While at least 50 members of the Canadian House of Commons enlisted in WW1, few saw active duty at the front. Only one was killed in action.
George Harold Baker – Harry to his friends – was born into a prominent family of United Empire Loyalists. He followed his father into law and then into politics, elected Member of Parliament for the riding of Brome, Quebec in 1911. He was also active in the local militia, so he was quick to volunteer for active service in WW1. He was killed in action on June 2, 1916 at Sanctuary Wood during the Battle of Mount Sorrel.
Baker is buried at Poperinghe New Military Cemetery near Ieper (Ypres). His epitaph – death is a low mist which cannot blot the brightness it may veil – is a line from Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, by Percy Shelley.
A bronze statue of Baker stands in the lobby outside the House of Commons in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It was unveiled in February 1924 by Governor General Julian Byng. It is unique amongst the war memorials in the Centre Block in that it recognizes the service of one individual. R. Tait McKenzie was the sculptor.
To the left of the statue, 2 Maccabees VI 31 is carved in the wall: And thus this man died, leaving his death for an example of a noble courage, and a memorial of virtue, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation. To the right, the last verse of John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields: To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch: be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.
When Baker left for France in 1915, he took his horse, Morning Glory, with him. But this was not a war of cavalry charges. The two were soon separated, with Baker in the trenches and Morning Glory as the personal mount of a battalion commander. Baker saw her from time to time, mentioning her in his letters home.
Unlike her owner and unlike many of the 130,000 Canadian horses sent to the Western Front, Morning Glory survived the war. A friend of Baker’s shipped her back to Canada in 1918. She lived out the rest of her life on Quebec farms. Morning Glory was buried at the Baker family’s summer home in Quebec. A plaque on a rock marks her burial place: Here lies Morning Glory, a faithful charger who served overseas 1915-1918. Died 1936 aged 26 years.
In 1917, Baker’s friends published his letters in A Canadian Soldier.
Thanks to Katya for the photo of Morning Glory’s plaque.