Lance Corporal James Davis

 

 

James Davis was born on 16 March 1889 at 20 Pitt Street, Belfast, one of thirteen children of marble mason James Davis and his wife Margaret (nee Irvine). Around the turn of the century the family moved to Dungannon. By 1911 James was living with his parents and four of his siblings at 20 Barrack Street, Dungannon, and working as a marble mason.

Davis enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 16 November 1911 (No.637). He embarked for France with A Squadron on 17 August 1914, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

On 2 January 1915 the Mid-Ulster Mail reported that:

Corporal James Davis, of the North Irish Horse, has written to his father, Mr. James Davis, senior, Barrack Street, Dungannon, under date the 21st December. No communications had been received from him for the past fourteen weeks so that his family were naturally anxious for his safety. He states that he is now using a rifle belonging to a Derry trooper who had been killed in action in Belgium in the earlier part of the fighting. His squadron had been 250 all told when they landed in France, but within a fortnight they were greatly reduced. During that time some of their lads won the distinction of the French Legion of Honour for the gallant defence of a town made by a small party of the North Irish Horse. They were then the rear-guard to a column in retreat from Mons and although the shells were flying thickly and the Germans were about to enter the town they kept the enemy in check. Three hours afterwards the place was in flames and the Germans were on the march again, but the North Irish Horse had achieved the purpose intended. They were at present attached to headquarters, but he had just heard that they were going into active service again and that a squadron was coming out from Ireland to take their place. The South Irish Horse had been sent to the trenches about a month ago and were now near Lille.

In May 1915 Davis was hospitalised in England (Moorfield Military Hospitay, Glossop), with an attack of fever. He rejoined his squadron in late December 1915 or early the following month. On 22 January 1916 the Mid-Ulster Mail reported:

Trooper James Davis, ... who is one of three brothers serving with the colours, has returned to duty in Belgium after his recent illness. In a letter to his father, ... he says:--"I suppose you will be a little surprised to know that I am again writing to you from the front. We have at last got away with it after all, and just as I suggested in my last letter. We came the same route as before and landed at the same place, and I knew almost everywhere we passed, owing to having gone there before. I am now in tip top form and fit for anything. I believe my brother Sam is in the London Irish. We are doing well considering that all three of us are now serving.

In May 1916 Davis's squadron came together with D and E Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX then V Corps. The Mid-Ulster Mail of 3 June 1916 reported that:

Trooper James Davis ... in a long letter to his father, ... comments on the recent Dublin rising. He had visited Jack McCrae and found him well. His regiment are now all together and under the command of Lord Cole of Enniskillen. He also refers to Troopers McManus, Dungannon, and Bradley, Moy, and "all the old Cookstown lot." He acknowledges receipt of a birthday present, and concludes -- Glad to hear that business is good and all are well at home. Sorry I can't tell you exactly where we are, as we are not allowed, but a place west of Arras, beginning with the first letter of my second name and ending with last letter of same name as our pretty neighbour who lived below us at home. Let me know if you can catch it up. [The squadron was at Grouches.]

On 20 September 1917 he was transferred to the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, when the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and absorbed into that battalion (No.41461).

He was initially listed as missing following the retreat from St Quentin from 21 to 28 March 1918, but soon after rejoined the battalion. 

 

Two brothers of James Davis also served. Samuel Joseph Davis joined the London Irish Rifles and was wounded on 1 October 1916, neccesitating a leg amputation. Joy Davis, who joined the Army Service Corps, was invalided out suffering from tuberculosis. He subsequently moved to Sydney, Australia, where he died in 1920.

 

(Tyrone Courier, 8 June 1916)

(Tyrone Courier, 2 November 1916)

 

The above images are sourced from the excellent website Dungannon War Dead Database, created by the Friends of the Somme, Mid Ulster Branch.