Sapper Harry Lovlen Baker 6285
5th Division Signal Company
Harry Baker was born in Mittagong in 1890 to English parents Stephen and Emma Baker who had settled on the Oaklands Estate at Mittagong in 1888. He grew up on the family apple orchard and poultry farm Swallow Beck on Bong Bong Road, named for his mother’s birthplace in Lincolnshire.
Harry was a keen cricketer and a member of both the Moss Vale and Mittagong Town Bands. For three years he was his father’s assistant at the Moss Vale Railway Refreshment Rooms, but by the time he enlisted in January 1916, Harry was running the farm and had purchased his own land. He left Australia in September 1916 and after arriving in England, spent the next ten months in various signals training camps.
While stationed at Shelford in Cambridgeshire, he met Hilda Turner, headmistress of the church school in the village of Over. Surrounded by family and many of Hilda’s pupils, the happy couple married at the end of June 1917 in the parish church of St Mary. Their marriage was to be brief.
Harry left for France on the 4th September and joined the 5th Division Signal Company. Just five days after arriving at the front, he was gassed in a shell attack and died from gas poisoning on 28th September 1917 in the 32nd Stationary Hospital at Wimereux. Harry was laid to rest in the Wimereux Communal Cemetery where a few months later Canadian medical officer, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who in 1915 had written the celebrated poem In Flanders Fields, was also buried.
After the war, Harry’s wife Hilda emigrated to Australia and lived with her husband’s family at Mittagong, caring for his aging parents. She continued teaching in Sydney and in the Southern Highlands until her retirement in the 1950s, but never remarried. She died in Walker Street Bowral in 1968.