Corporal Donald Hugh Baker (20706350) served in 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th (Red Bull) Infantry Division, United States Army during the Second World War. Born on 5th June 1919, he was the son of Hugh Melvin Baker and Katherine Beekman Baker of Grove Township, Cass County, Iowa, U.S.A.
Baker died on 6th June 1942 the day after his 23rd birthday at Coleraine Railway Station, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry. He was on leave for the weekend and possibly hoping to celebrate his birthday in the seaside town of Portrush, Co. Antrim having traveled from Belfast. Along with colleague Corporal George C. Case, he left the train at Coleraine to use the bathroom while it had stopped in the station. The average wait time of a train on this line, however, was only 2 minutes.
As the train began to pull out, both American soldiers rushed along the platform. The distance between the lavatories and the rear of the train was around 70 yards. Two girls in the second from rear carriage flung the door open allowing Corporal Case to board. Albert Parkhill, the Traffic Porter, closed the door following Case’s embarkation leaving Baker remaining on the platform. Case opened the door for his friend and shouted along the platform. In attempting to board the moving train, Baker grabbed for the door, lost his footing, and fell between the train and the platform. The rear carriage ran over the young corporal causing severe injuries, which would ultimately prove fatal.
Railway Guard George Wilmot leaped onto the tracks as soon as the train was clear of the station. Baker said: “My God, don’t hold me, lift me up”, before losing consciousness.
Dr. W.A. Clarke was the first medical practitioner on the scene. He gave instructions for Baker to be brought by stretcher to the station waiting room. There, a group of around half-a-dozen doctors, including several military doctors, worked to save the American soldier. Baker’s right leg was severed below the knee. Witnesses describe his left thigh as “smashed to a bloody pulp”. He did not regain consciousness and died a short time later en route to a nearby hospital in a military ambulance.
Mr. A.E. Martin represented the L.M.S. Railway Company at the inquest on 9th June 1942. Head Porter Daniel Weir, Traffic Porter Albert Parkhill, and Railway Guard George Wilmot gave evidence as well as Corporal George C. Case. The local coroner and R.U.C. District Inspector Robinson joined all those at the inquest in expressing sympathy to Baker’s wife, relatives, and fellow soldiers.
Burial first took place on 9th June 1942 at Glenalina Extension, ES, 67 of Belfast City Cemetery. A reburial later took place at Lisnabreeny American Military Cemetery, Belfast. After the war, Baker was repatriated to Block 5 of Atlantic Cemetery, Atlantic, Cass County, Iowa, U.S.A.