This information has been prepared by one of our volunteers, Ann Eales. I am delighted to say that we were also contacted recently by Arthur’s great-grandson, John Welch, who has provided some of the additional detail as well as the photographs. He tells us the family does not know much about Arthur, but they do know that he was married to Bertha Isabel Lester (born 25th March 1887, in Brickkiln Street Wolverhampton) in Dublin, that he left 2 children, Norah Maud, John’s grandmother, born at 18 Littles Lane in January 1907, and Constance Edith his great aunt, born at 116 Lower Stafford St in February 1913. Arthur’s middle name was Thomas and the family think his Father was a Thomas too. As well as the memorial at Ypres, he is also commemorated on the Bilston Priestfield memorial.
Arthur Davies’ army records survive, quite badly burned. We learn from them that he was in the army well before the outbreak of WW1. He was a reserve in the 3rd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, when he enlisted in the Dragoons, a cavalry regiment, at Wolverhampton on 19th August 1902. The Army Form detailing his medical examination at Lichfield on 20th August 1902, shows that he was born in the Parish of St Leonards, Bilston, that he was 18 yrs 8 months of age, height was 5 ft 5 inches, he had a fresh complexion, light blue eyes, light brown hair, and he weighed just 125 pounds [8 stone 13 lbs]. His religion was Church of England. Under Trade, “Labourer” is shown, and we also discover that he had been vaccinated in infancy – and had now been re-vaccinated. He had a distinguishing mark – a Tattoo on his right forearm.
Arthur Davies and Bertha
There is an Army Form in the record re his marriage showing that he married Bertha Lester, who was born in Wolverhampton, on 27th August 1905 at the Anglican Church of St Paul’s, Dublin, with the Rev James Haythornthwaite officiating, while he was serving in the Dragoons.
Arthur Davies on horseback, possibly at Aldershot
He was admitted to hospital at Curragh Troop Station on 5th December 1909 for 6 days with a wound to his little finger, suffered while exercising a horse. This was said to be “trivial, unlikely to affect his future efficiency as a soldier”. He left hospital on 10th December 1902. The comment “Remission of whole hospital stoppages approved” appears on his records. [While they were in hospital, soldiers had stoppages ie deductions from their pay, apparently to discourage malingering.] He was admitted to hospital at Curragh again on 9th February 1903, with Mild Rheum, and treated with salicyclates. He also spent 5 days in hospital at Hounslow with a wound from 30th November 1909 to 4th December 1909.
On 18th August 1910 when he transferred from of the Dragoons, to the Army Reserve, he is recorded as employed in the ? [indecipherable] shop for 4 months and it appears to say “cook for the squadron for 2 years.”
Arthur with other soldiers and horses – Arthur second from right
His re-engagement papers were completed at the South Staffordshire depot at Lichfield 23rd March 1914, when the Army Form states “current engagement, Army Reserve, expires 18th August, 1914 Address 18 Bone Mill Lane Wolverhampton. His measurements were recorded as Height 5 foot 6½ inches, chest 36, waist 34, helmet 21½, and boots, 8.
A hand written note dated 4th September 1914 reads: “Decision please Shall allowance be made for the 3 children mentioned Date of Marriage 27-8-05” and the instruction given is “Girl Allowance.”
There is also a letter from Mrs Davies on the record, very black round the edges, as follows (the date is not visible on the letter):
…having…allowance office this morning I find that you have made a mistake in my allowance for my children you will find that I have 4 children …. as I have twin boys aged one month as well as two Girls one is 1 year and 6 months the other is 7 years hoping you will put the matter write for me and oblige. Mrs Davies My husband address Pte A Davies 4946 Inniskilling Dragoons
An Army Form dated 26th September 1914 requests Marriage Certificate and Certified copies of Children’s Birth Certificates. A handwritten note is added to this printed form saying “It is important that these are sent as Separation Allowance may be withheld”. The same Army Form also records “Certificates returned 30th September 1914.”
Unfortunately, not long after Mrs Davies sent this letter, her twin sons died. On 31st August 1914, Arthur Henry age 1 month died, and on 15th September 1914 Norman Leonard age 1 month died. Both deaths were at 18 Bone Mill Lane, with premature birth as the cause of death. Father’s occupation is shown as Private 6th Inniskilling Dragoons [Electrical Works labourer], and the deaths were registered by their mother on 2nd and 15th September 1914. Copies of the Registrations of their deaths are in the record.
A scene from Wolverhampton (Arthur not present) Bertha and her first Daughter Norah front far right. We do not know who the other people are or exact location
Davies himself was reported missing in October 1914. An Army Form of 5th July 1915 states that “from 28th June 1915 Arthur Davies reported missing a pension for Mrs Bertha Davies wife and 2 children of 18/6 a week.” It was not until 14 February 1916 that it was reported in the Express & Star that his widow had received official notice of his death, on 31 October 1914. There is a request for the widow’s address on 18th November 1919 “in order that I may complete A.F. W.5031 for issue of a memorial plaque and scroll,” and on 7th June 1920 there is a Pension Form re widow’s remarriage 12th September 1917 and noting the change of address to 47 Herbert Street Wolverhampton.
This records that he went into combat on 6th October 1914, was reported missing on 30th October 1914, and that
Mrs B Davies applies for her late husband’s medals 11th April 1927. Widow remarried Address 8 Cambridge Barracks Married Quarters, Portsmouth.
De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour provides us with some further details about Arthur. He was the eldest son of Thomas Davies (a time keeper) and Susan Ann Davies. He was born in Bilston on 29 December 1884, and educated in Wolverhampton. He served in Egypt and Ireland, and went to France on 3 October 1914. He was reported wounded and missing after the fighting at Ypres on 29 October 1914.
Arthur and Bertha’s marriage certificate gives details of their fathers’ professions – “Soldier” in Arthur’s case, and “Lock Smith” for Bertha. Bertha’s father was Leonard Lester. At the time of their marriage, Arthur was living at Marlborough Barracks, with Bertha living at 6 Parkgate Street in Dublin.
In the 1891 census, Arthur is living at Ewins Street, Wolverhampton in 1891, together with his parents Thomas and Susan A. (the latter was born in Ireland so may link in to the marriage in Dublin), sister Sarah A. and brother Walter H. By the 1901 census, there is an Arthur Davies living with his grandmother Eliza Davies at 88 Wolverhampton Street, Bilston. As there was a Thomas Davies of about the right age whose death is registered in March 1899, it is possible that Arthur stayed with his grandmother to finish his schooling locally. Attempts to find Arthur’s baptism in the Bilston parish registers have so far been unsuccessful.
Arthur, Bertha and Norah
At the time of the 1911 Census Arthur, at the age of 25, was living at 30 Bone Mill Lane with his wife Bertha, born in Wolverhampton, and daughter Norah also born in Wolverhampton, age 4. The couple are shown to have had 3 children, only one of whom survives. Arthur is a Labourer and works for the Corporation.