Godfrey Ernest Baker

Date of birth: 1894
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: Not known
Rank: Fireman
Regiment: Royal Navy Reserve
Vessel: HMS Alcantara
Died: 29th February 1916 aged 22 years
Death location: At sea in the North Sea

 

Life before the War
Godfrey was the third of five children born to parents Thomas Henry George, b.1865 and d.1939, and Mary Jane, nee Holland, b.1863 and d.1939.  Thomas and Mary were married in Lymington in January 1888.

Godfrey’s siblings – 1 sister and 4 brothers – were:

Edward Louis  b.1888 and d.1957

Albert Thomas  b.1893 and d.1953.  Married Elizabeth M Street in 1914 in Southampton.

George William  b.1896 and d.1936.  Married Edith E Turner in 1916 in Southampton.

John Henry  b.1898 and d.1954.  Married Nellie Watts in 1921 in Southampton.

Maggie Ellen Harriett  b.1901 and d.1931 in Southampton.  Married Frank Cooper in 1922 in Southampton.

In the 1911 census the family were living at 14 Princes Street, Northam, Southampton.  Thomas was a Seaman, Edward was also at sea in the Royal Navy, Albert was a General Labourer  and Godfrey was employed as a Baker Boy.  John’s occupation is not given.

 

War Service

Our researcher has not been able to trace any service records for Godfrey, although is able to confirm that Godfrey lost his life during the sinking of HMS Alcantara and is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.

 

Historical Information – HMS Alcantara

Captain Wardle of the Alcantara ordered the German vessel SMS Greif to stop, firing 2 blank rounds at about 8.45. As they drew nearer, the Alcantara lowered a few boats with a boarding party to take command of what they thought was a harmless steamer. At this point the Greif fired upon Alcantara causing heavy damage and destroying their communications equipment. Further firing hit and sank some of the boarding party’s boats.

The Alcantara returned fire. This duelling between the two ships lasted just a few minutes. Reports state that both vessels were struck several times at or below the waterline. Alcantara was in a sinking state while Greif lowered life boats. Captain Wardle ordered his men to abandon ship and by 11.02 the Alcantara had sunk. Wardle and his crew were in the water for 20 minutes before being picked up. An estimated 187 Germans perished along with 72 Britons. Five officers and 120 Germans were rescued and taken prisoner by the Andes and Munster.

Wardle was later criticised for manoeuvring too close to the German raider before knowing its true identity. Assuming the Greif was a harmless merchant ship cost Wardle his vessel and several men. Despite this he was recognised for bravery and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and eventually became a rear admiral.

 

Researcher: Shaun Connolly
Published: 14th October 2015
Updated: Insert dates here

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