DAVEY, Oral Edgar
(Service number 6/440)
|First Rank||Sergeant||Last Rank||Sergeant|
|Date||11 August 1890||Place of Birth||Timaru|
|Date||11 August 1914||Age||24 yrs|
|Address at Enlistment||James Street, Kensington, Timaru|
|Occupation||Clerk (Timaru Borough Council)|
|Previous Military Experience||Territorials - 2nd South Canterbury Regiment|
|Next of Kin||Caroline DAVEY, James Street, Kensington, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 10 inches. Weight 146 lbs. Chest measurement 35-37 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight and colour vision normal. Hearing good. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth good. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||Main Body|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Canterbury Infantry Battalion|
|Date||16 October 1914|
|Transport||Tahiti or Athenic|
|Embarked From||Lyttelton, Canterbury||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Canterbury Infantry Battalion|
|Campaigns||Egyptian; Balkans (Gallipoli)|
|Service Medals||1914-1915 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||8 May 1915||Age||24 years|
|Place of Death||Dardanelles|
|Cause||Killed in action|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 18 June 1915|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Twelve Tree Copse (New Zealand) Memorial, Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Helles, Turkey|
|New Zealand Memorials||Timaru Memorial Wall; Timaru South School Memorial Plaque; St Mary's Anglican Church, Timaru, Memorial.|
Oral Edgar Davey was the seventh son and one of 11 children of William and Caroline (née Brown) Davey, of Kensington, Timaru, a family well known in Timaru. William and Caroline married in 1875 in Cornwall, England, and must have come to New Zealand soon after, a child being born in New Zealand in 1877. Oral was born on 31 August 1890 at Timaru and baptised on 30 November at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Timaru. With his brothers and sisters, he attended Timaru South School. A very successful meeting of the Park Gate Band of Hope was held in the South School on 3 August 1900, during which both Oral and his brother Fred gave recitations.
After leaving school he continued to live in James Street with his parents. Oral was employed as a clerk in the Timaru Borough Council office, where he was seen as a young man of much promise. In 1910 he applied for an increase of pay. On the recommendation of the Town Clerk, the Council decided to give an advance to 30 shillings per week. The close of a successful hockey season and the opening of the summer sports season were celebrated by St Mary’s Club with a first-class social and dance mid-September 1912, when Mr O. Davey displayed ability in the role of M.C.
He was already an enthusiastic Territorial, whose eagerness and “soldierly bearing” made him a most desirable recruit. He was with the first troops to leave from New Zealand. Oral was one of many keen and determined applicants at the Drill Shed on 11 August 1914, “having decided immediately that it was his duty to do what he could for the Empire s cause.” He was not one of those rejected, mostly for defects to the teeth and one or two on account of height; he passed the medical exanimation and was sworn in. The successful applicants were liable to be called up at any moment, and it was quite probable that they would leave Timaru in a matter of days for the central camp at Christchurch as part of the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment's quota. The South Canterbury Infantry, which included Sergeant O. E. Davey, arrived in camp on the night of 17 August and quickly settled down in the quarters prepared for them.
Oral Edgar Davey stood at 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed 146 pounds and had a chest measurement of 35-37 inches. He had a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His sight, hearing, colour vision, teeth, heart and lungs were all good, his limbs and chest well formed. Without diseases or defects, he was in good bodily and mental health. Single and Anglican, he named his mother as next-of-kin – Caroline Davey, James Street, Kensington, Timaru. On 25 August O. E. Davey was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was appointed to No. 5 Platoon, B Company (Second South Canterbury Regiment), under Captain D. Grant, at the central camp at Christchurch in mid-August 1914. On the night of 24 August all leave was stopped at the camp. On the morning of 25 August, the infantry paraded, and company and platoon rolls were made out. As the infantry was complete, detailed work was being pushed ahead, pointing to an imminent departure. Members of the staff of the Timaru Borough Council made a presentation to Sergeant O. E. Davey and wished him the best of good luck at the front. He had advised that he had joined the Expeditionary Force and applied for leave of absence.
Having left from Lyttelton on 16 October 1914 with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion, he disembarked at Alexandria on 3 December 1914. The next newspaper mention of his name is in a very heavy casualty list of 122 deaths – killed in action on 8 May 1915 at the Dardanelles. There he is commemorated on the Twelve Tree Copse (New Zealand) Memorial. The lengthy newspaper lists received in June 1915 reported very heavy losses. “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his country.” [Timaru Herald, 18 June 1915]
The Press of 16 June 1915 described him thus: “Unassuming and unostentatious, he was most popular with all who know him, and his obliging and thorough business-like methods made him a general favourite at the Council Chambers.” The Otago Daily Times of 17 June 1915 recorded that he “was a very capable clerk, and rose to a position of responsibility in the office, his work always winning the complete approval of his senior officers. . . . . . . and unquestionably had an honourable career before him, but he was content to sacrifice this if duty required it.”
As an ex-pupil of Timaru South School, he was remembered at the 5 July 1915 meeting of the Timaru South School Committee, and a resolution of sympathy was passed with the grieving relatives. Later in July 1915 a Roll of Honour board was unveiled at the school, containing the names of twenty ex-pupils who had joined the New Zealand Expeditionary forces, five of them having already given their lives – Sergeant O. Davey (killed in action) included. On unveiling the board, the Rev. T. Stinson said that it would remind boys and girls of the brave young men who had belonged to the school, and of their self-sacrificing devotion to the cause of honour and freedom. The ceremony concluded with the sounding of “The Last Post” by cadet-buglers.
His brother Fred (Frederick Hordon Davey) was wounded at the Dardanelles in May 1915 and was recovering in a convalescent camp at Alexandria, at the time of Oral’s death. Oral’s medals (1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal), plaque and scroll were all sent to his mother. Oral named William Henry Davey and Percy Tretheway Davey, two of his brothers, as executors of his Will dated 10 August 1914. He bequeathed everything to his mother – the sum set out in his Life Policy, all credit in the Post Office Savings Bank, and all the remainder of his possessions. His brother Percy was drawn in the ballot in 1917, but he was passed as fit for Home Service only and his appeal was dismissed. Along with Percy, four other brothers were listed in the Reserve Rolls – William Henry (married with 2 children), Charles Arthur (married with 6 children), John Cracroft (married with 4 children) and the youngest, Leonard Stanley Gordon. A nephew carrying the name of Oral, the son of William Henry Davey, served in World War II, as did Fred’s son, also named Frederick Horden (known as Derrick). William Henry’s older son who was born in 1916, was named William Edgar.
A family notice was inserted in the Timaru Herald of 8 May 1916 –
“O gallant heart untimely dead
What word shall o’er your grave be said,
What fair memorial lines shall keep
Your memory living while you sleep,
And keep for you the loftiest strain
Who paid the price who bore the pain.
Whose blood was nobly shed
O dearest unforgotten dead”.
William Davey died in July 1934, survived by his wife, seven of his eight sons and two daughters. He had lost his son Oral to war and the youngest daughter in infancy. His daughter Muriel married the Rev Harry Warwick Smith in 1921 at St Mary’s when Harry was the assistant chaplain there. Harry died in 1932, leaving Muriel and a ten-year old son. Caroline Davey died in April 1936.
There is a memorial to Oral Edgar Davey at Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery at Helles, Turkey; and he is remembered on the Timaru War Memorial, the Timaru South School Memorial Plaque, and the Timaru St Mary’s Anglican Church Memorial.
His name is inscribed on the South School tablet in memory of ex-pupils who fell in the great war, which was unveiled at Timaru South School on 18 September 1919 in a memorable and unique ceremony. “The names of those on the tablet belonged to boys who, only a few years ago, had sat in the same class rooms, under the same teachers and had played on the same playground as the children there that day,” noted the committee chairman. “No nobler boys had left the shores of New Zealand than ex-pupils of the Timaru South School,” said one long-term committee member. Standard VI pupils sang Kipling's “Recessional”, and Standard V pupils recited “Anzac Men,” a stirring poem written by the headmaster. Following the unveiling, an ex-pupil played “The Last Post” and all those assembled sang the National Anthem.
The St Mary’s Church memorial to the fallen was dedicated by the Bishop of Christchurch on 1 December 1921. The service was conducted by the Bishop, the Archdeacon who had himself served, and the Vicar, and included in the large congregation were the Mayor and Councillors and numerous men who had served in the late war, as well as in the South African war. Following the hymn “God of Our Fathers”, prayer and a scripture reading, the memorial was solemnly unveiled. The hymn “O Valiant Hearts” was then sung, the Bishop spoke briefly, and the service closed with the singing of the National Anthem. Bishop Julius noted that, after the long years of anxiety, fear, hope, sorrow, and loss, and now that peace had been declared, they had assembled to unveil a memorial to those from the parish of St. Mary’s who had given their all—their lives. The memorial, his Lordship said, was a most worthy one in its simplicity, artistic beauty, and character, adding that the names it bore were the names of men who had given their all. The inscription reads: “To the glory of God, and in proud and grateful memory of those from this parish who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918.” Then follow the names (73 in number) of those who made the great sacrifice, and the inscription at the bottom of the tablet: ‘‘Their name liveth for evermore.”
In a touching ceremony in Timaru on Anzac Day 1919, the “heroic souls who gave their lives on far-off Gallipoli” were paid a fresh tribute. Thousands of people gathered to pay silent tribute. A wreath bearing the inscription "In Memory of Our Fallen Comrades" was placed on a wooden cross erected for the occasion. Men and women of all ranks paraded. The bands played “In Memoriam” and “The Last Post”. And wreaths were placed in memory to some named soldiers, among them one for Oral E. Davey.
Anzac Day was fittingly celebrated in Timaru on 25 April 1920, when solemn tribute was paid to the honoured dead. A large wooden cross was erected on a rockery and a large laurel wreath, carrying the words “In memory of our fallen comrades”, was placed by the Returned Soldiers’ Association at the foot of the cross. In his address Pastor Nichol paid a warm tribute not only to the men of Anzac but to all who had gone forth so valiantly to fight that we might live in peace and safety. During the playing of “The Dead March”, wreaths which had been sent were arranged at the cross. Among these was a wreath in memory of O. E. Davie [sic]. The Battalion Band played the “Last Post” and the ceremony closed with the National Anthem.
The cold, grey day seemed appropriate to the solemn occasion on 25 April 1921. Large numbers attended the dignified and impressive ceremony which was organised and carried through by men who took part in the great war. The backdrop to the speakers’ dais and wooden memorial cross was a large New Zealand flag bearing the names of the four battlefields on which New Zealanders had fought — Anzac, Palestine, France and Egypt. Following the military parade and Chopin’s Funeral March, played with much feeling by the Battalion Band, Major Inglis briefly addressed those gathered – “On this day throughout the Dominion, in solemn gatherings, with fitting music and prayer, the people of New Zealand honour 17,000 of their countrymen who fell in the war of 1914-18. . . . . . . on each 25th of April we pay tribute to every man who fell during the four and a half years, be it in Egypt, Gallipoli, in France, in Palestine, or at sea.” Hymns were sung, “The Dead March in Saul” was played by the Band, the burial service was read, volleys were fired and finally “The Last Post” was sounded. Many wreaths were sent, including one on behalf half of O. E. Davey.
The weather was beautifully fine on Anzac Day 1924, and the commemoration service, which was arranged by the R.S.A., was a most impressive one. “Our ceremony to-day, in mourning our loss, in celebrating their achievements, is symbolic of the whole vast sacrifice of the Empire. The war demonstrated to the world the spiritual unity of our Empire. . . . .” The South Canterbury Battalion Band opened the service with the “Garland of Flowers.” This was followed by a prayer in commemoration of the fallen, hymns and readings. After “The Dead March,” three volleys were fired. “The Last Post” and the National Anthem concluded the ceremony. The floral tributes which were placed on the improvised grave included one sent by relations of Sergeant Davey.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [11 August 2013]; CWGC [11 August 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0031951) [08 November 2013]; NZ BDM historical records (Department of Internal Affairs) [August 2013]; Timaru Herald, 04 August 1900, 23 August 1910, 16 September 1912, 12, 14, 18 & 25 August 1914, 14 May 1915, 14 & 18 June 1915, 6 & 23 July 1915, 8 May 1916, 4 & 31 July 1917, 26 April 1919, 19 September 1919, 26 April 1920, 16 September 1920, 26 April 1921, 2 December 1921, 26 April 1924, Press, 14 June 1914, 16 June 1916, 26 & 28 August 1914, Lyttelton Times, 18 & 26 August 1914, Otago Daily Times, 14 & 17 June 1915, Evening Star, 15 June 1915, Otago Witness, 23 June 1915 (Papers Past) [22 July 2013; 09 & 19 November 2013, 01 September 2014; 06 March 2015; 27 May 2015; 15 February 2018; 29 January 2020; 08 June 2020; 05, 06 & 07 May 2022]; School Admission Records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [27 May 2015]; Probate Record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [29 March 2014]; St Mary’s Baptism record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG transcription).[29 May 2015]
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