The Sacrifice Behind the names
On January 25th 1915 Private Thomas Davies was killed in action in France. He was serving with The South Wales Borderers, after volunteering in the aftermath of the declaration of war in August 1914.
He was born on March 29th 1897 in Mumbles. It's thought that the family had lived in William Street. He was the fifth of six children born to Thomas Davies and his wife Catherine and their youngest son.
In 1914 he enlisted in Newport, joining the South Wales Borderers. Under the rules of the day this should not have been allowed as the minimum age for a soldier was eighteen.
However, as at the time no documentary proof of age was -
required, Thomas must have given an incorrect age. It is likely he claimed to be nineteen because if a recruit was to serve abroad that was the minimum age.
After completing his basic training he was sent to France to join the 1st Battalion. According to the Battalion diary on January 11th, 1915, a draft of 240 men accompanied by a Captain Salmon and a Second Lieutenant Raikes arrived at Choque from where they were marched to Bethune. It likely that Thomas was part of this detail.
During the first days after he arrived in France the Battalion diary shows that it operated mainly between Bethune, Givenchy and Festubert, an area which the Battalion Museum states was no better than 'water-logged mud flats'.
It seems that one of the objectives of these operations was to recover trenches lost when the Indian Corps had been driven out by the Germans. At the same time, in the days leading up to his death, Thomas and his comrades also appears to have been involved in the routine tasks of trench maintenance.
Monday January 25th was slightly different. It was the Kaiser's birthday and the Germans launched a heavy bombardment on all front line and support trenches. There were also some ground attacks, which were successfully repulsed. It seems Thomas Davies was killed during one of these operations in an area called La Bassee. He was buried in Brown's Road Military Cemetery, alongside 1071 other casualties, of which 407 have never been identified
His death does not seem to have been reported in the local newspapers until March 1915. The South Wales Daily Post of 30th March carried a small picture but said nothing of the circumstances of his death. It did state, however, that his home was in William Street, Mumbles.
The Mumbles Press reported on April 8th that he had been killed in action at La Bassee, noting that he had only been at the front for two weeks. Both papers stated that he was 18 years old. He was not. He had died two months before his 18th birthday and was one of the youngest to die during the 1914-18 conflict.
One hundred years later his great niece, Meryl Harries, her husband, Jon, and Ray Elliott, visited the CWGC Cemetery where he is buried to lay a wreath and honour his memory.