Private Richard M. Davies

Private Richard M. Davies, 11th Battalion, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiments (Sherwood Foresters.) Service no. 73372.
previously 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Service no. 20181.

Richard was born in the early part of 1898 and his birth was registered in Liverpool in the first quarter of the year. His parents were John and Caroline Davies née Hayes and John was a Railway carter, probably working at Huskisson Goods Station in the Kirkdale district of Liverpool which was a few streets away from their home at 29, Arlington Street.
Richard was three years of age when he was living here in the 1901 census with his parents, sisters Caroline (13) and Lydia (11) and brothers John S. (9), William (6) and Samuel (4 months).
Their father John died in 1904 and his death was registered at Liverpool in the final quarter of the year. This would have left Caroline struggling to support her young family, although with the two eldest daughters Caroline and Lydia aged 17 and 15 respectively, they may have managed to bring enough money in to keep the family together in their home. By this time there was also James, born in 1903.
By the time of the 1911 census, Caroline had moved the family to Haworth, they were living at 36, Hebden Road and she was working as a weaver. Lydia was 25 and a Drawer and Richard was 13 and a Frame doffer and they were all employed at a local Worsted Mill. This was more than likely Lees Mill which was the nearest one to their home.
Lees Mill and nearby Ebor Mill were both owned by the Merrall Brothers at that time. The two youngest boys Samuel (10) and James (8) were both at school at this time, probably Lees Primary School.

War service:
Richard was 19 years old when he enlisted in London on 17th July 1915, becoming a private with the Northamptonshire Regiment. His service number was 20181. His home address was given as 2, Back Myrtle terrace, Bocking, near Keighley and this was also his mother's address and she was his next-of-kin. He gave his occupation as 'Labourer.'
Richard was posted to the 8th Battalion for training on 28th July at Colchester, where he carried out his training before going overseas with the British Expeditionary Force. He disembarked in France on 24th November 1915. He was posted out with the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment and he served with them until 5th February 1916 when he was evacuated to England with a gun shot wound to his back.

WO95/2218/2 (pages 31 and 32). War diary entry for 7th Battalion Northants Regiment:
HOOGE. January 1916.
Wind favourable. Battalion relieved 2nd Leinsters in HOOGE trenches on night of 27th-28th.
Machine Gun caused a few casualties on the Menin Road.
All quiet during day.
Wind still in our favour. Attitude of enemy fairly quiet. Enemy threw bombs at STABLES at HOOGE. All fell short.
General activity along the line. Trenches shewed improvement, less water and good progress of retrenchments.
The Commanding Officer personally inspected the wire in front of our trenches on night of 28th-29th. Many dead bodies of the enemy revealed by digging parties.
Wind favourable. Morning opened quietly. mid-day our light artillery bombarded enemy front line with good effect.
He retaliated by shelling our sector of trenches for 15 minutes putting over a great quantity of shells, without, however, doing much damage, and causing no casualties. The Officers and men behaved splendidly throughout this intensive bombardment.
Wind in favour of the enemy. 'Gas alert' issued by Division ad all men prepared for Gas attack. Night of 30th-31st sniping and Grenade throwers very active on both sides. Work contiued. Trenches shewed improvement.
Wind still in favour of the enemy. 'Gas alert' continued. Pumping and revetting of trenches continued. Night of 31st Jan-1st Feb, the battalion was relieved by 3rd Rifle Brigade, and proceeded to Camp E, via YPRES and VLAMERTINGHE. Men were supplied with Cocoa and Soup under Divisional arrangements at YPRES ASYLUM and Gum Boots were handed in on the way to Camp.
Total Casualties for four days tour of HOOGE TRENCHES: 5 other ranks.
Last Company of Battalion arrived in Camp E at 4 pm. on the morning of Feb 1st.

[Note: There only seems to be the machine gun fire incident on January 27th which caused any casualties during this period, so it's likely that this is when Richard received a gunshot wound to the back, if true, this means that it was ten days after he was wounded before he was evacuated to England on 5th February.]

Richard was posted under 'Depot' which was probably for administration purposes, then to the 8th Battalion on 22nd April 1916. They had been based at Sittingbourne in Kent since March 1916. Richard was appointed Lance Corporal (paid) on 1st July 1916. He disembarked in France on 6th July 1916 which was a period of 150 days, suggesting he had a serious enough wound to require a period of convalescence, although from 22nd April onwards may have involved further training, hence the promotion.

Desertion and Court Martial:
Lance Corporal Davies was transferred to the 11th Battalion Notts and Derby Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) on 10th September 1916 with a news service number 73372. He served with them for 262 days until he deserted from active duty on 1st July 1917. On 6th July 1917, he was arrested for desertion.
He was tried by Field General Court Martial on 13th July 1917 on a charge of 'When on active service, deserting His Majesty's service' on 1st July 1917. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, although on 22nd July 1917 this was commuted to a sentence of 15 years with hard labour by Sir Douglas Haigh. This sentence appears to have been further reduced to three years penal servitude.
[note: it's a minor point but he would have also been demoted back to Private at this time] At this point his record sheet is very faint and difficult to read. Private Davies does not appear to have served much of his sentence, or something else happened and he was tried again by Field General Court Martial on 15th November 1917. He was found guilty of desertion while on active service and sentenced to suffer death by being shot. It is possible that Sir Douglas Haigh intervened here.
The sentence was duly carried out on 15th November 1917.
Richard is buried at Wizernes Communal Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France., and he has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone on his grave.

Lees, Cross Roads and Bocking war memorialRichard Davies is remembered locally on the Lees, Cross Roads and Bocking war memorial in the Cross Roads Bowling club memorial building, which is in Cross Roads Park, near Keighley.

The 'Soldier's Effects' record shows that his mother Caroline as his next of kin and sole legatee in his will, received his remaining back pay of £14 18s 4d. She did not receive any medals for his service because they were not awarded and the war gratuity was also classed as 'not admissable.' The war pension was officially refused on 16th August 1918.

Caroline is thought to have died in Skipton aged 73 in September 1942.

Source information:
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915
British Army World War I Service Records, 1914-1920
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
UK, Naval and Military Courts Martial Registers, 1806-1930
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
National Archives war diaries:
WO95/2218/2 7th Northamptonshire Regiment
WO95/2187/3 11th Notts & Derby (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment

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