Lustleigh War Memorial – Baillie

Humphrey John Baillie
Humphrey John Baillie was born on 14th June 1893 at Newnham-on-Severn Gloucestershire, the son of Rev. William Gordon Baillie and Mary Harriet (Evans) Baillie. He moved to Lustleigh aged eleven when his father became Rector here in 1904, a living he held until 1910. He was educated at Haileybury College, a public school 20 miles north of London from 1906 to 1912. Whilst he was at Haileybury he became the Cadet Colour–Sergeant in the Officers Training Corps and on 27th May joined the Regular Army as a Second Lieutenant (on probation) in 2nd Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment.
On 3rdMarch 1915, just one year before his death, he distinguished himself at the battle of Ahwaz, then part of Persia. An Expeditionary Force was dispatched from India in mid October 1914 to protect British interests in the region, in particular the oil pipeline, which the Turks were targeting. The British garrison at Ahwaz included 20 Rifles of the Dorsetshire Regiment, alongside many Troops and Companies of the Indian Army and sections of Royal Horse Artillery plus the 23rd (Peshawar) Mounted Battery. In all about 1000 British soldiers faced overwhelming enemy troops numbering 12000 men- 2000 of them Turks. They were forced to retreat and the 20 men of Number 10 Platoon 2nd Battalion Dorsets became the solid defensive rock during this period of battle. Despite their prominence in action, the Dorsets only suffered one casualty who was wounded. The regimental history records that Lieutenant Baillie was recommended for the Victoria Cross but was awarded a Military Cross. Eight of his men were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The Lustleigh parish magazine of September 1915 recorded the relevant extract from despatches of Sir Arthur Barret, General Officer The Indian Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia and the Rev. Johnson wrote that “Lustleigh would like to take off its hat to Lieut. Baillie, as he now is, and to offer its congratulations to his parents in their hour of pride”
One year later on 2nd March 1916, aged 23, Lieut Baillie was killed by a sniper during a later action when the Ottoman forces laid siege to Kut-el-Amar. He was buried in the Kut war cemetery. Of the 350 men of the 2nd Dorsets only 70 survived the siege, and the British were forced to surrender on 29th April 1916. This was one of the greatest humiliations to befall the British Army in its history. For the Turks – and for Germany – it proved a morale booster and weakened British influence in the Middle East.
In May 1916, the parish magazine published a letter from Rev. W. Gordon Baillie including the following. “My wife and I have been deeply touched by the generous gift of the people of my old parish in memory of our dear son……..we propose to devote it to a cause which is very dear to our hearts, whereby we hope to found a room and bed in his memory at the “Star and Garter” home for disabled sailors and soldiers … we are sure that my son, had he lived, would have been keenly interested in such a scheme, for he was always full of sympathy for his men.