Boer War Page 73
Boer War Local Heroes 11
Go to Great Collections
More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has recently preserved.
For Related Items/Info - USE OUR SEARCH ENGINE

Staff Sgt. John (Jack) Baker, 36th Peel Regt. of Canadian Militia

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Staff Sgt. John (Jack) Baker, c 1910 (detail)
Orig. pastel - Size - 16 x 20"
Found - Cookstown, ON
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
36th Bn Peel Militia Uniform of John Baker, c 1910
Orig. uniform -
Found - Cookstown, ON
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker
The uniform consists of a brimmed forage cap, the red tunic, complete with the correct buttons and insignia, the dark trousers, the red sash, and a pair of dark puttees.
An absolutely ultra rare heritage treasure is this once-in-a-lifetime discovery of the complete antique uniform of a named Canadian militiaman of 1910, accompanied by a large, contemporary, original pastel portrait of him wearing the exact same tunic, badges, insignia, and sash
John Baker (Apr. 22, 1884 - May 20, 1917)

In 1900 Jack Baker and his family lived on Hamilton Street in Cookstown, a small village north of Toronto, Ontario. He grew up in this house along with two brothers who also were militarily inclined.

During the Boer War, Jack, who was fifteen when it started, must have heard thrilling tales of the doings in South Africa, from his father Thomas, as the family sat and chatted on the porch during summer evenings. Jack began to work as a machinist.

It must have been sometime in this period that Jack acquired the Boer War bugle below. It was manufactured by Boosey & Co., London, in 1901.

We know for certain that it has been in the Baker family for a century. Jack may have acquired it from a returned South African volunteer as a souvenir. But there was also a musical streak in the family. The bugle was blown on many ceremonial occasions by his brother Norman Baker, who served in World War II.

The Vacant Chair

Sadly only one of the brothers came back.

On May 20, 1917, Pte. John (Jack) Baker (#703951) fell on a battlefield in France, leaving behind one vacant chair on the porch at Hamilton St. He had never married and left no descendants.

His brother, JC Baker returned, bringing with him a gas rattle that he used in the trenches to warn of approaching gas during an attack. Sadly, like many World War I veterans, he suffered all his life from chronic congestion of the lungs from his exposure to gas on the battlefield.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
36th Bn Peel Militia Cap of John Baker, c 1910
Orig. forage dress cap
Found - Cookstown, ON
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker
Jack's hat remains a fine specimen of a named soldier's service cap of a century ago, though the patent leather visor has surface cracks, and the sweatband still has Jack's DNA from the raucous times at militia functions he attended at the Barrie Armouries so long ago. The inside stamp shows the cap was made in Montreal, in 1909, by the Williams Company.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
36th Peel Militia Snake Belt of John Baker c 1910, (detail)
Orig. leather belt & snake buckle
Found - Cookstown, ON
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
36th Bn Peel Militia Wedge Cap of John Baker, c 1910
Orig. wedge cap
Found - Cookstown, ON
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker
Jack's snake buckle belt also remains. The niches in the brass still containing the white powdery residue from the last time he polished it ...

Then, in 1914, the Great War started, and JC Baker, Jack's older brother joined up.

The 36th Bn Peel Regiment

A few years after the Boer War, Jack joined the 36th Battalion of the Peel Regiment of Canadian Militia, and stayed a member for three years.

By 1910, when he was 26, he was a sergeant, and posed in his finery for this splendid portrait, which, for decades, the family hung proudly in the house on Hamilton Street.

The motto of the 36th Peel Regiment was Pro Aris et Focis, which has been used by many families, and other military regiments around the world, including the Victoria Rifles of Canada. It means For Our Altars and Hearths, or more losely, For Our Homes, or For All We Hold Most Dear.

It is the ideal motto for a Canadian militia force - and perfectly expresses the idealism of the Baker boys - they wanted to be left alone, in peace, but would not fail to respond if their family and homes were threatened.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
JC Baker in Training at Niagara Camp, 1915 (detail)
Orig. photo
Found - Cookstown, ON
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Bugle of John & Norman Baker, c 1901
Orig. bugle
Found - Cookstown, ON
Signed Boosey & Co., London, 1901, prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker

JC Baker: When Jack's brother joined up in 1915, he moved to Niagara Camp to train. Like thousands of other young Canadians, he bought one of those common, long, narrow group portraits showing countless companions who would never return from the battlefields of France.

Then, in 1916, Jack, like his brother before him, came out the porch door of the house on Hamilton, and walked down the sidewalk to go off to fight the War to End All Wars in Europe.

Jack joined the 102nd Battalion, Central Ontario Regiment of Canadian Infantry.

Below is the form which a recruiting lieutenant filled out for him, and he then signed. As a machinist, Jack's skills were not in writing, as his laboured signatures make clear.

Of course, Jack's "reds" were for ceremonial occasions; for general training and duties, he wore the wedge cap below, which shows extremely heavy usage, most of it probably at Niagara Camp, where millions of Canadian militiamen trained in the art of war during the nineteenth and early 20th centuries.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
World War I Gas Rattle of JC Baker, c 1916
Orig. gas rattle
Found - Cookstown, ON
Signed, faint pencil "Gas Rattle", and JC Baker;
prov estate of Norm & Alice Baker

John himself was laid to rest in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, in Pas de Calais, France, six kms west of Bethune. He was one of some 60,000 Canadians who left small places like Cookstown to fight in the Great War and never returned...

For decades after, Jack's portrait hung in the house on Hamilton Street, and served to remind family members of his departed spirit, and the cheery soul whose voice would never again echo off the the pillars of the family porch... His "reds" were lovingly laid away in a chest in an upstairs bedroom.

Back to Top
c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000