Private John William Davis

Private, 26th Canadian Infantry Battalion. Service No. 69215.

A sandstone panel on a war memorial, inscribed with the names of local men who had died in the Great War

Early life:

John was born in Kendal, Westmorland on 1st March, 1887 and the birth was registered there in the 2nd quarter of the year by his parents Edward and Dorothy.
The family had moved to the Keighley area by 1890 and were living at Hermit Hole, Ingrow in the 1891 census with Edward employed as a stone mason's labourer. John was one of seven children and his siblings were Joseph age 16 and employed as a mechanic-fitter; Elizabeth was 15 and a worsted spinner; Margaret was 13 and also a worsted spinner. Dora aged 10 and Edward aged 8 were scholars and the two youngest were John aged 4 and Mary aged 1.
By 1901 John was still living with his parents but they'd moved a short distance to 28, Damems Road at Ingrow. Edward was now a stone mason, Dorothy was caring for the family home. Joseph the eldest had left home, Elizabeth was 25 and a worsted spinner and 23 year old Margaret was a worsted weaver. Dora was employed as a woolcomb minder. Edward was an apprentice to a stone mason (possibly his father) and John was a doffer at a worsted spinning mill. Mary Jane was 11 and Clara was the youngest at 5 years old.

War service:

John enlisted at St, John's, New Brunswick, with the Canadian Over Seas Expeditionary Force, signing the declaration on 6th November 1914, to serve for the duration of the war plus six months after the end of war. His trade at the time was machinist. He was 26 years and 9 months old and his medical details were: Height: 5 feet 5 inches; Chest: 34 inches; Complexion: dark; Eyes: normal; Hair: dark; Religion: Church of England.

Extracts from the 26th Battalion war diary detailing their training:

At St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.
Beginning on Monday 14th December 1914 and continuing until the end of the month:
Physical training, squad drill with arms, musketry, night work. Section drill, route marching, lectures by officers, outposts, section drill with extended order, squad drill with arms.
January 1915: The battalion was reorganised under a four company establishment.
Training was carried on in Squad, Section and Platoon Drill and Physical training.
This continued on through to May 1915 with machine gun training, attack and defence strategy, rear guard training, occupation of a defensive position, night marching and advance guards. The type of training evolved into training as platoons and companies, working as part of a larger group.
Early 1915 saw mainly general soldiering, uniform and learning how the Army structure, worked, ranks, etiquette etc. Daily exercises were mostly physical fitness, marching and drill with musketry, learning guard schemes, night operations, formations and methods of advance.
In May 1915 they were learning small arms drills, cleaning of rifles and equipment plus range exercises such as rapid fire and snapshooting, bayonet drills and fighting, signalling.
Later in the month they learned trench digging and entrenching skills, field cooking, judging distance. This was interspersed with route marches and more drill with regular parades and inspections by senior officers.


In mid June they received orders to move to Custom House Wharf for embarkation overseas. On 13th June the battalion embarked on H.M.T. Caledonia. Their strength was 42 officers, 1106 other ranks, total 1148. John is listed in the nominal roll for the Battalion.
H.M.T. Caledonia arrived at Devonport after a nine day voyage from Halifax and had experienced fine weather throughout the journey.
The main body disembarked and entrained for Westenhanger, arriving at Camp (East Sandling) in Kent. Further training was carried out over the next months taking part in more drills and exercises at Company, Battalion and Brigade level.
Divisional manouvres took place in August and on the 2nd September they were paraded and inspected by His Majesty the King, accompanied by The Right Honorable H.H. Earl Kitchener.
Shortly afterwards, John was fined $7.00 for being drunk and in possession of liquor, which sounds as if the men were having a final drink before heading to France, and the front lines.
Leaving for France:
On 15th September the battalion entrained at East Sandling for Folkestone and detrained, then embarked on transport ships for Boulogne where it entrained for Wizernes then marched all night to billets at Hazebrouck.
On 28th September they were at Scherpenberg when they first moved into trenches K & L, taking over from the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade.
His service records tell us the following information about his time overseas: On 6th March 1916 he was detached to grenade school. After returning to his unit he was granted 8 days leave (in the field) on 29th March 1916 and rejoined his unit on 7th April 1916.
On 7th October 1916 he was severely wounded in the face and admitted to No. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance, then admitted to No. 49 Casualty Clearing Station and from there to 13 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne. He recovered fully and on 15th October he rejoined his unit.
He appears to have been attached to No. 197 Company, Royal Engineers (Land drainage Company) on 3rd November but this seems to have been cancelled on the same date and he was back with 26th Battalion.
On 6th November 1917 near Passchendaele he sustained a gun shot wound to his right shoulder and neck and was admitted to 6 Canadian Field Ambulance, then transferred to No. 11 Casualty Clearing Station the next day and by the 12th of December 1917 he was at hospital in Abbeville and then to No. 2nd Southern General Hospital at Bristol. His wound was described as 'an in and out' as the metal passed through him and out the other side. On 22nd December he went to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Bear Wood (in Berkshire.) After convalescence and recovery he was sent to no. 3 Canadian Command Depot at Seaford, East Sussex.
On 21st February 1918, John was discharged from 3 C.C.D. to the 13th Reserve Battalion and he then proceeded overseas to the Canadian Infantry Base Depot on 23rd March, then he was taken on strength of the 26th Battalion on 29th March, although he was based at the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp from 4th April to 28th August. He finally joined his unit in the field on 31st August 1918 and served at the front with them until 26th September when he was reported 'wounded and missing after action.' His casualty card indicates he was shot by a machine gun. This was later changed to read 'killed in action' for the date when he was reported missing. He was 32 years old at death and had served for 3 years and 8 months.
John was buried in grave 2, row B of Triangle Cemetery, Inchy-en-Artois, France which is approximately 13 kilometres from Cambrai. The family's personal inscription on his headstone reads: 'Too Dearly Loved to be Forgot.'

