The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5796) Private James Baker, 26th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.32
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 1 February 2019
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (5796) Private James Baker, 26th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

5796 Private James Baker, 26th Battalion, AIF
KIA 3 October 1918

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private James Baker.

James Baker was born on 21 April 1882 at Bunya, Queensland, to Peter and Mary Baker. He grew up around Strathpine and attended Warmer State School. After leaving school, he worked as a farmer.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Baker enlisted on 21 July 1916 in Brisbane. He completed his training at the end of August and was allotted to reinforcements to the 26th Battalion.

Baker embarked with other reinforcements from Brisbane on 21 October aboard the transport ship Boonah, bound for England. After disembarking at Plymouth in mid-January 1917, he was sent to Rollestone Camp. A little over a week later, he went absent without leave for a day, for which he was fined three days’ pay.

In April he was admitted to hospital seriously ill with bronchial pneumonia. He took some time to recover and it was not until late-May that he was discharged from hospital.

Baker was sent to France in mid-June and after several weeks at Le Havre, he joined the 26th Battalion at Bapaume in early July. In August the battalion moved to Belgium in preparation for the third battle of Ypres. Baker saw his first major actions in September and October at Menin Road and Broodseinde Ridge.

After a relatively quiet winter, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive in late March 1918. The 26th Battalion was rushed south to the Somme where it helped to halt the German drive towards Amiens.

In June and July, the battalion was involved in several “peaceful penetration” operations, first at Morlancourt and later at Monument Wood. During the latter operation, the battalion was credited with the capture of the German A7V tank “Mephisto”, which later went on display here at the Australian War Memorial.

On 8 August, the start of the allied offensive, the 26th Battalion led the 7th Brigade’s advance near Villers-Bretonneux. During the day, Baker received a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest and was evacuated to a nearby casualty clearing station where he underwent surgery. He recovered well and by the end of the month, he had been sent to the Australian Infantry Base Details depot at Etaples. Baker re-joined his battalion in early September.

On 3 October, the 26th Battalion was involved capturing Lormisset, as part of wider operations to breach the Beaurevoir Line. During the fighting, the battalion suffered 123 casualties, including 21 men killed, one of whom was Baker. Tragically, this was the last operation of the war conducted by the 26th Battalion.

Baker’s body was recovered and laid to rest in Beaurevoir Communal Cemetery British Extension. He was 34 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private James Baker, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5796) Private James Baker, 26th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)