The Battle of the Somme claimed another two MPs one hundred years ago this week. Today Dr Kathryn Rix of the Victorian Commons, continues our series with a short biography of Hon. Guy Baring, who died on the same day as the former MP, Charles William Reginald Duncombe, second Earl of Feversham, who will feature on our blog tomorrow.
With the Battle of the Somme entering a new phase in mid-September 1916, two parliamentarians were killed in battle on the same day, 15 September. Guy Baring was killed not far from where Thomas Kettle had died less than a week before. Serving with the Coldstream Guards with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, Baring was shot while advancing with his men along the Ginchy to Lesboeufs road to attack a German position.
In common with other MPs we have blogged about in our First World War series, Baring came from a family with a tradition of parliamentary service. His father, Alexander Hugh Baring (1835-1889), had sat for Thetford, 1857-1867, before succeeding as 4th Baron Ashburton in 1868. He had followed in the footsteps of Baring’s grandfather, Francis (1800-1868), who represented Thetford in the Commons from 1830-1, 1832-41 and 1848-57. In turn, Francis had effectively inherited his Thetford seat from his older brother, William Bingham Baring (1799-1864). William had been MP for Thetford, 1826-30, Callington 1830-31, Winchester, 1832-37, and Staffordshire North, 1837-41, before a final spell representing Thetford, 1841-48. The family was related to the Baring banking dynasty, but Guy’s branch of the family was not actively involved in the management of Baring Brothers, his father having resigned his nominal partnership in 1864.
It was for one of the constituencies previously represented by his great-uncle William that Baring was elected in 1906, when he became Conservative MP for Winchester. His family had a long connection with Hampshire, having their seat at The Grange, near Alresford. Baring was re-elected with an increased majority in January 1910, and retained his seat at the December 1910 contest.
Like Duncan Campbell, whose death we marked at the beginning of this month, Baring had served with distinction in the Boer War. A career soldier, he had trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and had been commissioned into the Coldstream Guards in 1893. During the South African campaign he took part in the advance on Kimberley, and was also present for the actions at Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Vet River and Zand River. Mentioned in dispatches, he received the Queen’s medal with three clasps. He was also involved in operations in British East Africa, and in 1901 was part of the Imperial Representative Force which attended the ceremony in Sydney marking the creation of the Australian Commonwealth.
As a speaker, Baring had ‘a fund of humour which was used freely and tellingly’, addressing audiences in an ‘outspoken and soldierly’ manner. In the Commons, he confined himself largely to interventions on military matters, drawing on his expertise. He did, however, raise matters of interests to his constituents, such as the impact of an outbreak of ‘Isle of Wight bee disease’ on Hampshire’s bee-keepers in 1911.
Baring had resigned his army commission in June 1913 and been placed on the army reserve list. He rejoined his former regiment at the start of the war, initially serving at Windsor with a training company, before leaving for France in the summer of 1915. After acting as second in command of the 4th (Pioneer) Battalion, he was given temporary command of the 1st Battalion in October 1915 after the Battle of Loos. In May 1916 he was put in temporary command of the Guards Brigade, and he was killed while commanding the 1st Battalion. Twice mentioned in dispatches, Baring was buried at the Citadel New Military Cemetery, Fricourt. Press reports of his death noted that his name had also been inscribed on the roll of honour of the House of Commons, which was being kept at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, ‘printed in a plain wooden frame’.
You can read the rest in our MPs in World War I series here.