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James Baker

Rank: Private

Lifetime: 1875-1917

Reference: 64854

Private James Baker (G/32194) of the 17th Battalion of The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), transferred (64854) to 109th Coy of the Labour Corps, died on 18 November 1917. He is buried at Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery. He is not listed on the Hampton Wick War Memorial but his Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) entry refers to him as the son of James and Bertha Baker of Hampton Wick.

James Reuben Baker was born towards the end of 1875 and baptised on 7 November 1875 at St John the Baptist’s, Hampton Wick. His father’s occupation at that date was a porter. By 1881 he was living, aged 5, with his parents, James and Bertha, together with his two sisters, Ellen Florence (7) and Emily (3), in Old Bridge Street. Ten years later the Baker family living at 18 Old Bridge Street consisted of his parents, who had been born in Horsell and Chertsey respectively, James himself, working aged 15 as a hairdresser’s assistant, George (10) and Alice (7). Ellen and Emily had moved out of the family home. James Baker senior was employed as a railway porter. Although James junior had lived in Hampton Wick until his late teens, by 1901 he had moved across the Thames to work as a Hotel Valet at the Southampton Hotel in Surbiton.

James Baker junior continued working in hotels and, ten years later, was living at Taggs Hotel, Taggs Island, Hampton Court where he was employed as a hotel cellarman. Taggs Hotel had been built by a local boatbuilder, Thomas Taggs, when he was granted a lease of the island in the 1850s. It had, in its heyday (in the 1850s and 1860s) been extremely sumptuous with a fashionable clientele. However by 1911 it was in a pretty dilapidated condition. The lease of the island was sold in 1912 to the famous impresario, Fred Karno, discoverer of Charlie Chaplin. He immediately demolished the existing hotel and replaced it in 1913 with the magnificent Karsino Hotel, a local landmark until its demolition in 1971. It is unknown whether James Baker was remployed at the Karsino after the demolition of Taggs Hotel.

It is unclear why Private Baker was not commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial given his long connection with Hampton Wick and the reference in his CWGC entry to his parents being from the village.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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