Davison W.

WARD DAVISON (1881-1916)

128069 Pioneer Ward Davison, 1st Battalion, Special Brigade, Royal Engineers died of wounds 26 June 1916 and is buried at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery, France. [1] He was 35 years old and is commemorated on Cockfield War Memorial.

Family Details

Ward was born 1881 at Burnt Houses near Cockfield to William and Elizabeth Davison.  There were at least 6 children:

  • William bc.1873 at Dipton, Co. Durham
  • Joseph bc.1877 at Burnt Houses
  • Edwin bc.1879 at Burnt Houses
  • Arthur bc.1880 at Burnt Houses
  • Ward b 1881 at Burnt Houses [2]
  • Elizabeth bc.1887 at Burnt Houses.

William (father) was employed as a colliery engineer and was born at North Shields, Northumberland.  William (son) worked as a blacksmith.  The family employed a servant, 18 year old Ester Cooper.  They lived at 3 Burnt Houses. [3]  By 1901, only William (son), Ward and Elizabeth lived with their parents at 3 Burnt Houses.  William (father) was still employed as a colliery engineer, William (son) was now a colliery pump engineman and Ward worked as a butcher.[4]  By 1911, Ward Davison now 29 years old worked as a butcher for a lead mining company and lived in the mine barracks in Elerch, Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire, Wales. [5] His brother Edwin still lived at Cockfield.[6]

Service Details

Ward enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers at Edinburgh being given the regimental number 24043.[7]  At some time later he joined the Royal Engineers, 1st Battalion Special Brigade and was given the regimental number 128069.  He did not enter France until after 31 December 1915. [8]

The Special Brigade was formed to retaliate against the use of gas by the Germans and it was decided to use this weapon at the Battle of Loos 25 September 1915.  Despite the limited results achieved by the cloud gas discharge at Loos, it was believed sufficiently successful to warrant further development. One of the first acts of Sir Douglas Haig on his appointment as Commander-in-Chief was to request that the War Office expand the four Special Companies of the RE into a more substantial force, viz.

  • Four Special Battalions, each of four Companies, to handle gas discharge from cylinders and smoke from candles;
  • Four Special Companies to handle gas shells fired from 4-inch Stokes mortars. Each Company to have 48 such weapons;
  • Four Special Sections to handle flame projectors (throwers);
  • plus a Headquarters and Depot, making an establishment of 208 officers and 5306 men.

This request was approved and the Brigade built up by adding volunteers from units already in France to the four original Companies. Later, drafts from England would join. The force was designated the Special Brigade.  It was placed under the command of Col. C. Foulkes, RE, who was appointed Assistant Director of Gas Services; he reported to Brigadier-General H. Thuillier, RE, Director of Gas Services. Lt-Col. S. Cummins, RAMC acted as Director of Anti-Gas Measures.

By the end of May 1916, No 1 Special Battalion and No 2 (less a Company) were allocated to Fourth Army; No 3 (less a Company) to Second Army; No 4 (also less a Company) to Third Army. No 4A Battalion was provisionally formed from the three detached Companies and was attached to First Army. No 5 Battalion was the Stokes mortar unit, and had 3 Companies attached to Fourth Army and 1 to Third Army. The Flame Projector Sections arrived in France 26 June 1916.[9]

The Fourth Army was involved in the Battle of the Somme which started 1 July 1916.  The previous week, German positions were subject to a tremendous barrage from Allied artillery.  Pioneer W. Davison died of wounds, 26 June 1916 and it is likely that his battery came under fire from German artillery causing fatal wounds.  21 other ranks serving with the 1st Special Brigade died that day. [10]

Pioneer W. Davison was awarded the British War and Victory medals. [11]

Press Report

The following article appeared in the Durham Chronicle 6 July 1916: [12]

“Mr. Edwin Davison had received word that his brother, Ward was killed last week.  Quite a gloom was cast over the village on Saturday when the news became known.  Formerly Ward was employed by the Co-operative Society as a butcher and well acquainted with the people and highly appreciated.  He left the village several years ago.”


Pioneer W. Davison is buried at grave reference 1.G.3, Bertrancourt Military Cemetery, France.  There are 416 WW1 burials.  The register notes that his brother Mr. E. Davison (Edwin) lived at Raby Terrace, Cockfield, Co. Durham. [13]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index Vol.10a p.276 Teesdale Q2.1881

[3] 1891 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] 1911 census

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[8] SDGW

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

[10] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[11] Medal Roll card index

[12] Durham Chronicle 6 July 1916: Durham County Council Archives

[13] Commonwealth War Graves Commission


DAVISON W.  Headstone


One thought on “Davison W.

  1. Pingback: COCKFIELD | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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