The Life and Times of Albert Baker

Tank Man tells the early experiences of the tank in action through the letters and diaries of Cpt Bert Baker.

Bert won a Military Cross and bar for two actions that helped establish the tank as a game-changing weapon of war.

His grandson Jonathan Baker, who researched the story, said: “My grandfather had left a detailed record of his war in a notebook, into which he had transcribed extracts from a diary and from his letters home.

“I was able to trace all his movements over the whole four years of the war, and learn about the development of the tanks through the direct experience of one of the first men to fight in one.

“I decided to tell the two stories side by side, and give my grandfather’s heroics the credit I felt they deserved.

“I got the clear impression my grandfather rather enjoyed a large part of his wartime service.

“As so many others, he liked being in the military and being given experiences and responsibilities far removed from his civilian life.

“So many others were not so fortunate. He picked up the pieces of his life, returning to his old job and starting a family.

“I do not remember his wartime exploits ever being discussed at home, so I was amazed at what I later learned about them, and to find that we had a war hero in the family. I am thrilled to have been able to bring his story into the light.”

David Willey, curator of the Tank Museum, said: “Bert was one of the characters we focused on in our exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the first tanks.

“Jonathan has done some amazing research and a remarkable job to put Bert’s war into the wider context of the development of the tank in the First World War.”

Black and white picture of AG Baker Albert Baker alongside the Graincourt gun.
Albert Baker alongside the Graincourt gun.
Black and White portrait of AG Baker in uniform
Albert (Bert) Baker features in the Museum's the Tank Men exhibition.

In the first action, a successful raid outside Ypres known as The Cockroft, the tanks showed what they could do when used properly.

In the second, tanks were deployed in their hundreds at the Battle of Cambrai, they were the spearhead of a spectacular advance that finally overcame the doubts of even the most sceptical commanders.

“But the book is also a social history,” he added. “Growing up in the newly emerging suburbia of London, the ins and outs of running an urban dairy and his own post-war involvement as a chemical analyst in the efforts to produce milk that was safe to drink.”

Watch Cambrai: The Tank Corps Story to learn more about Albert ‘Bert’ Baker’s story and other stories of the early tank men.