Two of the fifty-five Blues who died in conflict in 1917 have been chosen as ‘Varsity Match Icons’ for the 2017 Varsity Match fixture: John Argentine Campbell who attended Fettes College and Trinity College, Cambridge, and Old Shirburnian, Cecil Douglas Baker:
‘Nor love thy life nor hate; but what thou liv’st
Live well – how long or short permit to Heaven.’
These lines from Milton’s Paradise Lost are written on a plaque above the names of the 221 Old Shirburnians commemorated on Sherborne School’s First World War memorial. Amongst the names listed is that of Cecil Douglas Baker (1870-1917).
Cecil Baker certainly lived his life well and to the full. He arrived at Sherborne in May 1886, aged 15. A fine all-round athlete, he soon made his presence felt in both the 1st XV (1887, 1888) and the 1st XI (1888, 1889). As a cricketer, Cecil was described as ‘a very puzzling left-handed bowler, with a high delivery and fair direction’, and on the rugby field he was ‘an excellent, heavy forward. Good at lining out, and especially serviceable in tight scrimmages; a fair collar.’ The average weight of the Sherborne 1st XV in 1887 was 11st, with Cecil weighing in at 12st. 3lbs.
Cecil left Sherborne in July 1889, but his last season with the 1st XV was a successful one with the team winning six out of seven matches played. Unfortunately, six matches had to be abandoned, including a fixture against the Harlequins. It had been hoped that this match ‘would have introduced the XV to Football of a higher order than can be found in the neighbourhood’ where many of the local clubs had abandoned Rugby for ‘the Association game’. However, once at Merton College, Oxford, Cecil was soon playing for the University, becoming team captain in 1892.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Cecil was given a commission in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), Anti-Aircraft Corps, but in September 1915 he was transferred to the Grenadier Guards, and in February 1917 was promoted to acting Captain. He was killed in action at Le Bois des Crapouillots, near Ypres, France. on 29 July 1917, aged 46 and was buried at Duhallow Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. On his headstone is inscribed a verse from the Song of Solomon 2:17, ‘Until the day dawns & the shadows flee away’.
Cecil Douglas Baker is remembered at Duhallow A.D.S. Cemetery, on the Lord’s Cricket Ground MCC Members World War 1 Memorial in the Lord’s Pavilion, on the Stock Exchange War Memorial, and on the First World War Memorials at Merton College and Sherborne School.
We will remember them.
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Posted 2 November 2017 by Sherborne School Archives.