So here’s to Robert Davy

So here’s to Robert Davy

 

A soldiers Tale

 

 

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Passchendaele

 

In October 2007 I travelled with my Father, Roger Davy to Northern France with the view of tracing the history of my Grandfather’s Brother, Robert Davy’s last year in World War 1. The research I had done in the previous months (with some great help from the Royal Norfolk Regiment researcher Richard) turned up another Great Uncle on my Grandmothers side Freddie Oakley.

The film below covers our  trip to the Somme, and then on to the Ypres region inBelgium (Passchendaele).

 

 

Robert Davy was born into the world in 1897. He was the elder brother of my Grandfather, Cecil Davy who came into the world in 1901. Come the outbreak of war in 1914, both joined the armed forces. Cecil went into the RAF (somehow at the age of 14 in 1915) and Robert joined the 8th Norfolk Regiment. I hope to share with you some details of Roberts’s journey that ended on a field in Passchendaele on 22nd October 1917. A journey that I only discovered in 2007

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Robert Davy

 

 

Like my grandfather, Robert was born in Swardeston in South Norfolk. He went to local schools and knowing the area well would have had a peaceful upbringing in what is a pleasant little village just to the south of Norwich. My family still resides within 5 miles of Swardeston and the Davys history in the village is traceable to the mid-17th Century. (Previously to that a bit tricky but the best guess would be Caister Saint Edmund’s.)

Prior to the outbreak of War the brothers were keen sportsmen playing football for Mulbarton football team. They are pictured in the shot below Robert is back row player far right and Cecil is front row player second left. Also in the back row to left of Goal keeper  is Freddie Oakley who was Uncle albeit around the same age to my Grandmother. Freddie was shot dead at Regina Trench, Coucelette at the end of the first Somme campaign on the 21st October 1916, a year and a day before Robert was killed. His grave is easy to visit when you go to Paris and I always drop in on the occasions I am passing.

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Mulbarton FC 1913

 

So what was Roberts’s story? After training Robert joined up with the 8th Norfolk Regiment in France. The first major action came on July 1st 1916, otherwise known as the first day of the Somme. The first strike out of Carnoy toward Montauben was a murderous day which Robert survived. Further action took place supporting South African forces in the Battle of Delville wood.

In September 1916 Robert and the Norfolk’s engaged with enemy forces at Thiepval. Robert was shot and injured. After initial treatment he returned to the United Kingdom to convalesce in a Hospital in Birmingham.

Freddie Oakley attacked the Schwabben Redoubt to the North of Coucellette. He didn’t make it, being shot and killed on the morning of the 21st October. He is buried in a small war graves cemetery Called Regina Trench.  These days it is a very peaceful place to visit, which I have managed to do a couple of times.

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The memorial @ Swardeston

 

Another Swardeston resident remembered on the memorial  is Nurse Edith Cavell, who was considered a Spy and sadly shot in 1915.

Robert recovered from his injuries and returned to the war in Belgium. On this occasion he was just in time for the Passchendaele offensive, toward the end of the summer of 1917. Robert ended up in a village to the east of Ieper, called Poelkapelle. On the morning of 22nd October 1917 Robert advanced on German Lines and the best guess is he was killed in an artillery exchange whilst manoeuvring on the field. He is remembered at the Tyne-Cot memorial to the East of Zonnebeke.

Roberts’s information is sketchy as a result of an incident at the Records office in Kew, London. In World War 2 the records office was bombed in the blitz resulting in many records being destroyed. All is not lost though as the Red Cross records are if anything in greater detail than British military records. Currently they can only be accessed if you can make it to the Red Cross archives in Switzerland. In 2014 all these records go on line and we should find the missing details of Roberts last day.

Nearly 100 years on from the day Robert was hit in that field, I hope to make as many people as possible as possible aware of his actions and the great sacrifice he made for his country.

My Grandfather Cecil survived the war having served in the very first days of the Royal Air force and eventually returned to Norfolk. He became a carpenter, married my Grandmother they had a son who happens to be my dear father. I have many very happy memories of my Grandfather who survived into his 80’s living in the village of Hingham in Norfolk.

The days they spent in foreign lands fighting are difficult to imagine in modern day France. I am grateful to the Norfolk Regiment museum. (And to Richard, a great chap who helped me with research) Visiting the battlefields really bought it home to my Father and me. In 2007 we made the trip to the places I have described on the 90th Anniversary of Roberts unlucky day. I will definitely be returning in October 2017 which will mark the 100th year to pass since this normal man from Norfolk paid the price that so many people did to during World War 1.

