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This post has been prepared by one of our volunteers, Ann Eales.


Birmingham Post, 8 September 1917

Birmingham Post, 8 September 1917

Articles about John Harold Whitfield appeared in the Express & Star on 7th September and 31st December 1917. This extract is from the report which also appeared in the Saturday September 8th edition of the Birmingham Post, with the headline “Deceived the Tribunal” and “£100 fine on individual at Wolverhampton.”

Chief Constable 1The extract from the Chief Constable’s Records held at Wolverhampton Archives, show that a Special Court was held at 2pm on Friday September 7th 1917, when Baker was charged before Captain Dibben with 4 Offences of Making False Statements to the Local Tribunal, PC Handy being the arresting officer.Chief Constable 2

There is more detail in the newspaper reports. Baker applied for a Certificate of exemption from military service on the grounds that he had an office in London, that he was working there and in Wolverhampton, and that under the direction of the Auctioneers’ Institute he was taking the place of men in auction businesses who had been called up for military service, throughout the country. In the event he pleaded guilty to the 4th charge. It was stated that he was not an auctioneer and surveyor, and at the present time he was earning £2 a week in a local munitions factory.

On 31st December 1917, it was reported in the Express & Star that he should have reported for duty at 9 am on 27th December, but failed to do so. He had been served with call-up papers at 4pm at Winson Green but next morning had asked leave to appeal, but this was refused. He came out of prison shortly after 9 am on December 24th, and arrived at Wolverhampton Town Hall at 12 noon where he asked for the appeal form. This he posted on 26th December he stated. It was held that he had done what he could, and that the matter would have to go before a tribunal.

All military appeal tribunal records, right across the country, were ordered to be destroyed after the war. Although an oversight has resulted in those from central Staffordshire surviving, Stafford Archives has confirmed that there are no records for Wolverhampton among them.

There appear to be no military records for this man, so perhaps he managed to avoid military service completely. He certainly was not a conscientious objector, and he survived the War, as confirmed by records available. He did, however, serve as a Special Constable in Wolverhampton.

The 1891 census shows the family living at 17 Harley Street, at Bow in London. Joseph Baker, the head of the family is working as a superintendent and agent for Prudential Assurance, and his wife Sarah and son John H W, age 4 and recorded as born at Ledbury, Worcestershire, are also living there, together with Amy Ward, the servant, age 75, born at “Billstone” Staffordshire. Is it this time living in London that inspired John Baker’s untrue story about working there as an Auctioneer, one wonders?

By the time of the 1901 census, the Baker family was living at 168 Lea Road, Wolverhampton. Joseph was still working for the Prudential assurance company, his son John H W is age 14, born Oldbury, Worcester, but no occupation is shown. John’s sister Florence A R Baker is age 4, birthplace West Bromwich. Mary Crump, sister of the head of the household, likely to be sister in law, “dressmaker own account” age 53 also lives there, along with a servant Alice Parkes, age 17, birthplace Stafford Woodsetton.

The 1911 Census shows John Harold Whitford Baker, age 24, birth year 1887, Single, occupation “Auctioneer And Culins, Own Account”, Birthplace Worcestershire, living at 168 Lea Road, Wolverhampton, with his parents, Father Joseph Baker who is a pensioned Superintendent Prudential Company age 64 born in Staffordshire, Mother Sarah Damaris age 61 born at Hullbrook, Staffordshire, his sister Florence Agnes, Single, age 16 born at West Bromwich, Staffordshire, Occupation “Millinery, Own Account” and a female Domestic Servant Elizabeth Cotton Single age 21 birthplace Bradlow Staffordshire.

Marriage certThere is a record on 29th July 1921 of the marriage of John Harold Whitfield, bachelor, age 34, to Alice Maude Chapman, spinster, age 33, daughter of Robert Chapman Solicitor of the Supreme Court taking place at West Croydon Congregational Church, Surrey. His rank or profession is given as Auctioneer and Surveyor.

The couple may have had children. The following records can be seen on the FreeBMD website:

Birth Quarter ended September 1922 Albert E Baker mother Chapman also registered at GuildfordBirth Quarter ended March 1931 Arthur E Baker mother Chapman registered at Croydon.

A record of the death of a John Harold Whitfield on 29th January 1963 turns up among probate records. From the value of his effects, he does not appear to have been a wealthy man.probate