Henry Ernest Baggs

Rank Lieutenant
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 29/06/1918
Age 36
Regiment/Service Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) 43rd Battalion
Cemetery Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Germany. Kassel lies in the centre of Germany some 165 kms south of Hanover. The cemetery was begun by the Germans in 1915 for the burial of prisoners of war who died at the major Prisoner of War camp at Niederzwehren. During the war almost 3,000 Allied soldiers and civilians, including French, Russian and Commonwealth, were buried there.

Henry was born on 20th April 1882 in Islington to Charles James Baggs (1849-1926), a solicitor’s clerk, and his wife Louisa Kate, nee Horner (b.1854). He was baptised at St Anne’s, Islington. His parents were married in 1873. He had seven siblings: Annie (b.1876), Hayder (b.1878), Herbert (b.1880), Charles (b.1885) Kate (b.1887) and two others who had died by the time of the 1911 census.

Henry was a pupil at the Grocers' Company School (later known as Hackney Downs School) from January 1893 to February 1898, whilst he and his family were living at 3 Alexandra Terrace, Wood Green. At the time of the 1901 census he was working as an insurance office clerk and living with his parents and siblings at 127 Nelson Road, Hornsey.

Henry enlisted in August 1914, giving his occupation as insurance clerk and stating that he had eight years’ experience with the Rifle Brigade, 4th Battalion London Regiment. He initially served as a signalman, being a Lance Corporal in the 10th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He was a member of the British Expeditionary Force from 30th July 1915 to 5th April 1916.

Henry applied for a commission in January 1916, using Major John Newman (MP for Enfield from 1910 to 1918 and MP for Finchley from 1918 to 1923) as his character referee. He returned to the UK on 6th April 1916 and on 17th May he reported to Officer Cadet Battalion at 70 Woodland Road, Bristol. He was discharged from the Royal Fusiliers on 25th September having become a Second Lieutenant on probation with the 43rd Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps.

Henry returned to active service with the BEF on 16th December 1916, having 2 weeks' leave in the UK in July 1917. In August 1917 he was admitted to hospital in Boulogne with neuralgia, (a stabbing, burning pain that occurs along a damaged nerve) but recovered and then had another 2 weeks' leave in the UK at the end of November 1917.

On 24th March 1918, Henry went missing at Grevillers, west of Baupame. German records reveal that he was taken prisoner on 25th March, the day Grevillers was captured. He died of wounds whilst held as a prisoner of war near Kassel. Apparently Private Spargo, a chaplain, read the burial service, though the Museum of Army Chaplains website has no record of a British Army Chaplain of this name. Furthermore, Chaplains were not privates, so it may well be that Spargo was a lay person who simply took the burial service because no chaplain was available. It is noteworthy that the British section of the Netherlands Legation made representations to the German authorities regarding ill-treatment of prisoners at a number of camps, including at Cassel-Niederzwehren, but these were refuted.

Henry is also remembered on an individual plaque in St Saviour's, Upper Holloway, London. The inscription reads: ‘In beloved and honoured memory of Henry Ernest Baggs, Sec. Lieutenant machine gun corps. Wounded in France, 24th March 1918, died in Germany 30th June 1918. A devoted worker amongst the boys of this parish. "I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith."’

At the time of Ernest’s death his parents were living at 137, Friern Barnet Road, New Southgate. His name is included on the 1st World War memorial in St James’ Friern Barnet, a former Church of England church which is currently leased to the local Greek Orthodox community as St Katherine's. He left £1,102 17s 3d to his father. When his father died in 1926, he left £3,796 4s 8d to his wife.