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Alexander Herbert Davis

Private 2350 Alexander Herbert Davis, 3rd/28th Battalion, London Regiment (Artists' Rifles)

 

Alec Davis

Young Alec Davis

Alec was born in 1889 the second son of Henry Davis and his wife Laura née Durrant. He had two siblings, Harold Victor (born 1887) and Ella Christine (1899). Their father, Henry, was a well known Newbury trader, running a chemists shop at 37 Northbrook Street – a business that was run by several generations of the family from the 1840s through to the 1960s.


Alec was educated locally; it is not known where he started his schooling but he entered Newbury Grammar School in 1898. Academically he was a steady student passing a series of examinations, but it was in other activities that he excelled. He captained the 1st XI at football and was a valued all-rounder in the cricket 1st XI; he also played fives (winning the school doubles with Harold Allnatt), hockey and was a useful cross-country runner.  He was also a founding member of the Debating Society serving on its committee from its foundation until he left the school and regularly spoke in debates. He was also in the Cadet Corps and secretary of the Rifle Club. He was a Prefect and Librarian and acted in several school plays. Such was the impact he made on the school that he is still remembered at St Bartholomew’s School (the amalgamation of Newbury Grammars School and Newbury Girl’s School) where one of the four school houses is named in his honour (all four houses are name after old boys lost in the Great War).

 

NGS 1st XI 1905/6

Newbury Grammar School 1st XI 1905-6

Captained by Alec Davis

Alec’s elder brother Harold went into the family business, but, when he left school in 1902, Alec chose an alternative career in banking. He was employed as a clerk by the Metropolitan Bank in Birmingham; when the Metropolitan was absorbed by the London, City & Midland Bank he continued in their employ.


In 1913 he was seriously ill and was operated on in a Birmingham hospital; the operation appeared to have been successful and Alec returned to work.


When war was declared in August 1914 he immediately volunteered to serve with the Artist’s Rifles (25th Battalion, London Regiment) and began training with them. Sadly he became ill again and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was admitted to the 4th London General Military Hospital (King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill) where he died on 21 January 1915.


Davis shop

Henry Davis' chemist's shop in Northbrook Street

The family announced his passing in the family announcements column of the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 28 January 1915 – Deaths
DAVIS – On the 21st instant, at the 4th London General Hospital (RAMCT), Denmark Hill, Private Alexander Herbert Davis, aged 25 years, 23rd London Regiment (Artist’s Rifles), second son of Henry Davis, 37, Northbrook-street, Newbury.


He was buried in Newtown Road Cemetery, Newbury, on 26 January - far more information was given in a report of his funeral in the same issue of the local paper:


Newbury Weekly News, 28 January 1915 - A Military Funeral


Young Newburian’s Death
Sincere sympathy has been widely expressed to Mr Henry Davis, in the death of his second son, Alec. He was a promising young fellow, who had already made a position in the banking profession which he had adopted. He was Clerk in the Metropolitan Bank at Birmingham, and when the Company amalgamated with the London, City, and Midland he was transferred with the staff. During last year he had a serious illness, which involved an operation in a Birmingham hospital. This proved successful and he was enabled to return to his duties. When the call came for men to serve their country in the hour of need, he was one of the first to patriotically respond, and joined the London Artists’ Corps, with whom he went into training. Military duty appeared to benefit him, but there was an old trouble and he was sent to the 4th London General Hospital. RAMC, T, at Denmark Hill. Here he received expert medical attention and skilful nursing. Tumour on the brain developed, and an operation was performed. But he died on Thursday, and a useful life was cut short at the age of 25.


Although not enabled to carry out his intention to serve his country in actual warfare, he had worn the King’s uniform, and was given a soldier’s funeral, with all its impressive solemnity. The body was brought from London on Tuesday, accompanied by a firing party of the London Artists’ Corps, with four buglers under the command of a sergeant. The first part of the service was conducted at St Nicholas, where the father has been for many years churchwarden. The officiating clergymen were the Rector (Rev Lionel R Majendie), and Rev A P Bliss. A number of sympathising friends formed the congregation, and the service was of simple character. The firing-party remained outside. The only military reminder was the Union Jack which enshrouded the coffin as a pall. The soldiers stood to attention while the body was conveyed from the church to the funeral car, and then formed up in front, leading the way, at slow march, with reversed arms. The procession through the streets was watched by many spectators, who followed on to the Cemetery, where the last honours were paid by the soldiers to their deceased comrade. During the committal sentences, they stood with bowed heads resting on their rifles. At the word of command they fitted three volleys over the grave, and then the stirring notes of the Last Post rang out from the four buglers. The martial sounds thrilled all present. It was a fitting tribute to one who had shown himself willing to serve his King and country, but had been cut off ere the time had arrived for actual realisation.


The family mourners were Mr H J Davis (father), Mr Harold Davis (brother), Mr Ernest Davis (cousin), Mr Percy Trendell, Mrs Frank Davis, Miss Eva Davis, Mrs G H Noke, Mrs Nicholls, Miss Fryer. The coffin plate was inscribed:-


Alexander Herbert Davis,
Died January 21st, 1915,
Aged 25.

Among the many floral offerings were the following:- In loving memory from Dad, Ella and Harold; Aunt Mary, Ernest, Percy and Eva; Norah and Eric; Aunt Bessie and Uncle Herbert; Uncle Tom, Aunt Annie and family; Aunt Ella and family; all a Muswell Hill; the Assistants at 36 and 37, Northbrook-street; Norah; all at Southfield (Bickley); RV Williams (Artistss Rifles); H P Sheldon and L W Partridge of Hampstead, NW; the Staff London, City and Midland Bank; “As a token of respect and deepest sympathy from his comrades in the Artists’ Rifles”; the Staff of the late Metropolitan Bank, EC; his fellow club members, Hazelwood Lawn Tennis Club; Mr R and Misses Adey and Percy; Miss Muriel Noke; Mr and Mrs Alfred Camp and family (Rosecroft); Mr and Mrs R H H Adey; J S Liddie and Mrs Liddie; Percy W Tuck; Mr and Miss Count; Members of the ONA; Mr and Mrs F C Hopson and family; Joseph, Edith, and Paul Hopson; from Lady Trendell and Percy G Trendell, Gunterstone-road, West Kensington; Miss and Miss M H Bruxner; Mr and Mrs James Stradling and family.


The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs Hopson and Sons, Northbrook-street.


Name on Newbury War Memorial

Herbert's name on Newbury War Memorial, between those of his brothers Geoffrey and Richard. (right)

Locally he is remembered on panel 9 of the Newbury Town War Memorial, the memorial board and roll of honour in St Nicolas Church, Newbury, the memorial to the fallen old boys in St Bartholomew’s School and, of course, on the headstone on his grave in Newtown Road Cemetery.

 

 

 

 


Thanks to Judith Thomas for the photograph of the NGS football team and other information regarding Alec’s school career – more can be found here and here.

 

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