First World War Project

Thomas BAKER (of Teynham)

b. 24th February 1917
d. 24th February 1917. Aged 28

Leading Stoker, Service Number K/2171
H.M. SubMarine "E.19", Royal Navy
Tallinn Military Cemetery (Reval Military Cemetery) Estonia
Died of Wounds
(unspecified Disease)

Tallinn Military Cemetery (Reval Military Cemetery) Estonia

Thomas Baker is our only submariner and is missing from the Teynham War Memorial. However, he is remembered in local services. The omission from the Memorial probably arose from the fact that his wife remarried (1918) moving to Chatham. Curiously, the local church records associate this man with the wrong (Deerton Street/Teynham) Baker family! So, the opportunity to memorialise the loss of this Greenstreet/Teynham man passed by.

Untangling the Baker families. From our researches, it looks like there may be no familial links between these local "Baker" families (going back to grandfathers in both cases). Baker is, after all, quite a common name.

The 1911 Census confirms our research findings. There is a "Thomas A", son to William and Emma, of Deerton Street, but born in 1875 – which would give the casualty an age of 42 at the date of his death! He would also have had to be 39 years old at the outbreak of war. For this link to be right, "Thomas" would have either made a deliberate and major misrepresentation of his age at enlistment before 1911, or this is the wrong "Thomas". The correct "Thomas" appears in Census data as the son of Jesse and Sarah Ann (née French), and he is serving on HMS "Wear" in 1911 as a "Stoker 1st Class (Now Reamer Brand) (Stoker)". The same occupation is attached to the "Thomas Baker" commemorated in Tallin with the same age as shown in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission documents. The coal-related term "Leading Stoker" in the CWGC record need not be taken too literally (!) as submarines were propelled by diesel.

So, we can set aside the mistaken attribution in local church records. The local Church Remembrance document does record Thomas Baker as dying from "disease" - without any further detail. Official Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show both injury and disease as causes of death; perhaps one arising from the other?

Certainly, the dates for those commemorated in the Tallinn Military Memorial (Estonia) indicate that deaths were random rather than associated with any hostile engagements. Only two other casualties came from the crew of E.19 Submarine - both also "died from disease". All three deaths were within one month of each other - so there may have been an outbreak of (speculated) cholera? That winter was bitter, cholera and black pox were found in Russia at this time and may have had a part to play? The submarine survived until it was scuttled in 1920.

Out of interest, I have fleshed out the CWGC list of the 14 men commemorated at Tallinn.

Thomas Baker - the family man

We know that Thomas joined the Navy before the outbreak of war (1911 Census). We have very scant information to help us visualise the man. His and earlier generations of his family were agricultural labourers. Thomas' grandparents, Mary and Moses Baker were Lynsted agricultural workers; his father was born in Lynsted, and was first married (1846) to Elisa Ann (née Davis) before marrying Sarah Ann (nee) French (m. 19th December 1874 at Lynsted Church) who was mother to Thomas and his sister, Mary J. Consequently, Thomas and Mary had six step-brothers (William, George, Edward, Jesse, John and Jessie/"Jamie") and one step sister (Charlotte). Most of these children, including Charlotte, were born in Lynsted. However, in 1901, the 12-year old Thomas is living with his widowed Mother, Sarah Ann Baker, in 10, Sandown Cottages, Teynham/Greenstreet. Sharing the house in 1901 is the older step-son James/Jamie, "plate layer on railway".

Marriage records confirm the position of Thomas's wife, Sarah Ann Marks (née Giddens), whom he married in 1910 just before we see him on board HMS "Wear". Later marriage records confirm that Sarah re-married in 1918 to William T Pound living in Chatham; one headstone inscription record associates the headstone with Mrs S.A. Waker-Pound of No.39 Rhoda Street, Chatham - this is probably a typographical error for "Baker-Pound"?

Military Experience in WW1

More than a year after Thomas's death, on 3rd April 1918, E.19 and other remaining submarines and support vessels were scuttled rather than have them fall into the hands of advancing German forces, following the collapse of Russia in 1917. Only the submarine E.18 was sunk in Baltic hostilities - probably hitting a mine.

Thomas was awarded the Russian St George Third Class medal. There were four classes - this one was awarded for two distinction events. There is no diary to check the details. However, 1915 in particular saw E.19 take part in significant engagements leading to the sinking and bottling up supplies destined for Germany. This record ended with the collapse (1917) of Russia and German occupation of Finland.

