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British soldier
Born 1827 Died 1887

Valentine 'Aker Pasha' Baker was a younger brother of Sir Samuel Baker. He was educated at Gloucester and in Ceylon, and in 1848 entered the Ceylon Rifles as an ensign. Soon transferred to the 12th Lancers, he saw active service with that regiment in the Kaffir war of 1852-53. In the Crimean War Baker was present at the action of Traktir (or Tchernaya) and at the fall of Sevastopol, and in 1859 he became major in the 10th Hussars, succeeding only a year later to the command. This position he held for thirteen years, during which period the highest efficiency of his men was reached, and outside the regiment he did good service to his arm by his writings.

He went through the wars of 1866 and 1870 as a spectator with the German armies, and in 1873 he started upon a famous journey through Khorassan. Though he was unable to reach Khiva the results of the journey afforded a great deal of political, geographical and military information, especially as to the advance of Russia in central Asia. In 1874 he was back in England and took up a staff appointment at Aldershot. Less than a year later Colonel Baker's career in the British army came to an untimely end. He was arrested on a charge of indecent assault upon a young woman in a railway carriage, and was sentenced to a years imprisonment and a fine. His dismissal from the service was an inevitable consequence; it must be stated, however, that the view taken of the circumstances by good authorities was that Baker's conduct, when judged by conventional standards, admitted of considerable extenuation. He himself never opened his mouth in self-defence.

Two years later, having meanwhile left England, he entered the service of Turkey in the war with Russia. At first in a high position in the gendarmerie, he was soon transferred to Mehemet's staff, and thence took over the command of a division of infantry. With this division Baker sustained the brilliant rearguard action of Tashkessan against the troops of Gourko. Promoted Ferik (lieutenant-general) for this feat, he continued to command Suleiman's rearguard with distinction. After the peace he was employed in an administrative post in Armenia, where he remained until 1882. In this year he was offered the command of the newly formed Egyptian army, which he accepted. On his arrival at Cairo, however, the offer was withdrawn and he only obtained the command of the Egyptian police. In this post he devoted by far the greater amount of his energy to the training of the gendarmerie, which he realized would be the reserve of the purely military forces.

When the Sudan War broke out, Baker, hastening with 3,500 men to relieve Tokar, encountered the enemy under Osman Digna at El Teb. His men became panic-stricken at the first rush and allowed themselves to be slaughtered like sheep. Baker himself with a few of his officers succeeded by hard fighting in cutting a way out, but his force was annihilated. British troops soon afterwards arrived at Suakin, and Sir Gerald Graham took the offensive. Baker Pasha accompanied the British force, and guided it in its march to the scene of his defeat, and at the desperately-fought second battle of El Teb he was wounded. He remained in command of the Egyptian police until his death in 1887.

Amongst his works may be mentioned Our National Defences (1860), War in Bulgaria, a Narrative of Personal Experience (London, 1879), Clouds in the East (London, 1876).

Being the entry for BAKER, VALENTINE AKER PASHA in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.

The above account of the life of Valentine Baker somewhat skates over the most interesting part of the Colonel's career, to whit the unfortunate incident with "a young woman in a railway carriage". This notable event took place on the 17th June 1875 when the forty-nine year old Colonel Baker was travelling to London on the Portsmouth to Waterloo train and found himself alone in a railway carriage with the twenty-one year old Rebecca Dickenson.

The Colonel appears to have taken a fancy to Miss Dickenson, and her charms were such that as the train left Woking station the Colonel felt impelled to place his hand inside her underwear. As the railway carriage was not of the corridor type, in order to protect her virtue and avoid the attentions of the amorous Colonel, Miss Dickenson was forced to make her escape through the external carriage door. She was therefore spotted by a bricklayer named William Burrowes clinging on to the door handle and teetering on the running board of the carriage as the train sped through Walton station.

The concerned Mr Burrowes alerted the stationmaster at Walton who arranged for the train to be halted at Esther; Rebecca Dickenson was rescued from her somewhat precarious position and returned to the safety of a seat in the railway carriage and escorted to Waterloo station by a clergyman named Baldwin Brown.

Colonel Baker was arrested three days later and subsequently stood trial at Croydon Assizes on the 2nd August 1875 being charged with 'intent to ravish', which is what they called attempted rape in those days. The trial attracted a great deal of public interest and huge crowds flocked to the courtroom. This was not only due to the fact that the public hoped to hear all the salacious details but also because the public interest was excited by the fact that Valentine Baker was a close friend of the Prince of Wales and counted amongst his aristocratic supporters, men such as the Marquess of Tavistock and the Baron Lucan.

Of course many expected that such influential friends would ensure that the Colonel was acquitted of the charge and indeed the judge was extremely favourable to the defendant, stating in his summing up that he could see no "intent to ravish" and that Colonel Baker was simply attempting to "win the girl's consent to intercourse by exciting her passions". This presumably is what the Encyclopedia Britannica means when it states that his "conduct, when judged by conventional standards, admitted of considerable extenuation" although it is worth pointing out that even in the late nineteenth century it was not generally regarded as acceptable conduct for a gentleman to stick his hand up a woman's skirt in a public railway carriage. One imagines that the judge may well have taken an entirely different view had it been Miss Dickenson who was a friend of the Prince of Wales.

In any event, despite the partiality of the trial judge, the jury displayed a certain independence of mind; whilst they cleared the Colonel on the charge of attempted rape they found him guilty of indecent assault. He was thus fined £500 and sentenced to a year in prison. Colonel Baker tried to resign his commission but the military authorities insisted that he be cashiered; quite possibly acting under the influence of Queen Victoria who generally disapproved of the bad company her son kept and is believed to have insisted on making an example of the disreputable Colonel.

As we have seen, after his release from prison the former Colonel Baker continued his military career first in Turkey and then with the Egyptian police force. He became something of a hero after his escapades in Egypt and attempts were made to have him reinstated in the British army but Queen Victoria flatly refused to entertain the idea. It was only after his death from typhoid in 1887 that the queen relented and permitted him to be buried with full military honours in Cairo.

Sourced from Brewer's Rogues, Villians and Eccentrics by William Donaldson (Phoenix, 2004) which of course entirely ignores the Colonel's military accomplishments and concentrates entirely on his criminal career.

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