Cecil Nicholls BAKER

BAKER, Cecil Nicholls

Service Number: 1888
Enlisted: 14 March 1916, Bathurst, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 45th Infantry Battalion (WW1)
Born: Portland, New South Wales. Australia, 27 February 1889
Home Town: Portland, Lithgow, New South Wales
Schooling: Portland State School, New South Wales. Australia
Occupation: Labourer (Portland Council)
Died: Wounds, 1st Anzac Medical Dressing Station, Becordel-Becourt, France, 9 January 1917, aged 27 years
Cemetery: Dartmoor Cemetery
Plot 1, Row F, Grave 6,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Lithgow War Memorial, Portland District War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

14 Mar 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1888, Bathurst, New South Wales
22 May 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1888, 45th Infantry Battalion (WW1), Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 May 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 1888, 45th Infantry Battalion (WW1), HMAT Warilda, Sydney
8 Jan 1917: Wounded Private, 1888, 45th Infantry Battalion (WW1), GSW (arm)

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 1888 Cecil Nicholls Baker,
45th Australian Infantry Battalion,
12th Brigade, 4th Australian Division
In the fields of the Somme, sacred lands of France, stand in peace, young and proud, a whole generation of men who, in silence, walk peacefully on what was, more than a hundred years ago, an ocean of blood and mud on which the thunder of artillery and the howls of young boys were heard who faced the madness and the fury of a world at war but who, in the brotherhood and the mateship which united them, found the courage and the strength to fight and who, together, gave their lives in the fields of poppies through which their voices, the echoes of the past are heard in a message full of hope "remember us" and over whom I will always watch so that their names live forever.

Today, it is with deep gratitude and with the utmost respect that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow. I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 1888 Cecil Nicholls Baker who fought in the 45th Australian Infantry Battalion, 12th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 106 years ago, on January 9, 1917 at the age of 28 on the Somme front.

Cecil Nicholls Baker was born on February 27, 1889 in Lithgow, New South Wales, and was the son of William Henry Baker and Rose Ann Baker (née Nicholls), of Portland, New South Wales. Cecil had three brothers, Reuben,David and Ambrose. He was educated at Portland State School and before the outbreak of the war, worked as a labourer.

Cecil enlisted on March 14, 1916 in Bathurst, New South Wales, in the 45th Australian Infantry Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Sydney Herring and after a period of training of one and a half months, he embarked with his unit from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A69 Warilda on May 22, 1916 and sailed for England.

On July 18, 1916 Cecil arrived in England and was disembarked in Plymouth and the next day marched for Rollestone, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, where he joined the 12th Training Battalion and shortly after proceeded overseas to France.

Early in September, Cecil arrived in France and joined the 4th Australian Divisional Base Depot at Etaples on September 17, 1916 then was taken on strength in the 45th Australian Infantry Battalion at Ridgewood, near Vierstraat, Belgium on September 22. For this day, it is written in the battalion's war diary "The battalion is here in dug-outs as Brigade support and supplies numerous working parties for the front line and communication trenches.Every available man is on fatigue.This portion of the line is remarkably quiet in comparison with the Somme operations."

On September 26, 1916, Cecil and the men of the 45th Battalion relieved the 47th Australian Infantry Battalion in the front line at Voormezeele, near Ypres, and it is written as follows in the battalion's war diary "Two companies are in the front line and immediate support, one in support in strong points and one in Battalion Reserve in Bois Carre Wood. Trenches are not in good condition and much reconstructional work is being done. The enemy's artillery and sniping are not at all active. The enemy occasionally fires a few trench mortar and rifle grenades.His aeroplanes are rarely ever seen. The 48th Battalion are on our right and the 13th Battalion on our left. The enemy's trenches on an average is from 80 to 200 yards away from ours."

On October 2, 1916, the 45th Battalion was relieved by the 47th Battalion and marched for Murrumbidgee Camp, La Clytte, Flanders, and the battalion's war diary reads as follows "Camp in good order,plenty of room for men,casualties to 12 noon".After that, the 45th Battalion which relieved the 47th Battalion at Voormezeele writes as follows in its war diary "Relieved the 47th Battalion in line taking over same portion of trenches as before.Trenches in much better conditions than when here before,much improvement being done in the way of drainage and new duck boards being put down.Raid carried out on enemy's trenches at Wytschaete on October 15. Raid very succesfully carried out and enemy's trenches explored for a distance of 70 yards, but not Germans were in the trenches and identification unobtainable. Artillery preparation was very good.Retaliation was not serious, a few shrapnel shells and rum jars being sent over."

