Gilbert David DAVIES


DAVIES, Gilbert David

Service Number: 5107
Enlisted: 27 April 1916, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Broken Hill, New South Wales, 14 December 1898
Home Town: Thebarton (Southwark), City of West Torrens, South Australia
Schooling: Broken Hill Public School
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Lobar Pneumonia, France, 15 October 1918, aged 19 years
Cemetery: Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre
Div.62, Plot V. Row J. Grave No.6,
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

27 Apr 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 5107, Adelaide, South Australia
27 Jun 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 5107, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
27 Jun 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 5107, 27th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Barambah, Melbourne

Our Lad From Broken Hill

Pte Gilbert David Davies was my great-aunt Edrie’s half-brother, and the first child and eldest son of Welshman Thomas George Davies and his third wife Mary Anne Davies (nee Drought). Thomas’s second wife Elizabeth had borne him three little girls before her untimely death from pneumonia at only 35. It was ironic then for Thomas to lose both a wife and a son from pneumonia, although it was a common cause of death in those days.

Thomas was a stationary engine driver in the Broken Hill mines before he and Mary, somewhere between 1908 and 1915, moved to Adelaide. This followed the births of Gilbert on 14th December 1898 and his later siblings Stella, Florence (died at 18 months), Neta, Mildred, Stanley, and Walter in their little iron-clad miner’s cottage in Argent Street in that hot and dusty mining city.

We do not know in whose employ Gilbert was a clerk at 18 years of age, but it is the occupation given on his military enlistment details. Did he perhaps do clerical work for the Walkerville Brewery where his father Thomas was a steam engine driver? Did he have a sweetheart when he enlisted? Who knows?

Whatever his private life at his home address in Southwark, South Australia, he gave it up to serve his country as Regimental Number 5107 from the date of his enlistment in Adelaide, SA on 27th April 1916, to his embarkation from Melbourne, Vic, on the *A37 Barambah from Melbourne two months later.

Gilbert must have been a slip of a lad; he was recorded as being only five feet, one and a quarter inches tall (155.58cm) and weighed only 113 pounds (51.26kg), but he was fit. His size could have been in accord with his Welsh ancestry; my grandmother Gladys, Gilbert’s half-sister mentioned earlier was a small woman lovingly known as “little Gran”.

Through two years and four months’ active service in France to his untimely death from lobar pneumonia in 2 General Hospital, Le Havre, France at only 19 years 10 months, Gilbert’s Regimental No. was familiar to military authorities for more than one reason.

Gilbert’s regiment disembarked the Barambah in Plymouth, England. Then came a mystery; his service records say that he was *“found guilty, 7th Training Bn, Rollestone, 6 December 1916, of being absent without leave from 0800, 27 November 1916, until 0800 hours, 4 December 1916: awarded 8 days’ Field Punishment No. 2, and total forfeiture of 17 days’ pay.” This was an 18 year old teenager (although the youth of those days had no such label) who must have been keen on the military well before enlisting. Gilbert Davies had served from presumably 14 years old, for four years in 82A Senior Cadets, and at the time of his enlistment had already served 9 months in the Citizen Forces. So what caused him to be absent without leave for those nine days?

His reason for going AWOL must have been good (and the punishment an insufficient deterrent!) because once again his service records state *“Found guilty, 4 February 1917, of being absent without leave from 0800 hours, 1 January 1917, until 0600 hours, 2 January 1917: awarded 2 days’ confined to camp, and forfeits 2 days’ pay.” Did Gilbert just want to enjoy New Year’s Day away from training? Or was it perhaps just plain Aussie larrikinism!

The “found guilty” date of 4 February seems a little at odds with the fact that he *“proceeded overseas to France, 4 February 1917; marched into 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot, Etaples, 4 February 1917” and from there *“proceeded to unit, 8 February 1917; taken on strength of 27th Bn, in the field, 9 February 1917.”

Gilbert was *“admitted to No 7 Australian Field Ambulance, 23 March 1917 (pyrexia of unknown origin); discharged, 3 April 1917; rejoined unit, 4 April 1917.” According to information on , with PUO “most cases are unusual presentations of common diseases such as tuberculosis, endocarditis, gallbladder disease etc. Indications are a temperature greater than 38.3 deg.C on several occasions, accompanied by more than three weeks of illness, and failure to reach a diagnosis after one week of inpatient investigation.”

Pt. Gilbert Davies went on a few weeks’ leave to England on 21 January 1918 and rejoined his unit on 8 February 1918. It seems that he was active on the Western Front from February until 2nd September 1918, when he was admitted to No.5 Australian Field Ambulance suffering a gunshot wound to his right arm; from there it was a series of transfers – firstly to No. 37 Casualty Clearing Station on the 2nd, then to No. 10 General Hospital Rouen the following day.

On the 18th September he was transferred to No. 2 Convalescent Depot, Rouen and two days later on the 20th to No. 11 Convalescent Depot, Buchy. On the 6th of the following month he was transferred to the Australian Convalescent Depot, Le Havre, and two days later marched into the Australian Intermediate Base Depot, Le Havre on the 8th October.

Only six days later he was admitted to No. 2 General Hospital, Le Havre, with lobar pneumonia and died the next morning, 15th October 1918, at *“0950 hours”. Somehow that blunt statement of the time of death makes it more poignant. Perhaps the comparative inactivity of nearly six weeks of hospitalisation and convalescence had contributed to his demise.

His burial place is not in his native land, but in *“Ste Marie Cemetery (Div.62, Plot V, Row J, Grave No. 6), Le Havre, France.” Evidently his death was not registered in S.A. His service medals were the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, but I have no knowledge of these within the family.

I found it interesting that his next of kin at enlistment was given as his mother, Mrs Mary Davies of 17 Beans Road, Southwark, rather than his father. From cemetery records it appears that by the time of Gilbert’s death his parents had moved to Murray Street, West Thebarton, S.A.

From family accounts and several In Memoriam notices (courtesy of Trove) years later, it appears that Gilbert was much loved not only by his own siblings but also by his three young half-sisters - Gladys (my grandmother) and my great-aunts Edrie and Olive.

Acknowledgements: *Reproduced with permission, AIF Project, UNSW Canberra
NLA Trove Newspapers
Photograph of Pte Gilbert David Davies:

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Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal