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 Our Family at War

BAKER, Alexander John (Alick)
Private 370, "A" Company, 16th Battalion, AIF
[Pictured with his sister Mabel (Molly) McKENNA c. 1914]

Alick was the eldest son and third child of William Frederick BAKER and Elsie nee SUTHERLAND.  His father William was born in 1866 in Hanwell, Middlesex and emigrated with his parents to Queensland, Australia in 1883.  In 1890 William BAKER married Elsie SUTHERLAND, who was born in Old Machar, Aberdeen, Scotland in 1870.  Like her husband William, Elsie's parents had emigrated Australia but in 1874.  They had a daughter, Clara Josephine, who was born in 1891 but died in infancy.  A second daughter, Mabel (my grandmother) was born on 4 June 1893 in North Sydney.  Alick was born in St Leonard's New South Wales on 30 July 1894.

By 1897 William and Elsie and their young family had moved to Western Australia where Mabel and Alick's younger brother Walter was born in Fremantle that year.  Their mother Elsie died in 1904 in Perth , Western Australia after giving birth to another son, Arthur.  Sadly Arthur also died soon afterwards and he and his mother are buried together in an un-marked grave in Karrakatta Cemetery.  Decades later my Aunt gave me a cookery book that had belonged to my grandmother Mabel.  In it she used the receipt for her mother's funeral as a book-mark. That receipt started my ongoing search for knowledge about my grand-mother - whom I'd never known, and my broader family history.

After Elsie's death in 1904, her husband William remarried in February 1905, Annie GRAHAM (a widow nee McQUEEN).  William had taken up farming land in North Nangeenan near Merredin which Alick took over after his father's death on 22 February 1914.

Alick's story from thereon is a complex one.  He was only 21 years old when he enlisted for service in Western Australia on 21st September 1914.  He was single and a farmer.

Alick's brother Walter Rowland BAKER also enlisted and served overseas with the 1st Field Engineers.  They had also had a younger brother Frederick William BAKER who was born 1899 in Fremantle for whom there is no evidence of service.

At the time he enlisted Alick stated he had previously been a member of the Perth Boy's School Cadets.  He was just over 5 feet 6 inches tall, of dark complexion, with brown eyes and black hair.  He'd been baptised (surprisingly given his family were Presbyterians) in the Church of England. 

He was then living in Nokaning, West Australia. He was attached to "A" Company of the 16th Battalion, AIF.  His father was deceased at the time he enlisted and his step-mother Annie, from all accounts and correspondence, had returned to Victoria.  He therefore gave his next of kin as his sister (my grand-mother) Mabel.

Mabel married Clarence Derby McKenna in October of 1914, just prior to Derby's departure overseas with the 4th Field Ambulance AIF.  For the four years that Derby was away Mabel lived with her parents in law, John McKenna (Chief Inspector of Police) and his wife Ellen McKenna in Highgate, Perth.  (to be cont.)