On October 22, the 45th Battalion was relieved by the King's Royal Rifle Corps and joined the Victoria Camp at Reninghelst, near Poperinge, Belgium and on October 26, marched for Godewaersvelde then were sent to the Somme where they arrived the same day at Longpré.

After arriving at Longpré, Cecil and the 45th Battalion marched for Brucamps then for Vignacourt where they were billeted as indicated in the battalion's war diary as follows "Billets not at all satisfactory,being very dirty and in many cases damp".On November 2, 1916, the battalion left Vignacourt and joined St Vaast the next day and the men followed two days of training consisting of trench attacks then on November 6, they joined Flesselles from where they embarked by motor busses and arrived the same day in Dernancourt where they were billeted in difficult conditions.

On November 11, the 45th Battalion marched for Fricourt then for the Bernafay Wood where they relieved two companies of the 46th Battalion in the front line and occupied the "Grease Trench" and the "Goodwins Post", two positions described as "In very bad condition, being very wet and muddy". The battalion held this position with courage until November 27 then, the same day, were relieved by the 13th Battalion and were sent to the New Carlton Camp in Bazentin where they were billeted until December 3.

On December 4, 1916, Cecil and the 45th Battalion joined Dernancourt where they were billeted in better conditions than the last time and followed a period of training until December 17 then marched for Flesselles the next day where they remained until January 2, 1917 then marched for Fricourt on January 6 and relieved the men of the 13th Battalion at Gueudecourt on January 7 and occupied the "Stormy Trench" the next day where unfortunately, Cecil met his fate and was wounded in the arm and abdomen by a shell. He was immediately evacuated to the 1st Anzac Medical Dressing Station in Becordel-Becourt, where he died the next day,on January 9, 1917 at the age of 28.

Today, Cecil Nicholls Baker rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "He gave his life for those he loved for freedom and liberty."

After Cecil's death, several messages were written by his family and published in "The Lithgow Mercury" as follows:
"He has gained his crown,
Though he sleeps in a far off, grave.
And we think of his life a duty, done,
Manly, unselfish, and brave."
Inserted by his loving father William Henry Baker,and brothers,Reuben,David and Ambrose.
"He sleeps beside his comrades
In a hallowed grave unknown,
But his name is written in letters of love
In the hearts he left at home."
Inserted by his loving step-mother Mary Ann.

Cecil, you who were in the prime of your life, it was with the greatest determination and admirable courage, the courage of the whole Australian nation that you answered to the call of duty to do your bit on the scarred fields of northern France alongside your brothers in arms who, among the poppies lost their youth and who for four years, in the mud of the trenches, in frozen water, in blood and the tears of their best friends, served and fought with exceptional courage under tons of shells and the fields of execution, the slaughterhouses that were the fields of the Somme.In Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, Flers, Bazentin , Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux they made their country proud and stood with perseverance and conviction alongside their French brothers in arms who saw in each Diggers, hope, bravery, camaraderie, solidarity and were proud to fight with them, in the mix of khaki and blue uniforms, they fought in a common front, in a friendship of which we were very proud more than a hundred years later. Australia did so much for our country and lost so many of their sons and daughters who showed unwavering courage and who, in the face of death, showed a sense of humor that remained forever in the hearts of the French people in the Somme. Together, these young men came from so far and for peace and freedom, in the hope of better days they gave their today and much more than what was asked of them. Under the bullets and the shells, fathers and sons fell one after the other but in spite of the death which awaited them by the barbed wire and the enemy trenches, they moved forward without fear, they charged with in their hearts hearts, the love of their country and their loved ones who guided them and urged them to give the best of themselves, the best of a generation of men who stood up to protect the world from madness and inhumanity and who, for the peace in which we live, paid the supreme sacrifice of too short lives on the burning fields of a world at war on which they died as they lived, with honor and courage, without regard for their own lives so that their comrades, their families can have a world at peace. More than a hundred years have passed and the machine guns, the artillery have ceased to fire, the dismal howls of the artillery have disappeared, the cries of pain and suffering have given way to eternal silence but the heroes who fought and fell here still stand proudly behind the shadows of their white tombs that tell us their stories, the stories of men who will always be remembered and honored with respect, their memory will never fade, they are and will always be with us, alive in us to perpetuate the remembrance and it is with honor and pride, with admiration and love that I will always watch over them and that I will carry high the flame of the remembrance which, here, in France, in the Somme, will never stop shining, my boys of the somme will never be forgotten.Thank you so much Cecil,for everything.At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them.