother, James Alexander, born in Bermuda, was living with him and working as a watchmaker.

Shooting

Although he was not born in Jersey, George Frederick's family connections meant that he joined the Town Battalion of the Militia and by 1860 he was taking part in, and winning, National Rifle Association competitions.

He continued to shoot to the end of the century and in 1896 was awarded a medal for a competition against a French team.

His third son, Harry Erith Baker, born in 1864, moved to London in the 1880s and joined the First Surrey Volunteer Rifle Corps in 1891. He was awareded the Volunteer Force Long Service Medal in 1908. In 1895 he married Lucy Louisa Dawson (1863-1943). He became a schoolmaster.

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