DAVEY, William John
(Service number 6/4233)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 9 August 1886 Place of Birth Rangitira Valley, Temuka

Enlistment Information

Date 16 December 1915 Age 29 years 4 months
Address at Enlistment Rangitira Valley, Temuka
Occupation Farmer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin John DAVEY (father), Temuka
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5¾ inches. Weight 129 lbs. Chest measurement 33½-33¾ inches. Complexion dark. Eyes brown. Hair dark. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing very good. Colour vision normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth deficient. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects. No fits.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 11th Reinforcements Canterbury Infantry Battalion, C Company
Date 1 April 1916
Transport Maunganui or Tahiti
Embarked From Wellington, NZ Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Canterbury Infantry Regiment

Military Awards

Campaigns Western Europe (Somme)
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations


Date 27 September 1916 Age 30 years
Place of Death Somme, France (in the Field)
Cause Killed in action
Notices Timaru Herald, 14 October 1916 (page 8)
Memorial or Cemetery Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Somme, France
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials Memorial wall, Timaru; Temuka War Memorial; Waitohi District War Memorial; Temuka District High School Roll of Honour; Opihi College Roll of Honour

Biographical Notes

William John Davey, who was born at Waitohi Flat, near Rangitira Valley, Temuka, on 9 August 1886 and baptised on 26 September 1886 at the Temuka Presbyterian Church, was the eldest son of John and Rebecca Maria (née Braddick) Davey of Rangitira Valley. He attended Rangitira Valley, Fairlie and Temuka District High schools. He was awarded first prize in the Second Class at the Rangitira Presbyterian Sabbath School at the annual distribution of prizes in August 1896, and in 1901 he gained a First Class certificate in the Middle Division examination. In 1899 he was allocated by the Board of Education £19 for board, books and fees at Temuka District High School. This was justified by his gaining a prize in Standard VII the following year.

William was of a quiet disposition but very popular and had a large circle of friends. He was a member of the Temuka Presbyterian Church - taking a keen interest in church work generally, serving on the Management Committee and as leader of the Young Men's Bible Class. In 1908 he was elected to the missionary committee of the latter group. William was the one to thank the Methodist Bible Class for their kindness and hospitality in the winter of 1911. At the 1912 combined Bible Classes function he responded to the toast to “The Clergy” and was himself honoured in the toast to “The Bachelors”. Shortly after being elected a councillor in May 1913, he gave a humorous reading at a “Kitchen Evening” in honour of two members who were soon to marry. In August 1913 the Bible Classes held a mock banquet, at which William was one of the speech-makers, speaking to the toast to the “N.Z. Parliament”.

On 12 May 1914 the Temuka Mechanics Institute held a debate on the question “Is American interference in Mexico justified?” William was one of the speakers on the affirmative side, which handled the subject capably, although losing the debate. William was also involved with the nlocal Territorials, returning a score of 50, well up the ranking, when the Temuka Territorials fired their annual shooting match on 3 June 1914.

Before leaving for Trentham, William was one of three members entertained by the Bible class and presented with a cheque for one pound to purchase some memento of their old associations; and presented with soldiers' comforts by members of the Y.W.B.C. In addition each man was presented with a body belt, a diary and a soldier's outfit. William was again one of three volunteers who were farewelled at a concert and dance at Ladymoor, Rangitira Valley, on 15 March 1916. On this occasion he was presented with a travelling companion. In hindsight there is marked poignancy in the comments made by the gentleman who presided on the evening - that there were feelings of pride and gratitude that so many of their young men had gone forth to assist the Empire in its time of peril, but also sadness and sorrow that so many had been fated to lay down their lives in defence of their country, home and kindred; he hoped that they would return safe and sound.

At the annual meeting of the Temuka Presbyterian Bible Class in July 1916, it was noted that six of the class had left with the Reinforcements. Although W. J. Davey was one of those on active service, he was elected the leader. And at the annual meeting of the Church congregation the following month, W. J. Davey was elected to the committee although it was recorded that he was away at the front.

