(Service number 49611)

First Rank Private Last Rank


Date 20 February 1889 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 28 February 1917; 22 March 1917 Age 28 years
Address at Enlistment
Occupation Farm manager
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status
Next of Kin
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 11½ inches. Weight 147 lbs. Chest measurement 33½-35½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes blue. Hair dark. Sight – both eyes 6/6. Hearing & colour vision both normal. Limbs & chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Heart & lungs normal. Had had illnesses Free from hernia, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Slight varicocele. Vaccinated (right arm). Not free from any physical defects likely to interfere with the efficient performance of his duties. Slight defects but not sufficient to cause rejection. No fits. Deemed Class A. Slight varicocele. Pneumonia 4 years ago. Suffered from dyspepsia.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals
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 *May 1917 Reason Permanently unfit for Active Service.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Sheep farmer


Date 15 October 1960 Age 71 years
Place of Death Timaru
Notices Timaru Herald, 17 October 1960
Memorial or Cemetery Pleasant Point Cemetery
Memorial Reference General Section, Row 4, Plot 261
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

James Davison was born on 20 February 1889 at Timaru, the second son of James and Sarah (née Youdale) Davison. James, senior, came from Northern Ireland and married English-born Sarah Youdale on 27 May 1886. They settled at Southburn where James farmed. Seven children were born to James and Sarah – five sons and two daughters. All but the youngest, who was born in 1908, were educated at Southburn School. Henry Gilford Davison was admitted to Waimairi School in September 1916, by which time Mr James Davison was living at 421 Papanui Road, Christchurch. His last day was 14 April 1918 when he was “absent from home”. Their father held a clearing sale at Southburn in August 1916 and he and Sarah moved to Christchurch. All their older children had left the family home some years before. James (junior) was best man for his older brother, Alexander Hugh Davison of Southburn, when he married on 3 November 1915 in the Bank Street Methodist Church at Timaru.

James was listed on the 1916 First Division Reserve Rolls, as was his eldest brother Hugh Alexander Davison. The name of James Davison, farm manager, Southburn, was drawn in the Fourth Ballot in February 1917. On 6 March 1917 Mr James Davison went to Christchurch to spend a few days with his parents prior to going to camp. When he attested on 28 February 1917 at Timaru and again on 22 March 1917 at Trentham, he resided at Southburn, Timaru, and was a farm manager for Mr A. S. Elworthy. He had been medically examined in April 1916 at Timaru but was rejected on account of stomach trouble. He was re-examined on 26 February 1917 at Timaru. He was 5 feet 11½ inches tall, weighed 147 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 33½-35½ inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes blue, and his hair dark. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs. His limbs and chest were well formed. While he was free from hernia, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, and inveterate or contagious skin disease, he had slight varicocele. He was vaccinated. He was not in good health, having physical defects likely to interfere with the efficient performance of his duties. He also had slight defects, but they were not sufficient to cause rejection. He had had pneumonia 4 years ago and suffered from dyspepsia. He was, however, deemed Class A. Single and of Church of England affiliation, he named his sister as next-of-kin – Mrs H. P. Moyle, Lyalldale, St Andrews, Timaru. All three brothers who enlisted (James, William and George) named their sister Ethel as next-of-kin. Ethel Amy Davison married Hercules Paul Moyle on 12 May 1915 at Trinity Church, Timaru.

In mid-May 1917, “Southburn was again the scene of an enthusiastic gathering when Private James Davison, the third member of his family to don khaki, was farewelled. There was a large attendance. Mr J. Ward, chairman, said he had known Private Davison nearly all his life, and hoped that he would be present at the taking of Berlin. He wished him the best of luck and a safe return. Mr A. S. Elworthy made Private Davison a presentation of an inscribed wristlet watch from the residents of Southburn. The watch was buckled on by Miss M. Chamberlain. Miss Gumming, representing the local Guild, then asked Private Davison to accept a parcel of knitted comforts, with the sincerest good wishes of the Guild. After singing the National Anthem, hearty cheers wero given for the guest of the evening. A bountiful supper was provided by the ladies, and music was supplied for the dance by Mrs Caird, Messrs W. Brassell and H. Caird, while Mr N. Bell, acted as M.C.” Two brothers, William and George, had embarked on 16 July 1916.

Private J. Davison had been posted to C Company, 27th Reinforcements on 13 March 1917 and transferred to the 26th Reinforcements on 15 April 1917. But, on 29 May 1917 he was granted Leave Without Pay until further orders. At Trentham, the Medical Board recorded that his original disability, which was cough and frequent attacks of pleurisy, was due to unknown causes existing prior to enlistment. Consequent upon this was general disability and progress was stationary. In no way had the soldier caused or contributed to his condition. It was contracted under circumstances over which he had no control. He was declared permanently unfit for Active Service but fit for Territorial Service and Civil Employment. It was recommended that he be discharged from the Expeditionary Force.