The BriTsuB website offers further insights into the experiences of Thomas, who was one of the complement of 31 men in E19. Lieutenant Commander Francis Cromie received honours for breaking into the Baltic and for the engagements that included the 'massacre' of October 1915. The 'massacre' refers to the loss of ships rather than deaths of seamen who were allowed to man the lifeboats before their ships were sunk.

In short, E19 joined the Baltic Fleet in September 1915. On the morning of 11th October 1915 the E.19 sank the 'Walter Leonhardt' (iron ore carrier), pursued the 'Germania' (iron ore carrier) until it ran aground but later salvaged; early that afternoon, E19 boarded the S/S 'Gutrune', allowed the crew to go to lifeboats before sinking it by opening the bottom valves. Immediately afterwards, E19 stopped the S/S 'Direktor Rippenhagen' that was also scuttled. Finally, E19 scuttled the S/S 'Nicomedia'. All ships were taken without any torpedoes being fired.

Later, (7th November 1915) E19 sank the Cruiser 'Undine' and (December 1915) E19 sank two German submarines.

Saturday, 16 October 1915, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser.

Telegrams to the evening papers report that another German torpedo boat was sunk yesterday afternoon by submarine E.19 near Faxoe, in international waters.- Reuter The Copenhagen correspondent of the London 'Evening News' telegraphs: Ten German steamers laden with iron ore for Germany are lying at Stockholm, and twenty at Lulea (at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia). They are detained on account of British submarine activity in the Baltic.
Sailors from the sunken German steamers all express satisfaction with the behaviour of the submarine crews, who help the men to save all their belongings before sinking the vessels.
Five German steamers from Hamburg passed on Thursday through the Sound on their way to Sweden. They were convoyed from Kiel Canal to the entrance of the Sound by German cruisers.

Without diaries or personal records to consult, we have transcribed an account given of E.19's performance in the Baltic [Submarine and Antisubmarine – Newbolt (1919)]

This book gives a lively account of how British submarines in the Baltic met with some success from 1914 onwards.
Of particular interest in the contemporaneous press were the antics of Lieut.-Commander Max Horton, in E.9., especially in 1915. By October 6, 1914, he had sunk a German light cruiser and a destroyer, both in the 'North Sea'....By January, 1915, he was a full Commander, and had received the D.S.O. [and French and Russian honours]. In a series of actions, he managed to plague German shipping in the Baltic. Other British submarines of note in the Baltic were E.1, E.8 and our E.19.

Writing about E.19 in the 1915 Campaign :-

"In the meantime [following an account of other British submarines] E.19, Lieut.-Commander F.N. Cromie, had arrived. She set to work in earnest upon the German shipping engaged in the service of the naval and military departments of the enemy, towards the western end of the Baltic. Monday, October 11, was her best day, and the beginning of a downright panic in the Hamburg trade. '8.0 A.M.,' says Lieut. Commander Cromie, 'started to chase merchant shipping.' He had good hunting. At 9.40 A.M. he stopped the Walter Leonhardt, from Lulea to Hamburg, with iron ore. The crew abandoned ship and were picked up by a Swedish steamer, considerately stopped for the purpose. A gun-cotton charge then sent the empty vessel to the bottom. By noon, E.19 was chasing the Germania of Hamburg, signalling her to stop immediately.

In spite of the signals and a warning gun-shot, she continued to bolt, and soon ran ashore. Lieut.-Commander Cromie went alongside cautiously to save her crew, but found that they had already abandoned ship. He tried to tow her off, but failed to move her – small wonder, for her cargo consisted of nearly three million kgs of the finest concentrated iron ore, from Stockholm to Stettin. He left her filling with water, and at 2.0 gave chase to the Gutrune. By 8.0 he had towed her crew to the Swedish steamer, and started her for the bottom with her 4,500,000 kgs of iron ore, from Lulea to Hamburg.

The game went forward merrily. At 4.25 he began to chase two more large steamers going south. In twenty minutes he had stopped on – the Swedish boat Nyland, with ore for Rotterdam and papers all correct – told her to proceed, and ten minutes later caught the Direktor Rippenhagen, with magnetic ore from Stockholm to Nadenheim. While she was sinking he stopped another Swede bound for Newcastle, and gave her the Direktor's crew to take care of. An hour later, he proceeded to chase a large steamer, the Nicomedia, who tried to make off towards the Swedish coast. A shot across her bows brought her to a more resigned frame of mind. She proved to a largely and extremely well-fitted vessel, carrying six to seven million kgs of magnetic ore from Lulea to Hamburg. The crew were sent ashore in boats, and E.19 proceeded up the west of Gotland. Her cruise was marked by one more incident - a significant one. During the morning of October 12, Lieut. Commander Cromie stopped the Nike, and went alongside to examine her. He found her to be in iron ore from Stockholm to Stettin, under command of Captain Anderson, whose passport, from the Liverpool Police, proved him to be a Swede. To a Hun, this would have made no difference; but Lieut.- Commander Cromie had British ideas on international law. He sent Lieutenant Mee on board with a prize crew of two men, in the good old style of our ancestors and ordered them to take the prize into Reval for further investigation. After what we have already said about submarines and war policy, the point needs no pressing. War against trading vessels and non-combatants is possible within the rules, but only in certain circumstances. Even where those circumstances exist, there is no excuse for breaking the rules; and where they do not exist, only a barbarian wold hack his way through the net of international law and common humanity. Our Navy has in all circumstances kept both these laws: the German submarines have deliberately and cruelly broken both.

Lieut.-Commander Cromie continued to have the good fortune he deserved. He ended the 1915 campaign with another war-ship in his bag. Cruising in the Western Baltic on the morning of November 7, he sighted a light cruiser and two destroyers, but was disappointed in his attempt to attack. Three hours later, at 1.20, in a favourable mist, he had a second chance. A light cruiser – perhaps the same – with one destroyer in attendance came on at fifteen knots, steaming south and east. He dived at once, and at 1.45 fired his starboard torpedo. The range was about 1,100 yards, and the shot went home on the cruiser's starboard side forward. She immediately swung round in a large circle and then stopped dead. She appeared to be on fire and sinking. But Lieut.-Commander Cromie was unwilling to leave her in uncertainty. He avoided the destroyer, passed under her stern, and manoeuvred for a second shot. This was fired at 1,200 yards, and was aimed at the cruiser's main-mast, just abaft of which it actually struck. A double explosion followed. Evidently the after magazine had blown up, and several large smoking masses were shot out some 200 yards in the direction of the submarine. The destroyer then opened a heavy fire on the periscope with H.E. shell. Down went E.19 for her life; but three minutes later, she was up again to see what was happening. The cruiser – she was the Undine of 2,650 tons – was gone. The destroyer was picking up a few survivors, and after a restless half-hour made off to the southward, leaving on the scene only a ferry-boat flying the German mercantile flag. Lieut.-Commander Cromie left also, and arrived next day at Reval [later "Tallin"], where he reported the attack and added that, under existing weather conditions, it was only rendered possible by the sound judgment and prompt action of Lieutenant G. Sharpe, who was officer of the watch at the time.

E.19 was not alone in her successful campaign against the German iron-ore trade. A week after her fine break recorded above, E.9 arrived on the scene; and Commander Max Horton, in two successive days, sank the SoderhamPernambucoJohannes-Russ, and Dall-Asfen – four serious losses to the German gun factories, and even more serious blows to the courage of their carrying trade. The captain of the Nike told Lieutenant Mee on his voyage to Reval, that after E.19's first raid no less than fifteen ships were held up at Lulea, awaiting convoys; and after E.9's success, the command of the Baltic seemed to have passed for the time out of German hands."
--- there followed severe weather that prevented comparable successes for that season..... a condition that lasted into April, 1916.

"In spite of all difficulties and hardships, our submarines continued their campaign indomitably, and would no doubt at this hour still hold the mastery of the Baltic trade, if the collapse of our Russian friends had not deprived them of their bases and rendered their operations useless. Early in April, 1917, it became evident that Finland must fall into German hands, and steps were taken to withdraw our naval force from the Baltic. But, for the boats themselves, there could be no return from the scene of their voyages and victories. They lay ice-bound in the harbour of Helsingors, and there they must end their unparalleled story, for surrender to an enemy so unworthy was not to be thought of.

As soon, then, as official news came of the landing of German troops at Hango, these famous adventurers were led to their last rendezvous. The Russian ice-breakers freed them from the harbour ice. All the Russian officers who had been attached to the British flotilla, and who were then in Helsingfors, offered their assistance for the funeral rites, and soon after midday Lieut. Basil Downie, the officer in command of the submarine depot, put to sea in E.1, followed by E,9, E.8, and E.19. Each boat carried her death potion in the form of torpedo warheads with a 20-lb dry cotton charge as primers. Three of these charges were allotted to each – one forward, one aft, and on amidships; and when the alarm-bell of the clock in each should ring, contact would be made and the end would come. The point decided on was reached at last. The bells rang, and E.19, E.1, and E.9 sank to their own thunder. E.8, by some failure of her clock, remained unhurt, and since the ice-breaker could not stay out at sea longer, she was left to die another day, with other comrades. At 7.0 next morning, Lieut. Downie put to sea again with C.26 and C.35 and the torpedo-barge, with the few remaining stores. When the clocks rang this time, E.8 sank, and C.26 with her. The barge and C.35 were left to wait for C.27, the last of that victorious company. On the following morning the barge was blown up, and the two submarines were simply sunk in fifteen fathoms. They went down uninjured, but within three minutes two great explosions followed and twelve-foot columns of water shot up. 'This, presumably,' says the report, 'was the exploding of their batteries.' Our Viking ancestors would have said, perhaps, that it was the bursting of their dragon hearts."

