14 Jul 2009

BLAKER Nathaniel

Rifleman C/582 16th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps Died of Wounds Saturday 15th July 1916 Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, Grave XVIII.G.9

Nathaniel Blaker was baptised on the 10th October 1895 at St. James the Less, North Lancing, the fourth and youngest son of John and Lucy Blaker. There had been Blakers in Lancing and Sompting since the middle of the eighteenth century, and John Blaker was, like so many local men, a market garden labourer, and three of his four sons, including Nathaniel, followed in his footsteps. The Blaker brothers were involved in village and church life, and were members of the local Church Lads Brigade from a young age, so it was an obvious step, at the outbreak of war, for them to enlist in the 16th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps (Church Lads Brigade). The Battalion had been formed in Denham, Buckinghamshire, on the 19th September 1914 by Field Marshall Lord Grenfell, Commandant of the Church Lads Brigade, and just three days later Nathaniel and his older brother Percy enlisted at Worthing. On enlistment Nathaniel was nineteen years old, and described as 5ft 6ins tall, weighing 140lbs, with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair, and he joined for duty on the 3rd October 1914, although he did not leave England until the 16th November 1915 when the battalion were posted to France.

On July 15th 1916, the 16th King's Royal Rifle Corps, as part of 100th Infantry Brigade, attacked the German positions at High Wood, and later that day Nathaniel Blaker died of wounds received in the attack. Nathaniel and Percy Blaker had been in the same Company throughout their time with the battalion, but on that day Sergeant Percy Blaker was on a gunnery course and not at his brother's side - he returned to his battalion, but was killed in action just six days later, also at High Wood. The Sussex Daily News reported on the death of the brothers on 11th August 1916:

BROTHERS KILLED IN LANCING - Mr. and Mrs. John Blaker of 3 Cherry Tree Cottages, Lancing, have sustained a double loss, news having been received that two of their three soldier sons have been killed during the Offensive on a date towards the end of July. Sergeant Percy Blaker, the elder of the two was thirty-three years of age, and Rifleman Nathaniel Blaker would have celebrated his twenty-first birthday this month. They were both in the King's Royal Rifles, their Battalion being one specially raised for 'old boys' of the Church Lads Brigade, Percy being Company Staff-Sergeant. The elder brother had only passed a gunnery course on the 18th July, and as his birthday was on the 22nd July, it may be a melancholy coincidence that he met with his fatal injuries on that date. At any rate it was within a day or so of then that he gallantly fell, although the exact date has not transpired yet. Married little more than a year ago, it was on the anniversary of that day that his wife received the news that he was missing. Both brothers were in the same Company and must have gone into battle together, almost shoulder to shoulder. Lancing people will deeply sympathise with the bereaved family.

Nathaniel Blaker's body now lies about two miles from High Wood at Delville Wood Cemetery, alongside another soldier from the same battalion who died on the same day, but it would not have been his original resting place. After the war bodies were recovered from many small battlefield cemeteries - there were no original burials at Delville Wood. There are members of the Blaker family still living in Lancing today.


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