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Capt Arthur de Bells Adam (MC)
1885 - 1916


CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916


Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916


Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916


Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft

Pte 32732 Comenius Talmash Pembrey Baker


  • Age: 27
  • From: East Barnet
  • Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
  • K.I.A Sunday 30th July 1916
  • Commemorated at: Thiepval Memorial
    Panel Ref: P&F1D8B &8 C.
Comenius Talmash Pembrey Baker was born in the June quarter of 1889 at Inglemars, Capel Rd, East Barnet, Herts, to Billericay born merchant tailor William Talmash Baker and his Ellesmere, Shropshire born wife Annie Eliza (nee Pembrey). They were married in Holborn, London on 12th October 1887 and had 2 sons. Sadly, their second son William Herbert Baker appears to have been stillborn in the December quarter of 1890.

In 1891 they are living in “Inglemere”, Capele (sic) Road, East Barnet, Hertfordshire, with a domestic servant.  His father is a merchant tailor, Comenius is one year old.
 
Comenius, his first Christian name was after his mother's grandfather Comenius Davies who was named after a Czech philosopher and Bishop John Amos Comenius who in the mid 1600s was one of the earliest champions of universal education, setting up schools throughout Europe with books in that countries native language. His second Christian name, Talmash, was after his father's mother's maiden name of Talmash and his third Christian name, Pembrey, was  his mother's maiden name. 
 
There is no sign of Comenius or his parents in the Census of 1901. It is possible he was taken to America by his parents. His father stated that he emigrated to the United States in 1902. His mother, aged 37, working as a stewardess, and giving her address as 49 Leopold Road, Liverpool, was discharged by mutual consent, in New Orleans in March 1902. On 13 April 1905 in New York his father applied in the Southern District Court for Naturalisation as a USA Citizen on grounds of qualifying under Residency Period. He possibly died there pre 1916.

In 1911 Comenius is boarding with Alfred and Julia Woods and family at 11 Falkland Road, Egremont, Cheshire. Comenius is 21, a scenic artist. Alfred Woods is also an artist (black and white). 
 
The Runcorn Examiner on 16th December 1911 promoted the upcoming “magnificent” Christmas pantomime Cinderella, at the Royal Court Theatre, with scenery painted by Comenius Baker at the Royal Court studio.  It is probable the theatre referred to was in Warrington, as there was a theatre there by that name at the time, in addition to the one in Liverpool, and many of the adverts in the paper refer to Warrington.
 
Comenius appears to have enlisted in Liverpool as Private 32732. He was serving with the 19th (Pals) Battalion of The King's Liverpool Regiment when he was killed in action during the attack on Guillemont on 30 July 1916, aged 27. He was originally posted as Missing.

19th Battalion Diary 30th July 1916

MALTZ HORN FARM

BATTLE begun. ZERO hour 4:45 am. The Battalion reached its objective, but suffered heavy losses, and had to evacuate its position owing to no reinforcements.

Everard Wyrall gives details of the attack in his book "The History of The King’s Regiment"; 

"The 2nd Attack on Guillemont- 29th July 1916 the 89th Brigade the 20th King's were to attack on the right and the 19th on the left. During the evening of the 29th the night was dark and foggy when the Battalions moved off and the 19th with Lt Col G Rollo commanding, when passing the South east of the Briqueterie they were heavily shelled first with H E and then with a new kind of asphyxiating Gas shell which had curious results, at first it had no nasty effect but about 8 hrs later men began to fall sick with violent headaches and pains in the stomach. All ranks had to wear gas masks which in the darkness and mist made the going terribly difficult. It was indeed wonderful that they were able to reach their Assembly point at all. But they did and by 2.45 a.m. on the 30th July 1916 the Btn was assembled having suffered about 30 Casualties on the way up ready for the Zero hour at 4.45 a.m.

It is known that the two left Companies of the 19th under Capt. Dodd and Capt. Nicholson advanced in touch with the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers on their left although they suffered many casualties from Machine gun Fire did not encounter many Germans and reached their final objective about the time allocated, beginning at once to dig in south of the orchard on the South east corner of Guillemont.  