Draft Family Tree for Thomas Baker

Family tree for Thomas Baker of Teynham

Additional Records - Tallinn Military Cemetery

Name Rank Service Number Date of Death Age Regiment/Service
(from Walthamstow)
Leading Stoker, Submarine E.9 K/6765 06/07/1916 28 Royal Navy
Also on the Mercantile Marine Memorial Tower Hill, London - Part 7 (Quade-Svensson)
S.S. "Kennett". Cargo ship, torpedoed and sunk in the Gulf of Finland off Keri, Estonia by U-19 (Kaiserliche Marine) with the loss of one crew member.
Civilian 22/09/1916 - Mercantile Marine
BAKER, THOMAS - "died from disease" - (from Teynham, Kent)
(Next of Kin (Wife) Mrs Sarah, MA Baker, 39, Rhoda St Chatham
Leading Stoker
Submarine E.19
K/2171 24/02/1917 28 Royal Navy
COE, WILLIAM GREENALL - "died from disease"
(from City of London, 29 Little Britain, London EC)
Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class. Submarine E.19 (from burial records) M/4476 13/03/1917 25 Royal Navy
BUSS, JAMES - - "died from disease"
(born Hascombe, Surrey; widow Mrs Alice Maud Buss, 7, Hall Street, Church Road, Portsmouth)
Leading Seaman
Submarine E.19
192472 20/03/1917 35 Royal Navy
(born Liverpool; next of kin (Sister) Mrs Therisa Turner 15 August Road, Liverpool)
Leading Stoker
(HMS "Hexham", mine-sweeper)
MC1688 (or MC688) 12/06/1919 36 Royal Navy (Mine Clearance Service)
HIRST, JOHN - died from action
(Son of John and Elizabeth Ann Hirst, of 17, Ivy St., Featherstone, Yorks.)
Able Seaman
H.M.S. "Gentian."
Tyneside Z/9031 12/07/1919 21 Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Mine Clearance Service)
HAIGH, ERNEST - died from action
(next of kin (Sister) Bertha E, Kearsley Cottages, Kearsley Brook, Conisbro, Doncaster, Yorks
Able Seaman
H.M.S. "Gentian"
J/44770 15/07/1919 - Royal Navy (Mine Clearance Service)
FLOCKHART, WILLIAM - died from action
(Husband of Frances Flockhart, of 69, Albury Rd., Aberdeen.)
Engine Room Artificer 4th Class
H.M.S. "Gentian"
MC/400 15/07/1919 48 Royal Navy (Mine Clearance Service)
(Next of Kin (Wife) Emily M, 2 Norman Villa, Rowledge, Farnham, Surrey)
Chief Petty Officer
H.M.S. "Princess Margaret" - Mine Layer
183835 30/07/1919 39 Royal Navy
PETFORD, ERNEST - died in accident
(Next of Kin (Wife) Sarah; 99, Dock Lane, Dudley, Worcs)
Cook's Mate
H.M.S. "Maidstone" - Submarine depot ship
M/10275 02/11/1919 23 Royal Navy
(Next of Kin (Mother) Emma, 36 Eleanor Road, Bowes Park, N11)
Able Seaman
H.M.S. "Dragon" - Light Cruiser
J/34915 11/12/1919 21 Royal Navy
(Son of Susan Craig, of 3, Dempster Terrace, St. Andrews, Fife, and the late Rev. Robert Craig. Born at Ardentinny, Argyllshire.)
Major -
Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General (D.A.Q.M.A.) with Military Mission in the Baltic. British Military Mission
- 13/02/1920 32 Highland Light Infantry
Order of St. Stanislaus 2nd Class with Swords (Russia).
(Next of Kin (Mother) Mrs. Martha Ackland, of 57, Avondale Rd., Peckham, London.)
Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant S/717 18/08/1920 36 Royal Army Service Corps - attd. (S/19747) Trabaltic Reval. British Military Mission


Section on - Medals [See Appendix 1] + [See Appendix 2]


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