Help honour our World War One heroes

Somercotes soldier Robert Halford Baker was the first to be killed in World War One.
Somercotes soldier Robert Halford Baker was the first to be killed in World War One.

Your jam jar donations are coming in tnhick and fast now as we bid to plant commemorative oak trees to mark the centenary of World War One

Two large buckets and ten stuffed jars of coins - even some notes - have been handed in by generous readers so far in our Pennies for our Heroes campaign.

Our plan is to use the money to plant established oak trees in Ripley, Heanor and Alfreton with plaques to mark the 100th year since the start of the 1914-1918 conflict.

Julie Fowler, owner of The Market Place Cafe in Ripley, which is acting as one of our drop-off points, said the response has been fantastic so far.

She said; “I’ve probably had between ten and 11 jars delivered so far - some of them aren’t even our customers, they are people who have come in especially to say ‘can I drop this off for a good cause’?”

Also as part of our campaign, each week we are casting an eye back to war itself - to help tell the stories of the courageous men that gave their lives during the fighting along with 37 million others.

This week, thanks to historian Margaret Brooksbank of the Derbyshire Ancestral Research Group - we take a look at the first Somercotes man to die in the conflict private Robert Halford Baker.

The Leabrooks Road man and miner served with the 1st/4th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers was just 30 when he was killed on Flanders Fields, on Friday, October 30.

The somercotes Parish Magazine of the time recorded the death.

An edition printed shortly after read: “He was known to us and especially to a large circle of his more intimate friends as a kind and generous hearted young soldier.”

“The soldier is a man who thinks of his duty rather than of sentiment.

“We have no doubt that Robert Halford Baker did his duty towards his country on foreign soil nobly and well and that he died for the honour of his native land as a soldier and a man.”

The parish church saw several turn out to honour the soldier, where the 23rd Psalm was chanted in much the same way it was when Field Marshall Lord Roberts died during the conflict. Lord Roberts was thought of a one of the most successful commanders in the British Army of the 19th Century.

Private Baker, born in Skegby, was one of ten siblings and his younger brother Sidney was killed in the conflict in September the following year.

Margaret Brooksbank, of Riber Avenue in Somercotes has been researching the village’s war dead since the year 2000 and intends one day to have a book printed of her findings.

She said: “Anyone that has got any information about the men that are on Somercotes War Memorial - or on the other hand - if anyone wants to know more about them they can phone me.”

There are 81 names on the memorial but Margaret says she has struggled to find out about a Harry Barker, who she knows served on HMS Saxon. Might you be a distant relative, or do you know more about the man?

If so get in touch with Margaret on 01773 604916.