Austin Provost Baldwin 27 September 1918

Austin Provost Baldwin was born in Great Barton in Suffolk in November 1882 and was brought up by his widowed mother in Peterborough, after his father died when Austin was just nine years old. He came up to Oundle School as a day boy in September 1893, the beginning of Sanderson’s second year and stayed until July 1899. At school he was a violinist, helped the oppidans (Day and Laxton School pupils) team to third place in the inter-house gymnastic competition and was fourth in the quarter-mile handicap race in his final year.

Being a day boy from Peterborough seems to have qualified him to play twice for Barnwell against the School’s 2nd XI cricket team. And there were enough day boys at that time for them to raise a cricket team to play Laxton School. 

Two years after leaving Oundle, he was living with his uncle in Suffolk, employed as a clerk to a wine and spirits merchant. By 1911, he was in Market Harborough as auctioneer, valuer and surveyor and had joined the local lodge of the freemasons. He joined the Artists’ Rifles in July of 1917 and was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in June the next year. By August 1918, he was in France and was killed on 27th September 1918, at Flesquières, when the Suffolks attacked German held positions on the east bank of the Canal du Nord near Cambrai. Killed by machine gun fire at the age of 35, it was his first time in action. 

The attacks that day and subsequently were very important in maintaining British momentum against the retreating Germans and especially in beginning the breaching of the Hindenburg Line. Unless this massive German Defence System were pierced, static trench warfare might well start up again, delaying the end of the War. The attack where Austin Baldwin was killed, helped to pave the way for the crossing of the Canal du Nord and the St Quentin Canal by early October. As both waterways were integral parts of the Hindenburg Line, their capture was crucial to allied success on the Western Front.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow