DAVIS T.

THOMAS DAVIS 1898-1918

 78830 Private Thomas Davis, 1/4th* battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers was killed in action 4 November 1918 and is buried at Fontaine-au-Bois Communal Cemetery, France.[1]  He was 20 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial.

Family Details

Thomas Davis was born 1898 at Evenwood, the son of Charles and Francis Davis.  They had 6 children, all born at Evenwood:[2]

  • Robert bc.1893
  • James bc.1896
  • Thomas born 1898
  • Charles William bc.1903
  • Eliza Ellen bc.1906
  • Joseph bc.1909

Frances had another son, John Simpson bc.1890 at St. Helen Auckland.  The 1901 census confirms that the Davis family were residents of Alpine Terrace, Evenwood and 33 year old Charles worked as a coal miner (hewer).[3]  By 1911, the family lived at Rochdale Street and Charles worked as a coal miner (shifter), John was a “brakesman” and James was a “driver.”

Thomas and the younger children were all at school.[4]

Thomas’ older brother James served with the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Hussars, regimental number 82711.[5]

Service Details

 Thomas Davis enlisted at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and served with the 2nd Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers being given the regimental number 78830[6] then at a later date appears to have been transferred to the 1/4 Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers.[7]  His service details have not been researched.  [8]

The 2/NF was a Regular Army battalion and returned from India at the outbreak of the war and came under the orders of the 8th Brigade 28th Division and served in France and Salonika before moving back to France in June 1918 to join the 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division.  [9]

The 1st/4th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers was a Territorial Force formed in August 1914 in Hexham and was part of the Northumberland Brigade, Northumbrian Division.  In May 1915 it came under the orders of the 149th Brigade, 50th Division and served in France until July 1918 when it was reduced to cadre strength and transferred to Lines of Communication.  15 August 1918, it was transferred to 118th Brigade 39th Division. [10]

The 39th Division was not have been involved in fighting but it is plainly evident that some men from these Regiments saw action.  The Commonwealth plot in the Fontaine-au-Bois Communal Cemetery was made by the XIII Corps Burial Officer in November 1918 and all the burials date from the October and November period.  There are 55 casualties with the recorded date of death as 4 November 1918 who served in the following Regiments:

  • Royal Munster Fusiliers
  • Black Watch
  • Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
  • Royal Dublin Fusiliers
  • Northumberland Fusiliers
  • Wiltshires
  • Royal Fusiliers

4 November 1914: The Battle of the Sambre and the engagement leading to the capture of Le Quesnoy involved the XIII Corps and took place.  The 50th Division together with 18th and 25th Divisions saw action.[11]

The War Diaries of the 1st/4th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Vol. 38 1st – 31st October 1918 and Vol.39, 1st – 6th November 1918 state that the Battalion was at Fecamp erecting huts, playing football and several contracted Spanish Flu then in November it was “awaiting demobilization”.  Clearly, the battalion was not involved in action at the Battle of the Sambre.  However, Vol. 31, 1st – 31st August 1918 contains the following entry:

“Rouxmesnil Aug. 1st -14th A small number of NCO’s & men who were surplus to establishment of cadre Battn. were sent to the Base for disposal.”  [12]

Perhaps Private T. Davis was among this number of men.  Private T. Davis is recorded as serving with the 2/NF[13] and it is reported that the battalion joined the 150th Brigade, 50th Division from 15 July 1918 to the end of the war.  The Northumberland Fusiliers lost 30 men 4 November 1918, 24 of whom served in the 2/NF.  It is assumed that remnants of the 1/4th NF joined the 50th Division and served alongside 2/NF.[14]

The History of the 50th Division states: [15]

“On the 4th November, the last great battle opened (the Battle of the Sambre) on a front of 30 miles, stretching from the Sambre north of Oisy to Valenciennes.  The 50th Division (having been in reserve for a few days) attacked and with the 25th and 18th Divisions of the XIII Corps overran the enemy positions.  The 50th Division advanced through the southern portion of the Feret de Mormal.  An advance to a depth of 5 miles was made on the 4th and on the 5th a still greater push brought the British Line well to the east of the Foret de Mormal.

Thereafter the enemy was hurrying eastwards in disorder and although during the succeeding days there were stiff encounters up and down the line the German troops never really rallied to the attack, so that by the 11th November incapable of either fighting or offering further resistance, he was forced to seek an Armistice.”

Private T. Davis was killed in action 4 November 1918. The circumstances of his death remain unknown.  The Fontaine-au-Bois cemetery is located some 7 kilometres to the south of Le Quesnoy.  In view of this and the relatively high number of other casualties buried on the same day in this cemetery, it is assumed that Private T. Davis was involved in offensive action in the area of Le Quesnoy.

Private T. Davis was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[16]

Burial

Private T. Davis is buried at grave reference C.3 Fontaine-au-Bois Communal Cemetery.  Fontaine-au-Bois is a village located between Le Cateau and Landrecies, in the region of Nord, France.  The cemetery contains 89 burials dating from October and November 1918.  Amongst many others in this cemetery, there are 8 headstones of Northumberland Fusiliers, shoulder to shoulder, including that of 20 year old Private Thomas Davis, all of whom fell 4 November 1918. [17]

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1901 & 1911 census

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] 1918 Absent Voters List

[6] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[7] CWGC

[8] Evenwood Church Magazine May 1918 reports a Thomas Davis as No. 15 in the draw at Randolph Colliery to supply 97 names of those aged 18 to 25 from whom 37 recruits would be selected.  If this is “our” Thomas Davis who died in November 1918, this would have meant that he would have been on the front line within 6 months.  At the beginning of the war, Kitchener’s New Army recruits needed about 9 months training before they went overseas, say they volunteered in August 1914 and at the front in May 1915.  Is “our” Thomas Davis the same one mentioned in the Randolph Colliery ballot?

[9] http://www.1914-1918.net/northfus.htm

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/39div.htm

[11] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff1918_pt2.htm

[12] War Diary

[13] SDGW

[14] CWGC

[15] The Fiftieth Division 1914-1918” Wyrall 1939 p.355-366

[16] Medal Roll

[17] CWGC

Photographs:

DAVIS T. Headstone

DAVIS T.
Headstone