b. 18/09/1885 Oldswinford, Staffs. d. 18/04/1916 Blairville, France.
Edward Felix Baxter (1885-1916) was born at “Thornleigh”, 335 Hagley Road, Old Swinford, Stourbridge, Worcestershire on 18th September 1885. His birthplace later became a YMCA Centre. His father was Charles Albert Baxter, who was a miller, maltster and corn merchant working in Stourbridge. His father was declared bankrupt several times. His mother was Beatrice Anita nee Sparrow, and his parents married on 2nd June 1881 in Himley, Staffordshire. The family moved around, living in Hartlebury in 1891 and Kidderminster in 1901. Edward had four siblings: Kenneth Charles (born 1882), Eric Hamilton (born 1889), Madeleine Anita Beatrice (born 1884) and Nina Francis (born 1887).
Edward was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Hartlebury from 1894 and Christ’s Hospital, Horsham from 1897-1901. Edward was then employed by United Counties Bank as a clerk and later became Chief Commercial Master at Skerry’s College in Rodney Street, Liverpool.
Edward married Leonora Mary Cornish on 24th February 1906 at West Derby Registry Office, Liverpool. Edward and Leonora had a daughter, Leonora Francis Baxter, born on 11th June 1907 at 147 Faulker Street, Liverpool. Both Edward and his wife were keen motorcycle racing competitors. Edward had some success in track racing and road trials in Northern England, particulary around Liverpool. Edward competed in the Isle of Man TT Race in 1910, but lost control on the fourth of sixteen laps and bent the front forks. He was not injured, straightened the forks the best he could, and continued racing, but the bike struggled to steer and he was forced to retire on lap five.
Edward enlisted with the Royal Engineers on 4th September 1914 and was promoted to Sergeant as a dispatch rider on the Headquarters Staff of the Mersey Defence Corps at Rodney Street, Liverpool the same day. He was commissioned into the 3/8th King’s Regiment on 17th September 1915 and went to France to join 1/8th King’s in January 1916. He was appointed the Bombing Officer.
On 18th April 1916, near Blairville, France, he was engaged during two nights in cutting wire close to the enemy's trenches. The enemy could be heard on the other side of the parapet.
Second Lieutenant Baxter, while assisting in the wire cutting, held a bomb in his hand with the pin withdrawn ready to throw. On one occasion the bomb slipped and fell to the ground, but he instantly picked it up, unscrewed the base plug, and took out the detonator, which he smothered in the ground, thereby preventing the alarm being given, and undoubtedly saving many casualties.
Later, he led the left storming party with the greatest gallantry, and was the first man into the trench, shooting the sentry with his revolver. He then assisted to bomb dugouts, and finally climbed out of the trench and assisted the last man over the parapet. After this he was not seen again, though search parties went out at once to look for him.
He was buried by the Germans in the churchyard of Boiry St Rictrude and St Martin. His death was not confirmed until 15th May. His remains were moved to Fillievres British Cemetery, near Hesdin, France, in 1925. The Germans preserved his personal effects (cigarette case, silver match box, two knives and two francs), which were returned to his wife through the War Office in August 1920. He left £212/8/5 to his widow.
The VC was presented to his widow by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th November 1916. They were living at 5 Blantyre Road, Sefton Park, Liverpool at the time of his death. Leonora moved back to Kidderminster to be near her family and lived at 3 Roden Avenue with her daughter. Leonora re-married in October 1922 to Alexander Gray, and they went on to have two daughters – Jean in 1924 and Nina in 1925. Her new husband had also served in the Great War with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and later the Royal Flying Corps. He retired from the RAF in 1949.
In addition to his VC, Edward was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His VC was donated to the Imperial War Museum by his family in August 1988. His other two medals and other memorabilia were sold at a Spink’s auction in London on 6th September 2012 in aid of “The Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust Appeal” for an estimated £5-7,000. Also sold was uniform and memorabilia belonging to Alexander Gray CB MC for £3-500.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: FILLIEVRES BRITISH CEMETERY, FRANCE.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
ROW A, GRAVE 10
Baxter's VC at IWM pre Lord Ashcroft Gallery (Thomas Stewart)
War Illustrated, 14th October 1916
An image of what is believed to be Baxter's wife Leonora at his believed site of death
Courtesy of Tim Cornish
Kidderminster War Memorial
The 1910 Isle of Man TT (Baxter in white jumper) (Tim Cornish)