DAVIS, Frank

Service Number: 4954
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 14th Infantry Battalion
Born: Not yet discovered
Home Town: Not yet discovered
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Killed in action, Belgium, 27 September 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Golden Point State School, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient)
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World War 1 Service

14 Mar 1916: Involvement Private, SN 4954, 14th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
14 Mar 1916: Embarked Private, SN 4954, 14th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Anchises, Melbourne
27 Sep 1917: Involvement Corporal, SN 4954, 14th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres

Cpl Frank Davis, Ballarat

From Ballarat and Districts in WWI group

Ballarat & District in the Great War
March 27 2019 at 3:51 PM

‘…We often think of days gone by
When we were all together;
A shadow o’er our lives is cast:
Our dear friend gone forever…’

The young men of Australia volunteered in their thousands to serve King and Country during the Great War. William and Mary Davis of Ballarat East watched as one by one four of their sons marched off to war, living for nearly four years with the hope that they would all return safely home.

William Davis, who had been born in Staffordshire, England, and his Ballarat-born wife Mary Bunting, were well settled in Ballarat East when their sixth child, Frank, was born in 1896. Gainfully employed as both a tinsmith and wireworker, William Davis must have provided well for his growing brood.

When Frank was six years old, he began school at the Golden Point State School. The family lived at 145 Main Street, Ballarat East,

After completing his formal education, Frank went to work as a battery feeder at the Britannia Mine in Barkly Street. For his first 18 years, Frank’s life was almost exclusively confined to a few town blocks. Everything important to him was contained within easy walking distance.

Frank’s early military drilling was received in compulsory school cadets. His interest continued as a member of the 70th Infantry Regiment – the “Ballarat Regiment.” The imperative training he received during these years would later serve him well.

The outbreak of war in August 1914 saw an immediate response from the newly federated nation of Australia. Following the blooding of Australian troops on the beaches of Gallipoli there was an immediate increase in patriotic fervour drummed up by politicians and the media, who recognised the need for fresh recruits. Frank enlisted in Ballarat on 8 July 1915 following hard on the heels of his brother Charles who joined up on 26 April.

His medical examination revealed Frank to be of only average height and weight – but he was still just 19 years old and had yet to fully mature. He did, however, meet the required physical standards. The doctor also noted his fresh complexion, green eyes and brown hair.

It is quite possible that Frank’s age was a mitigating factor in him not leaving for the Front for eight months. Attached to the 15th reinforcements to the 14th Infantry Battalion, he eventually sailed on board HMAT Anchises, on 14 March 1916.

Frank enjoyed a brief stopover in Egypt before continuing onto England where he completed his pre-active service training. He finally landed in France on 24 September 1916. However, within days of arriving at the 4th Australian Divisional Base Depot at Étaples, Frank reported to the camp doctor suffering what was regarded broadly as a self-inflicted - injury apparently acquired from a prostitute in England. As a result, his first three months on active duty were spent in hospital.

On 7 January 1917, Frank eventually joined the 14th Infantry Battalion at Ribemont as the unit was preparing to march to nearby Mametz.

The 14th Battalion went into action during the First Battle of Bullecourt on 14 April. A string of disastrous failures resulted in the Australians suffering a very high number of casualties – the 14th Battalion alone lost 136 men killed. A large number were also taken prisoner of war, including Corporal George Marshallsea. When Marshallsea failed to answer roll call on the day following the battle, Frank Davis was promoted to the rank of temporary corporal to fill the void. The rank was confirmed on 6 June just a day before the battalion went to action during the Battle of Messines.

The 14th Battalion was still in the line in the Belgian Sector, when Frank was wounded in action on 23 August. The artillery on both sides had been very active during the course of the day and Frank was one of the unlucky ones when he suffered a shrapnel wound in his left side. Whilst the wound wasn’t severe, he still required medical treatment behind the lines and was out of action for over two weeks. He rejoined his unit on 7 September at Fontaines-les-Boulans.

Towards the end of the month, the 14th was brought into the line for the Battle of Polygon Wood in Belgium. Led by their charismatic Captain Albert Jacka VC, the 14th Battalion, as a part of the 4th Australian Division, achieved all their objectives. Polygon Wood was considered a great success despite the casualties. Sadly, numbered among the losses was Frank Davis. The young man was killed in action on 27 September 1917. His body was buried on the battlefield where he fell - 200 yards southwest of Molenaarelsthoek and 1,300 yards southeast of Zonnebeke.

News of Frank’s death was received in Ballarat in early November. As a tribute his name was honoured by the lowering of flags to half-mast on the Ballarat Town and City Halls on 4 November 1917.

Despite the record of burial, Frank’s body was never recovered from the battlefield. As a consequence, his name was listed amongst the thousands on the Menin Gate - the memorial to the missing of the Ypres Salient.

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