James married Ella Tryphena Bedwell (née Bellenger) on 28 November 1917 at St Mary’s Church, Timaru. Ella had married, borne a son, and been widowed in the space of two years in her native England. James and Ella were to have three two sons and a daughter. They lived for some years at Craigmore where James was the farm manager. In the early 1930s they moved to Hanging Rock, their children transferring from Maungati School to Opihi School, and from there to Pleasant Point. It was in August 1938 that a most successful clearing sale of stock and plant on account of Mr James Davison of Hanging Rock was held. “The attendance of farmers was the highest seen at a clearing sale for some time. The stock and plant were in exceptionally good order, and everything being for absolute sale, keen competition was forthcoming, and the sale was considered one of the best held recently.” James and Ella resided at Pleasant Point until their deaths.

1918 was a traumatic year for the Davison family. Fortunately, James, junior, and his siblings seemed to have been quite a close-knit lot. On 17 December 1917, George Davison, the fourth son and late of Southburn, near Timaru, was killed in action in France, aged 22 years. James (senior) and Sarah were then living at 421 Papanui Road, Christchurch. Margaret Cicely (Ciss) Davison, the younger daughter of James and Sarah, died on 1 December 1918 at the Timaru Hospital, aged 19 years. A probationer nurse, she was a victim of the influenza epidemic. In Memoriam notices for Cicely and George were inserted in the Timaru Herald on 1 December 1919 and 1 December 1920. In 1917 she had been a witness at the marriage of her brother James. In August 1918, an unusual court case broke in Christchurch. Sarah Davison, wife of James Davison, of Christchurch, farmer, sought a judicial separation from her husband who was some ten years older, after 32 years of marriage. Sarah alleged cruelty and “had been literally a bond slave”, said her legal representative. A lot was revealed that had been hidden for so many years. They had lived in poor circumstances for some years, but the financial position improved when James won £1000 in Tattersalls in 1906. He took a trip to England with his daughter. On his return, his demeanour changed for the worse, it was alleged. He stopped the family from going to church, he abused his wife verbally, and he confined her to the house. She had an especially difficult time in December 1908 when she gave birth to a son and relied heavily on her sister for support. Her husband’s unkindness continued. In November 1909, her sons left home after a quarrel with their father. After Hercules Moyle asked to marry their daughter Ethel in about 1911, James would not speak to Ethel. Soon after he quarrelled with his third son (William), who left the home. Sarah had to be protected by the children, while James said that he would be the only “boss” in the home. James became more violent and threatening and tried to alienate those still in the home and those who had left. When George and William enlisted, he gave orders that they were not to be welcomed or received when on final leave. He was not on speaking terms with any of his five eldest children. So, during their time on leave from camp they stayed with their sister. When George was killed in December 1917, he would not allow mourning to be purchased, so Sarah purchased it from a legacy she had received on her mother’s death in 1917. That legacy, too, had caused friction. After another dispute in February 1918, Sarah and the children (Cicely and Henry) left the home and did not return. It was moral, mental and emotional cruelty, not physical cruelty. For 12 years it was a most unhappy household. The upshot was that legal cruelty was established, His Honour granting a decree of judicial separation, making an order giving custody of the youngest child (Harry) to the mother and granting costs. Thereafter Sarah Davison lived at Pleasant Point where her eldest son and family resided, while James remained at his Christchurch abode.

In April 1923, James Davison, senior, and Annie Wilkinson, a widow, travelled to Vancouver, Canada, and the USA, to see a friend (of Annie). Their contact person in the USA was J. Davison, brother and friend respectively. They had been living together in Christchurch. The Timaru Herald of 10 August 1926 carried the following death notice – DAVISON. – On August 2, at Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A., James Davison, late of Southburn. A headstone in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio, is inscribed thus – James Davison 1854 – 1926 He is great who is what he is from nature and who never reminds us of others. James and Annie had returned to New Zealand, marrying on 28 January 1926. James signed a Will on 13 April 1926 at Christchurch, not three months after marrying! He directed his trustee to erect a suitable headstone over his grave, the cost not to exceed £200; he also bequeathed £50 to the controlling authority of the cemetery of his burial, the interest to be used to keep his grave in repair for such time as was allowed by law. He bequeathed to his wife, Annie Davison, his dwelling house in Edward Avenue, Christchurch, together with all furniture and household effects, also £5000. Other bequests were £200 each to his sons Hugh Alexander Davison, James Davison, William Davison, and to his daughter Ethel Amy Davison, and £1500 plus his gold watch and chain to his son Harry Gilford Davison. Further bequests were made to the children of his late brother Abram or Abraham Davison who were living in Portadown, Ireland; to the daughter of his late sister Lily Abraham who was living in America; to the son of his brother John Davison who was living at Cleveland, United States of America; to his brother George Andrew Davion who was living at Toronto, Canada, and to George’s family. Most of these bequests were larger than those left to his own children. In addition, he left £1000 to the church he attended near Portadown before leaving Ireland. “I have not made fuller provision for any of my family for the reason that I consider their conduct has not warranted my making any greater provision in their favour.” Annie had been present at James’ funeral at Cleveland, returning afterwards to Christchurch, where she died in October 1940. All was not well with James’ Will. Initially, many questions were posed with regard to interpretation of aspects of this “home-made will”. His Honor gave his judgment a month later (August 1927). In March 1928, the property situated Southburn, South Canterbury, was sold by public auction on account of the trustee in the estate of James Davison, deceased. His sons - Hugh Alexander Davison, farm labourer, Pleasant Point, James Davison, farm manager, Timaru, and William Davison, carrier, Timaru - and daughter - Ethel Amy Moyle, married, St Andrews - proceeded under the Family Protection Act, seeking further provision out of his estate. The estate had been somewhat diminished upon realisation, notably because of the mortgage on the farm property. It was ruled that the testator had failed to provide them with adequate maintenance and an order was made that an additional £300 be paid to each of them. An application by Annie Davison for an increase in her provision was dismissed.

Meanwhile, Sarah Davison, late of Southburn, died suddenly on 16 September 1925 at her Pleasant Point residence. Her funeral left her son William’s Timaru residence for the Timaru Cemetery where she was buried with her daughter Cicely. George, too, is remembered on their gravestone. Sarah made specific provision for the maintenance, education, advancement and benefit of her son Henry Gilford until he reached the age of twenty-one, and for an equal distribution to her children. Henry Davison had a stint at Pleasant Point School in 1924 before going farming. Their “dear mother, Sarah Davison,” was remembered in 1926 – “To Memory Ever Dear.”

James was much in demand in the management and judging of dog trials. He was in charge of the sheep dog trials at the gymkhana and garden party at Holme Station in January 1931. He judged the sheep dogs at the Waimate a. and P. Show in 1936 and again in 1939. James Davison died on 15 October 1960 at Timaru, aged 71 years, and was buried at Pleasant Point alongside Ella who had died in 1956. He was survived by two sons – Leslie William and George Guilford, two daughters Margaret Cecily Lienert and Rona Lilian Des Forges, and a stepson, James (Jim) Edward Bedwell, all of whom were beneficiaries of his estate. He made two specific bequests – my fishing hut situate at Rangitata to my son George Guilford Davison absolutely and all silverware owned by me at my death to my daughter Margaret Cecily Lienert absolutely. His brother George Davison was killed in action in 1917 in Belgium and his brother William Davison also served in World War One and returned home. George Guildford Davison, the second son of James and Ella, served with the Navy in World War Two. Their older son Leslie William Davison was drawn in a World War Two Ballot. Henry Gilford Davison, the youngest child of James and Sarah, was also drawn in a World War Two Ballot. A nephew, Francis William Davison, served with the Air Force in World War Two.


NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Collections record number 0032587) [01 January 2023]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [30 May 2014]; Pleasant Point Cemetery headstone image & burial record (Timaru District Council); [01 January 2023]; Timaru Herald, 24 May 1915, 20 November 1915, 14 February 1917, 10 March (Saturday) 1917, 14 May 1917, Sun, 13 February 1917, 8 January 1918, 2 December 1918, 1 December 1919, 1 December 1920, 17 & 18 September 1925, 14 & 16 September 1926, 10 August 1926, 20 & 24 April 1928, 22 January 1931, 30 July 1935, 12 September 1936, 22 August 1938, 27 November 1939, 24 December 1941, Lyttelton Times, 7 January 1918, Star, 2 December 1918, 12 July 1927, 15 August 1927, 29 March 1928, Sun, 27 & 28 August 1918, NZ Truth, 7 September 1918, Press, 7 October 1940 (Papers Past) [30 May 2014; 01, 02 & 03 January 2023]; Pleasant Point Cemetery headstone image & burial record (Timaru District Council) [01 January 2023]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [02 January 2023]; Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, headstone image & record (Find A Grave) [02 January 2023]; Probate records (Family Search/Archives NZ) [02 January 2023]; St Mary’s marriage record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG records) [15 January 2023]; Timaru Herald, 17 October 1960 (Timaru District Library) [16 January 2023]

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