If you have read this post and enjoyed the message. I would be really grateful if you would share it with others. Just click a button below and it will take care of sharing with your friends on Facebook, twitter and others.

Thank you for taking the time!

 

JD

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Comments

  1. Roger Davy says:

    Good memories – thankyou.

  2. Biz Network Guy says:

    Got some really nice comments on email.

    Thought I would add some. Thanks to all who took the time..
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
    I am touched by your story. I have always been grateful for the sacrifice of so many that allow me to enjoy the freedoms I have today. So from that viewpoint let me thank you for your extended family’s service to the cause of freedom. I also love your interest in family history, something I have dabbled in a bit myself through the great family history resources our church provides. What a worthwhile pursuit.

    Mike Davis
    Vice President

    Hi John
    Very interesting. My son did his school history trip from Dubai last year to the WW1 battlefields and he found it an incredible experience. Well done for posting this.
    Hope all is well with you.

    Best Regards

    Eugene O’Doherty

    John

    Read it – loved it. Hit a nerve.

    I remember you talking about this before.

    Kindest

    Ian

    Hi John

    Just getting on a flight to Kiev and just read your mail and attachment. Thank you for sending it I really struggle to imagine what sacrifices were made for us. I get a great deal of satisfaction reading real war history such as this.

    It is also good to hear some good stories from Norfolk as they are few and far between.

    Take care and see you soon.

    Best wishes

    Steve Ashurst
    Executive Director

    You are a good man John! Not many would understand & let alone appreciate what so many did for their country. Fighting & dying so that we can all live in peace. I was touched by your words & will be waiting for the full story once its posted online by the Red Cross…

    Khaled Ali Fawaz
    Business Development
    Middle East Facility & Sourcing Limited

    I thoroughly enjoyed your blog and recognised many of the sites I have visited with friends looking for our own histories, I finally found my great uncle on the wall at the memorial at Arras and shed a tear.
    I eventually found where I think he died from the Bedfordshire regiment records in a book about the Bedford 3rd division, bit like your relatives we think he was killed in the advance and his body probably obliterated following the massive bombardments that followed during the next two days.

    If you get a chance go to Arras and visit the mine shafts, very moving..Makes us all very humble and very grateful..

    Rick
    Eve Trakway Ltd

  3. Biz Network Guy says:

    One more email I got from Brigadier (Rtd) Jeff Little OBE

    Thank you Jeff..

    John,

    Thank you – how super that you take time to remember. I have been to Tyn-Cot and indeed I have laid a wreath at the Menin Gate.

    A short poem below as we are approaching Christmas:

    CHRISTMAS EVE

    ‘Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
    In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
    I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
    And to see who in this home did live.

    I looked all about. A strange sight I did see, no tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
    No stocking by mantle – just boots filled with sand.
    On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

    With medals and badges, awards of all kinds, a sobering thought came into my mind.
    For this house was different, it was dark and dreary.
    I’d found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

    The soldier lay sleeping; silent, alone,
    Curled up on the floor of the one bedroomed home.
    The face was so gentle, the room in disorder;
    Not at all how I pictured the home of a soldier.

    Was this the hero of whom I’d just read;
    Curled up on the poncho, the floor for a bed?
    I realised the families that I saw this night,
    Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.

    Soon round the World the children would play,
    And grown ups would celebrate a bright Christmas Day.
    They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
    Because of the soldiers like the one lying there.

    I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone
    On a cold Christmas Eve, in a land far from home.
    The very thought brought up a tear in my eye;
    I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

    The soldier awakened and I heard a gruff voice,
    “Santa don’t cry. This life is my choice.
    I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more.
    My life is my God, my Country, my Corps.

    The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
    I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
    I kept watch for hours; so silent so still.
    And we both shivered from the cold winter’s chill.

    I didn’t want to leave on that cold dark night,
    This guardian of honour, so willing to fight.
    Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
    He whispered “Carry on Santa. Its Christmas Day and all is secure.”

    One look at my watch and I knew he was right.
    Merry Christmas my friend, and to all – a good night.

    *********

  4. Biz Network Guy says:

    One more arrived today. Thank you Anne

    Dear John

    Thanks for including me in your email. I found it very moving. It’s easy to forget the enormous sacrifices made by so many as we go about our day to day activities so thanks for sharing your experiences and family history. I shall think of you and yours when I buy my poppy this year.

    Kind Regards
    Anne

    Anne Johnston
    Eve Trakway

  5. Paco Norman says:

    Hi John,
    I liked it very much indeed …. PROUD OF YOUR FAMILY, PROUD OF YOU !
    Thanks for all your posts.
    Best Regards,

    Paco Norman ( Your Spaniard proud of your friendship )

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