1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: John (Jack) Davies

Private 2648 John (Jack) Davies. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 40. No known grave. Commemorated Panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Also commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial, Abergele Town War Memorial and Old Colwyn War Memorial.

Husband of Maria Davies (formerly Hembry), of 4, Woodbine Cottages, Keynsham, Bristol. Oldest of the 14 children of Robert (Parish Clerk) and Anne Davies, of 15, Plasnewydd Buildings, Abergele. Born Abergele, enlisted Colwyn Bay. After marriage he lived at 34, Peel Street, Abergele, but was living at Ty Gobaith, Old Colwyn when the war began.

For background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here.

The eldest son of Robert Davies, the town clerk, Jack Davies had been home on leave in early July 1915, shortly before sailing to the Dardanelles. He was to have a brief, upsetting and tragic experience of war. On 9 August 1915, Jack found a little time to write to his wife. It would be his last letter.

I have experienced a terrible time of it lately for we have been in the thick of the fighting and have lost a lot of brave fellows. Thank God I have come through it safely. This is indeed a dreadful place, and I should say that the Dardanelles is the worst place on earth. When we arrived on the battlefield they fairly mowed our men down. Pray for me, and God be with you till we meet again.”

On 10 August 1915, Jack was assigned to a small group tasked with collecting rations from the beach and delivering them back to the battalion in the lines. He did not return.

The news of his death came to Abergele on 16 September 1915, in a letter from Lieutenant David Lewis Jenkins [1], an Abergele man and officer in the 1/5th Battalion. Jack Davies left a widow and four children. His brother Albert [2], serving alongside him in the 1/5th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, in his first letter home following Jack’s death, made no reference to the event, which was thought to be strange at home. Nevertheless, an Abergele comrade, William Sturgess, wrote home saying, “how poor little Albert misses his brother Jack” [3].

Unlike many of his comrades of the 1/5th RWF who died in Gallipoli, Jack’s body was recovered and he was buried near the Anafarta Hills. The Gallipoli campaign ended in failure and withdrawal and today Jack’s body remains buried in unmarked ground somewhere in the southern end of the Suvla battlefield.

[1] Lieutenant Jenkins was himself killed 26 September 1917. He wrote several letters carrying the unfortunate news of the deaths of local men. For many families, this was the only news they were ever to get.
[2] Albert Davies, also killed 26 September 1917.
[3] William Sturgess of 58, Peel Street. A pre-war territorial, he fought through Gallipoli and was promoted Corporal in the field 26 August 1915 in the wake of casualties inflicted on the battalion. His seven years service expired in early 1916 and he was discharged home to Abergele 24 February 1916. He voluntarily re-enlisted in May 1916 into the Royal Field Artillery as Gunner 137182 and ended up with 38th (Welsh) Division, in France. He later transferred as Private L/13286 to the Royal Sussex Regiment and was wounded in October 1918. He was in hospital in Manchester when the war ended. The full letter from Corporal William Sturgess was reproduced in the Denbighshire Free Press, 20 November 1915, p.6.

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