At the time of enlisting William was farming with his father at Rangitira Valley, as he had probably done since leaving school. Standing at 5 feet 5¾ inches and weighing 129 pounds, William was in good physical shape. He embarked for Suez with the 11th Reinforcements on 1 April 1916 and shortly after arrival embarked for France. There in France he met his death after only a few months of service. Private William John Davey was killed in action on 27 September 1916 fighting at the Somme in France. “He died for his country” observed his parents. His name is inscribed on the Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial at the Somme.

The loss to the district of Private W. J. Davey and two other servicemen who had been educated at the Temuka District High School was referred to at the school committee meeting of October 1916, and a motion of sympathy was passed with their parents. The Roll of Honour erected at the Temuka District High School to perpetuate the memory of the ex-pupils of the school who lost their lives in the Great War, was unveiled in June 1921 in the presence of a large gathering, comprising nearly all the pupils of the school and some hundreds of adults. Proceedings commenced with the singing of “O God our help” and the saying of the Lord’s Prayer. The chairman said “These men went forth to do battle for right against a strong and mighty foe, knowing that they might not return to their own again. It was therefore our duty as fellow citizens to do something to keep their names ever green in our minds and hearts.”

Fourteen months later the Temuka Borough memorial was unveiled before a very large gathering in the domain, including Temuka Territorials and Cadets, Temuka and Geraldine returned soldiers, the Temuka Pipe Band, the Salvation Army Band, the children of the district schools, national and local dignitaries, and local folk. Opening proceedings, the Mayor said “We regret that this occasion has arisen, but having done so we must look back with pride at the actions of those who rose to the call of the Motherland, which was in peril. Many of those brave boys who left these shores did not return, and we have erected this memorial to their memory, . . . “ Following hymns and scripture readings, His Excellency the Governor-General formally unveiled the monument and the local M.P. read out the names inscribed thereon.

His plaque and scroll and advice re his medals (British War Medal and Victory Medal) were sent to his father. The next year this bereaved father contributed to Christmas comforts “for the trenches”.

Two of his brothers, Alfred James Davey and Walter Henry Davey, executed his will. Included with the file is the letter dated 2 November 1916 written by Major D. B. Blair to John Davey. “I wish to express to you, he writes, our deep sorrow at the loss of your gallant son who fell in action on the 27th September. He was a good soldier and liked by everyone for he was of a cheery disposition in all sorts of trials, and your loss is our loss too.” In his will William remembered all his brothers and sisters in equal shares. His brother Ernest Samuel Davey also served in World War One. Another brother, Walter Henry Davey, enlisted and served in New Zealand.

William was one of ten men in the Waitohi district who had made the supreme sacrifice. Individual memorial certificates were to be delivered to their relatives by the Waitohi Flat Presentation and Memorial Committee, and their names were to be inscribed on the war memorial. His name is inscribed also on the Timaru War Memorial Wall and the Temuka War Memorial; the Temuka District High School Roll of Honour and, in 2015, on the newly constructed Opihi College (formerly Temuka) Roll of Honour.

William was a very popular young man, and was “highly respected by all with whom he came in contact”.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [11 August 2013]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0031970) [01 July 2014]; CWGC [11 August 2013]; Temuka Leader, 4 August 1896, 15 December 1900, 30 March 1901, 16 July 1908, 12 October 1911, 21 September 1912, 8 & 29 May 1913, 25 June 1921, 1 December 1921, 12 August 1922, Timaru Herald, 19 January 1899, 14 August 1913, 13 May 1914, 4 June 1914, 11 December 1915, 20 March 1916, 10 July 1916, 26 August 1916, 14 October 1916 [x 2], 16 & 20 October 1916, 17 August 1917, 10 November 1919; Press, 14 October 1916, Sun, 5 May 1917 (Papers Past) [08 & 09 November 2013, 27 May 2015; 01 August 2015; 27 February 2016; 04 July 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [2013]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [05 June 2014]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [27 February 2016]; Temuka Presbyterian Church Baptism Records (South Canterbury Museum) [10 August 2016]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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