On the left of the 19th the Scots Fusiliers most gallantly forced their way through Guillemont to the eastern side of the village but were soon overwhelmed by the enemy and few returned. 

At 8 a.m. finding that the village was not held the two left Companies of the 19th received no word from the rear or either flank believed themselves to be totally isolated so were forced to fall back and dig in, their position being untenable.

At midday the effective fighting strength of the 19th Btn was just 7 Officers and 43 other ranks" 

When darkness fell on the battlefield the 30th Division held a line from the railway on the eastern side of Trones Wood , southwards and including Arrow Head Copse, to east of Maltz Horn Farm. On this line the division was relieved by the 55th Division during the early hours of the 31st July. 

Casualties in the 19th Battalion were 11 Officers and 435 Other Ranks 

The events of 30th July 1916 were regarded at the time as Liverpool’s blackest day. There follows an extract from The History of the 89th Brigade written by Brigadier General Ferdinand Stanley which gives an indication of the events of the day.

Guillemont

Well the hour to advance came, and of all bad luck in the world it was a thick fog; so thick that you couldn’t see more than about ten yards. It was next to impossible to delay the attack – it was much too big an operation- so forward they had to go. It will give some idea when I say that on one flank we had to go 1,750 yards over big rolling country. Everyone knows what it is like to cross enclosed country which you know really well in a fog and how easy it is to lose your way. Therefore, imagine these rolling hills, with no landmarks and absolutely unknown to anyone. Is it surprising that people lost their way and lost touch with those next to them? As a matter of fact, it was wonderful the way in which many men found their way right to the place we wanted to get to. But as a connected attack it was impossible.

The fog was intense it was practically impossible to keep direction and parties got split up. Owing to the heavy shelling all the Bosches had left their main trenches and were lying out in the open with snipers and machine guns in shell holes, so of course our fellows were the most easy prey.

It is so awfully sad now going about and finding so many splendid fellows gone.         
His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. 

His mother appealed for information in the Liverpool Post and Mercury and in the Social Gazette, London on 2nd September 1916. An appeal for information was also printed in John Bull, on 23rd September 1916:  

“32732 Private C.T.P. Baker, No.1 Platoon, No.1 Company, King’s Liverpool Regiment.  Missing since July 30, 1916.”

(John BullH was a popular weekly magazine with the largest circulation of any weekly in the world.) 

His mother also made enquiries with the International Red Cross but was notified on 9th September 1916 that they held no information. 

His mother crossed from Canada to the U.S. in Vermont in November 1916, age 52, widow, occupation stewardess, giving her last permanent residence as Canada, and her closest relative as son Comenius, at 51 Ennismore Road.
 
That same month his mother arrived in Liverpool from New York as a passenger, giving her occupation as stewardess and her address as 51 Ennismore Road.
 
Nearly two years after his disappearance, his mother was still hoping for  information about her only child.  In the Liverpool Echo on 5th April 1918:

 “Any prisoner of war, returned from Germany, who may have heard of Private Comenius T.P. Baker, King’s Liverpool, reported missing on July 30, 1916, is asked to communicate with his mother, Mrs. Baker, 51 Ennismore Road, Stanley, Liverpool.”
 
Miss E. Hay (relationship unknown) of 36 Watson Crest, Edinburgh, also contacted the International Red Cross.  She received a negative reply, dated 20th September 1916.  His ICRC card shows that she made enquiries after the war to the Danish Red Cross, who, although dealing with mostly eastern front POWs, were involved in repatriating prisoners in the west. She was informed on 8th February 1919 that the DRC held no information.

His soldiers pay of £2:9s:5d was sent to his mother Annie Eliza Baker at 51 Ennismore Road, Stanley, Liverpool followed by a War Gratuity of £3 on 29/08/1919.  
His mother resumed working as a stewardess, as she is found on crew lists in 1921. She seems to have been employed as a crew member on several sailings to the USA between 1917 to 1921 and received his army pension till her death. She died in Liverpool in April 1940, aged 76, and was buried in a public grave. 
 
Comenius is commemorated on the war memorial at St Annes Church, Stanley, Liverpool and also in Liverpool’s Hall of Remembrance, Panel 11 Left .

The CWGC entry for the Memorial miss spells one of his christian names as Talmach.