DAVIS Thomas 1898 – 1918

THOMAS DAVIS 1898-1918

 78830 Private Thomas Davis, 2nd 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 at least 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, 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

 The service details of Private T. Davis have not been traced.  Thomas Davis enlisted at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and served with the 2nd Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers being given the regimental number 78830.[6]  It is noted that the Evenwood Parish Magazine reports that a Thomas Davis as No. 15 in the draw at Randolph Colliery.  There was a requirement to supply 97 names of those aged 18 to 25 from whom 37 recruits would be selected. [7]  It is highly likely that this is “our” Thomas Davis.  In which case, he would have been on the front line within 6 months. [8]

The 2nd Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers was a Regular Army battalion which 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.  The battalion then joined the 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division.  [9]

The 2nd Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers joined the 150th Brigade, 50th Division from 15 July 1918 to the end of the war.  The History of the 50th Division states: [10]

“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.”

The War Diary for the 2nd Battalion, The Northumberland Fusiliers reports as follows : [11]

“FONTAINE AU BOIS & FORET DE MORMAL: 4-11-18:

Weather dull.  The battalion paraded at 0100 hours and proceeded to assembly area at G.2.A.4.4. to G.2.C.6.4.  C & D Coys ere the leading Coys with B Coy in support and A Coy in reserve.  The assembly was completed by 0345 hours. 2 tanks were allotted to the Battalion for the attack but one of them failed to reach the assembly area having been ditched en route.  The enemy were known to be holding in LE QUESNOY – LANDRECIES road strongly with machine guns.  Other positions had been located by aircraft on the western outskirts of FORET DE MORMAL. The Bns first objective was from A27.B.9.5. to A28.C.6.5.  The final objective was from A23 Central to A29.B.2.2.  The 7th Wiltshire Regt. operated on the Bn right and the 10th Essex Regt. (18 Division) on the left flank.

The attack commenced at 0615 hours with a heavy artillery barrage which proved very effective, on the other hand, the enemy[12] barrage although very heavy was wild and scattered and did very little damage.  By 1000 hours the tank attached to the Battalion had completed its mission and the leading coys had reached the western outskirts of the forest although stiff opposition was met, no part of the attack was held up and by 1200 hours the first objective had been reached.  By 1530 hours the final objective had been reached and consolidation commenced.  Numerous heavy and light machine guns were captured and 150 prisoners were taken.  D Company also captured 1 field gun.  Our casualties for the day were 3 officers wounded and 85 ORs killed & wounded.  At 1600 hours the 151st Infantry Brigade passed the brigade and continued the attack, the Bn then came (words undecipherable) and spent the night at A.28.C.8.8.”       

 Later research records that the 2nd Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers lost 24 other ranks, 4 November 1918, including 78830 Private T. Davis.[13]

 Medals and Awards

Private T. Davis was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[14]

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 years old Private Thomas Davis, all of whom fell 4 November 1918. [15]

Effects

Private Thomas Davis’ father Charles received his effects[16] and his mother Francis Elizabeth, his pension.[17]

Additional details

 Clearly, the 1/4 Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers was not involved in action at the Battle of the Sambre.  The War Diaries of the 1/4 Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers report that the Battalion was at Fecamp erecting huts, playing football and several contracted Spanish Flu.  If, as CWGC records indicate, Private T. Davis had served with 1/4 Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers then perhaps he was among a number of men who were transferred elsewhere to another unit, such as the 2nd Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers.    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.”  [18]

REFERENCES 

[1] The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Private T. Davis served with 1/4 Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers but Soldiers Died in the Great War records that Private T. Davis served with 2nd Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers.  Given that the war diary for 1/ 4 Bn., NF reports that it was at camp between 1 and 6 November and 2/NF was in action then it is presumed that he was serving with 2/NF when he was killed.

[2] 1901 & 1911 census

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] 1918 Absent Voters List

[6] Soldiers Died in the Great War & UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929.

[7] Evenwood Parish Magazine May 1918

[8] At the beginning of the war, Kitchener’s New Army recruits had about 9 months training before they went overseas, for example if they volunteered in August 1914, they might be at the front by May 1915.

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

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

[11] National Archives reference WO-95-2836-1 War Diary, 2nd Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers

[12] Undecipherable – the word looks like hostile but if that was the case the sentence does not make sense.  I think the word is “enemy”.

[13] SDGW Note: spelt Davies

[14] Medal Roll card index

[15] CWGC

[16] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901 – 1929 Record No.823873

[17] Pension card index

[18] The War Diaries of the 1/4 Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Vol. 38 1 – 31 October 1918 and Vol. 39, 1 – 6 November 1918

Photographs:

DAVIS T. Headstone

DAVIS T.
Headstone