26th Battalion War diary entries for August and September 1918:

AGENZ-LES-DUISANS to Area West of FONTAINE-LES-CROISILIES. 18th September 1918.
Battalion moved at 9.30 am to ACQ and entrained; detraining at CROISILIES and marching to new area. Battalion in new position by 7.00 pm. Orders received that Battalion would relieve front line next night in are East of INCHY_LES_ARTOIS. Orders issued verbally.
Battalion Commander, Scout Officer and Company Commanders reconnoitred new area during morning leaving Divisional Headquarters by Bus. Battalion moved at 1.00 pm. Sating at BULLECOURT when C.O. rejoined. Left BULLECOURT at 7.00 pm for front line, guides meeting platoons at PRONVILLE(?). Relieved 5th Battalion Highland Light Infantry and two Companies Scottish Rifles. Relief complete 11.00 pm. Orders issued verbally. "C" Company in front line, "D" Comapny in Support and "A" and "B" Companies in Reserve.
FRONT LINE. 20th September.
Quiet all day. Casualties: one other rank wounded. Weather fair. Shelling in early morning in vicinity of Battalion Headquarters.
FRONT LINE. 21st September.
Shelling during early morning in vicinity of Battalion Headquarters, otherwise quiet. Weather fair. Casualties: six other ranks wounded.
FRONT LINE. 22nd September.
Quiet all day. Ordered to push out two posts, one very advanced, during night. Lieutenant Gatenby and platoon from "B" Company ordered to do it. Post established but forward one could not be held and men dropped back about 20 yards and established post there. Casualties: three other ranks wounded. Weather fair. Forty seven other ranks reported from C.C.R.C. as reinforcements.
FRONT LINE. 23rd September.
Quiet all day. Inter Company relief during early evening. Lieutenant McCullagh and platoon ordered to push out post as for previous night. Post again established but as position was untenable withdrew to post established by Lieutenant Gatenby. Casualties: nil. Weather fair.
FRONT LINE. 24th September.
Quiet all day. Posts again ordered put out. Platoon in charge of Lieutenant Lloyd DCM; pushed forward and established post. Lieutenant Dean with platoon of "B" Company relieved Lieut. Gatenby. Heavy fighting establishing post. Casualties: four other ranks killed and seven other ranks wounded. Weather fair. Orders issued verbally.
FRONT LINE. 25th September.
Heavy counter attack on posts at daylight. Lieut. Lloyds post driven in and fell back on Lieut. Dean's. Lieutenant Lloyd killed while leading counter attack on post. Rear post attacked at 9.00 am, but enemy driven off. Post then heavily bombarded by RUM JARS (Trench mortar rounds), Rifle grenades and shells and another attack made at 11.00 am which was driven off. S.O.S. sent up but not answered. Quiet until about 3.30 pm when another attack was made after heavy bombardment. Lieutenant Dean killed and post fell back to shell holes in rear. Casualties very heavy. Counter attack made at 8.30 pm by platoon under Lieutenant Morrison supported by Platoon under Lieut. Tannahill. Post reestablished at 9.30 pm. These posts then came under orders of O/C 25th Battalion. Battalion less posts relieved by 4th Canadian Battalion plus one company 1st Canadian Battalion. Relief complete 11 pm.
HENDECOURT. 26th September.
Battalion resting. Weather fair. Quiet all day.

John was reported wounded and missing on the 26th September. It's more likely that he died on the 25th but it's not his official date of death. Looking at the war diary, unless there's something missing, he appears to have been killed the day before, because the battalion was actually resting at Hendecourt on the 26th.

His mother Dorothy was his next of kin and living at 28, Damems Road in Keighley. She received his medals, plaque and scroll in 1920/21.
She would also have received the remainder of John's outstanding Army pay.


St Peter's Church War Memorial.
Photo by Andy Wade.

John is remembered on his grave headstone. He is also remembered on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
Locally he is remembered on the Ingrow War Memorial at St. John's Church and he is also on the St. Peter's Church war memorial, which is in storage with Keighley and District Local History Society.

Source information:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 2347 – 48. Item Number: 347519
Record Group: Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)
War diary entries for August and September 1918. August (end of) Page 31. September: Pages 63 to 67 inclusive.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

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