Posted by: michaeldaybath | October 16, 2014

Remembering Samuel Herbert Davy

Remembering Samuel Herbert Davy, a Netherbury bellringer

Netherbury Church

The Church of St Mary, Netherbury, Dorset

The 16th October 2014 marks the centenary of the death of Private Samuel Herbert Davy, a bellringer at the Church of St Mary, Netherbury, Dorset and a member of the West Dorset Branch of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild of Ringers (SDGR). According to Alan Regin’s excellent Central Council of Church Bell Ringers Rolls of Honour website [1], it looks as if Private Davy was the very first Dorset bellringer to die in the First World War. Netherbury is a pleasant, old-style ring of six with bells from various founders, the oldest of which being the 4th, cast by Robert Wiseman in 1610 (the parish is currently fundraising for the their restoration).

Hollybrook Memorial

The Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton, Hampshire

Private Davy was not the first member of the SDGR to die in the war. That honour goes to the Westbury ringer, Private Herbert Frederick Kerley of the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, who died at Le Cateau on the 26 August 1914, and who is commemorated on the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre memorial in France [2]. Unlike Private Kerley, who was a member of regular army battalion, Private Davy was a member of the Territorial Force (TF), in his case the 4th Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment. At the beginning of the war, it was decided that if two-thirds of a TF battalion volunteered for overseas service, they would be able to operate as a complete unit. Evidently, there were enough volunteers in Dorset to establish the 1st/4th Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment on mobilisation. Like many other TF units recruited from south-west England, the 1st/4th Dorsets initial role was to travel to India to replace regular army units now required elsewhere. Accordingly, the troopship SS Assaye left Southampton on the 9th October 1914, arriving at Bombay on the 10th November. Alas, Private Davy never made it that far; he died on the 16 October 1914 (cause currently unknown) and was buried at sea. His name is recorded on the Hollybrook Memorial in Southampton, which commemorates around 1,900 servicemen and women whose bodies were lost or buried at sea. There is also a possible personal connection. My own grandfather and great-uncle were members of the 1st/4th Dorsets, and it seems likely to me that they would have been present when Private Davy’s body was committed to the sea. The battalion spent just over a year in India before they moved to Mesopotamia with the 42nd Indian Brigade in 1916.

The Hollybrook Memorial is perhaps one of the less well-known of the memorials to the missing established and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The most well-known individual commemorated there would appear to be Lord Kitchener, who died when the battle cruiser HMS Hampshire hit a mine and sunk near Orkney on the 5th June 1916. The memorial also records the names of around 650 people, most of them members of the South African Native Labour Corps, who died when the troop transport SS Mendi sank in the English Channel following a collision on the 21st February 1917.

Netherbury War Memorial

War Memorial, Netherbury, Dorset

Samuel Davy’s name appears on the war memorial at Netherbury, a cross adjacent to St Mary’s Churchyard. I have not been able to find out that much about him. Davy’s CWGC database entry notes that his parents were James and Sarah Davy of Rose Cottage, Netherbury. It is also possible to infer from the database that Samuel would have been the younger brother of Private Thomas (Tom) Davy of the 7th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, who died on the 18th August 1917 and is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery in West Flanders [3]. Samuel features in the 1911 Census as “Samuel Herbert Davey” [perhaps a spelling mistake by the enumerator, as the other records are consistent], a 25 year old carter on farm. The census shows that he was living at Wooth Farm, near Bridport, with his parents, maternal grandfather and five siblings. By the time of the census, Samuel’s parents had been married 29 years, having had twelve children born alive, of whom nine were still living. Samuel’s father (also a carter on farm) had been born at Stoke Abbott, his mother at Askerswell (as had been her father, Samuel Gregory). The children had been born variously at Pilsdon, Netherbury and Stoke Abbott, Samuel Herbert Davy himself being born at Pilsdon.

I have not been able to trace any details about Samuel Davy’s ringing career, although his death was noted in the Ringing World of the 29th December 1916, which included a report of a SDGR West Dorset Branch service held at Bridport earlier that month. The piece listed all ninety-eight members of the branch that were then serving, as well as the four that had already died: S. Davy (Netherbury), J. Hardy (Maiden Newton), G. Hoare (Rampisham) and S. Samways (Chideock). Sadly, several other names would be added to that list before the end of the war.

Requiescat in pace.

Notes and References:

[1] Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, Rolls of Honour: http://www.cccbr.org.uk/rolls/

[2] Interestingly, the first Bath and Wells Diocesan Association of Change Ringers casualty of the war died on the very same day. Private Walter Tudgay of West Lydford, Somerset was a member of the same battalion as Private Kerley and is also commemorated on the La Ferté-sous-Jouarre memorial.

[3] The 7th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry had been part of a 20th Division attack near Langemark on the 16-18 August 1917, an episode of the 3rd Battle of Ypres known as the Battle of Langemark. Dozinghem Military Cemetery, to the NW of Poperinghe near Westvleteren, was one of three groups of casualty clearing stations established in July 1917 in preparation for the 3rd Battle of Ypres (these were appropriately named: Mendinghem, Dozinghem and Bandaghem); according to the CWGC, it was the 4th, 47th and 61st Casualty Clearing Stations that were based at Dozinghem, the military cemetery being used by them until early 1918.

Update, 17 October 2014:

Interestingly, the Ringing World of 17 October 2014 included a report of a SDGR service of remembrance held at Salisbury Cathedral that was led by the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury on the 20th September. In this report, Robert Wellen commented that the guild’s current roll of honour includes the names of 77 former members as well as eight other local ringers; all of whom died during the war or in the immediate post-war period. It also highlighted the fate of Private Alexander William Sanders of Shipton Gorge, who was one of many members of the 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment that died in a chlorine gas attack at Hill 60 near Ypres on the 2nd May 1915, a day that Sergeant-Major Ernest Shephard of the battalion described as “the bitterest Sunday I have known or ever wish to know” (Ernest Shephard: A Sergeant-Major’s war: from Hill 60 to the Somme, ed. Bruce Rossor (Ramsbury: Crowood Press, 1987), p. 4o). The guild’s memorial in the cathedral is the western part of the oak screen forming the entrance to the chapel of St Michael, in the south transept. Private Sanders’s name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres and the war memorial plaque in the Church of St Martin, Shipton Gorge.

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