Clinton-Baker, Osbert

Third son of William Clinton-Baker and Edith Mildmay Clinton-Baker of Bayfordbury, Herts. His mother was Edith, the eldest daughter of the Reverend Henry Majendie, Vicar of Great Dunmow in Essex. He received his early schooling at Sandroyd School, Chobham.

He passed through Sandhurst, and in 1890 obtained his commission in the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles; six years later he was appointed Adjutant. He went through the South African War, for the most part with the Royal Irish Mounted Infantry, and in 1902 was appointed to the command of the 21st Mounted Infantry Battalion. He then served for some years in the East, and at the outbreak of war was with his battalion in Aden.

They returned to England with other regular troops from the Indian garrisons and joined the Expeditionary Force in France in November 1914. He succeeded to the command of his battalion in March 1915 on the death in action at Neuve Chapelle of the then Commanding Officer, Lt Col. George Brenton Laurie, whose letters to his wife during the winter of 1914/15 mention Lt Col Clinton-Baker many times.

November 28th 1914, in billets: We moved out of trenches in the dark last night, and as we got well away were feeling ourselves safe. “Zip” came a bullet, and hit the ground beside me; it seemed rather unfair when one thought one was well out of range. We got in here at 2030, and, having two cold pheasants sent by Major Baker’s brother, we supped sumptuously.

December 9th 1914, in trenches:  A shell descended yesterday in the cottage I run across to for my meals. I had just left, but I fancy there were still enough people on the spot to be badly frightened… However, only Major Baker’s servant was hurt by a blow from a broken tile which cut his chest, and another man was hit by a flying brick…

December 22nd 1914, in billets: Your cake duly arrived. As, however, Major Baker also received one, we decided to eat his first, so mine is safely in its box, having escaped manifold dangers.

January 14th 1915, in billets: We came peacefully out of the trenches yesterday, though Major Baker, who marches before me, had plenty of bullets round him… P.S. The sheepskin has at last arrived. Thank you for your kind present, but I am almost afraid that it will not work. It is much too bulky. Even Major Baker looked queerly at it. By the way, the cake also came; it was beautifully fresh. We do enjoy these things. Many thanks for both. The sheepskin is very short for me, and closely cropped, and looks like a worn-out mat.

During the Battle of Neuve Chapelle on 12th March 1915 Brenton Laurie was killed, shot through the head, and Clinton-Baker wrote twice to his widow over the next couple of weeks.   “March 14th 1915:   Dear Mrs. Laurie, You will have received your dreadful news by telegram. I cannot tell you what a terrible loss it has been to the whole regiment, whose deepest sympathy you have. Our dear Colonel was killed on March 12th at 1730 as he rose to lead a charge, revolver in hand; a fine example to us all. The end was instantaneous, no suffering. His Adjutant, early next morning, out with me, was shot dead at my side, and we last evening after dark buried them side-by-side close to Neuve Chapelle. We had three terrific days fighting (10th, 11th, 12th), and are still engaged. I will answer any questions you may ask as soon as I can. I am writing this in the position we captured, knowing that you must be longing for even a short letter. I cannot tell you what a loss I have suffered. You have my very deepest sympathy. Yours most sincerely, W. Clinton Baker P.S. Everything will be sent home in due course”.

He wrote again, on 24th March 1915, describing the position of the grave and that it had been marked with a cross but that he was getting a more substantial one erected. Colonel Brenton Laurie lies in Grave VI.L.15 in Pont du Hem Military Cemetery.

Clinton-Baker was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 8th May 1915 but on 9th May, at La Cordonnerie Farm, he fell in action, during the Battle of Fromelles.

He was an excellent shot and a keen polo-player; he played in the regimental team which won the King’s Cup at Aden in 1914. He was 47 at the time of his death, and is commemorated on Panel 9 of the Ploegsteert Memorial.

Source: “The Letters of Colonel George Brenton Laurie, edited by Florence Vere-Laurie”. “The History of the Royal Irish Rifles” by Lt. Col. Brenton Laurie, London 1914

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Clinton-Baker
  • Forenames or initials: Osbert
  • House: C
  • Years in School: 1882-1887
  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Regiment: Royal Irish Rifles
  • Date of Birth: 25th September 1869
  • Date of Death: 9th May 1915
  • How Died: Killed in action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer H2
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on the PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL Panel 9.