Regiment: 1st Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment.
Service No: G/43811 (previously 6087)
Date & place of birth: 3rd qtr. 1893 in Whitchurch, Hampshire
Date & place of death: 28 October 1916 (aged 23) at Le Transloy, France
James Baker probably never lived in Cocking as he was born in Hampshire into a family of agricultural labourers who regularly moved. By the time of the war, James was working near Horsham while his parents had settled in Cocking. James was killed in a battle described in the regimental history as “splendidly successful”, despite resulting in over 200 casualties.
Thomas James Baker was born in Whitchurch, Hampshire in the autumn of 1893, the second of three sons of Edwin Charles Baker (born 1854) and his wife Anna Emily née Roberts (born 1857). His father was employed as a cowman and moved fairly frequently, but by the time that war was declared, the family were living at Horley Farm in Cocking, on the Bepton road. By this time, James (as he was known) had found work elsewhere, and at the time of the 1911 census he was working for Thomas Weetman at Peppersgate Farm at Lower Beeding, near Horsham as a farm labourer, aged 18.
Soon after the outbreak of the war, James enlisted at Chichester, joining the Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), known as “The Die Hards”. After basic training, he was sent to northern France. As part of the First Battalion, he took part in the attack on the enemy positions at Le Transloy, just south of the small town of Bapaume, on 28 October 1916.
The enemy was attacked on 28 October, the objective of the Brigade being the German positions in front of Le Transloy, known as Rainy Trench and Dewdrop Trench, and the dug-outs and points north-east of the latter. Zero hour was 5.30 a.m. “A” and “C” Companies led the attack of the 1st Middlesex, an attack splendidly successful, for by 9.30 a.m. the whole objective was in their hands and handed over to a relieving battalion (4th Suffolk Regt.) that night. That success was dearly bought, for one officer (2nd Lieut. C.A.T. Benson) was killed and seven officers were wounded; 35 other ranks were killed, 136 wounded, and 29 were missing-total all ranks, 208.
Death & commemoration
James Baker’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. The memorial lists 51 soldiers from the Middlesex Regiment who lost their lives on 28 October, including 2nd Lieut. Benson and Pte. James Baker. He is also commemorated on the Cocking War Memorial.