Yeoman Frederick William Davey was born on Penson Farm, Winkleigh in 1895. His mother, Emily was then 34 and his Father, William 29. The 1901 census records Frederick aged 6 and his brother Robert aged 5 living with their parents in the family home with their Grandfather, John Davey, who farmed Penson Farm, and who was a widower. Frederick, in company with so many in the village, had served as a volunteer territorial before the war, having enlisted in the 1st Devon Yeomanry.
The 1st Devon Yeomanry was part of the 2nd South-West Mounted Brigade, which also included the Royal North Devon Hussars, and the Royal West Somerset Yeomanry. The first part of their war was spent in home service, at Clacton, but the great majority of the 1st Devon Yeomanry having volunteered for overseas service, the regiment was dismounted on September 15th 1915 in preparation for service as infantry in Gallipoli. Drafts of men who had trained in the 6th Devons were now posted to the 1st Devon Yeomanry, to bring numbers up to 502 all ranks.
The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915; the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac. On 6 August, further troops were put ashore at Suvla, just north of Anzac, and the climax of the campaign came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on all three fronts. The aim of the Suvla force had been to quickly secure the sparsely held high ground surrounding the bay and salt lake, but confused landings and indecision caused fatal delays allowing the Turks to reinforce and only a few of the objectives were taken with difficulty. The peninsula was abandoned over the period of Christmas 1915. The campaign cost the British and Commonwealth forces 205,000 casualties, the French 47,000 while the official figures on the Turkish side amounted to 251,309 killed, wounded, missing , sick or died of disease. Turkey emerged triumphant from the victory and the war against her continued in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Palestine.
The 1st Devon Yeomanry reached Gallipoli very late in the campaign. Fighting on the peninsula, and particularly at Suvla where the brigade was landed, had now died down. It seems that the reinforcements were originally intended to support a renewed campaign, one last great effort, to break the deadlock with a landing at Bulair, above the Narrows at the neck of the peninsula. The brigade was lucky that the plan was cancelled. It was, in fact, quite hopeless: with winter only a few weeks away, there was simply no further possibility of any serious action, and the 1st Devon Yeomanry therefore spent the time serving their tours alternately behind the line and taking their turn in the forward trenches. They were, however, in constant danger of snipers and shelling wherever they were as there were no positions that were not clearly and continually overlooked by the Turkish guns. It was a dreadful situation, without rest or respite.
On their arrival at Suvla Bay at 8.30 pm on October 8th, the Regiment remained on board, the weather being rough and disembarkation dangerous. By 1.00 pm on 9th disembarkation was complete, and the Yeomanry went into the reserve bivouacs at Oxford Street in the area West of Karakol Dagh, attached to the 11th Division, 1X Corps. Gallipoli must have been an extraordinary experience for those arriving for the first time, a battle area that was almost beyond imagination. They were set to work constructing and reinforcing dug-outs in the sandy and stoney soil. Here they stayed in comparative safety, though always under occasional shell fire, indeed they received an order from Divisional H.Q. that too many men were showing themselves and that fires must not be lighted during day time. When moving to the sea-beach for bathing they used only tracks hidden from the Turkish artillery. On 11th October a new cook-house was constructed on the sea-beach under R.E. direction, and further work took place on the dug-outs. However, having brought the Yeomanry to Gallipoli for a reason that had now been abandoned, it was obviously felt that they should be used in some way to give a measure of relief to those in the firing line. Before playing any part, however small, the Regiment would have to have some introduction to life under continuous Turkish observation and the state of the trenches they would be called upon to occupy.
With this in mind, the Squadron Leaders and H.Q. Staff were taken to the reserve trenches and to have a detailed view of the Turkish positions. In order to get everyone used to the terrain the reserve trenches at Karokal-Dagh were then visited in turn by all members of the Regiment, beginning with ‘C’ Sqdn. and the Machine-Gun section for the night of 11th/12th October. The following day parties of officers and N.C.O.s were shown over section ‘D’ fire trenches and these introductions continued on 12th. The ‘base party’ consisting of 6 officers, 2 N.C.O.s and 30 O.R.s that had been left behind at Imbros in case of disaster befalling the Regiment rejoined on 13th. On 14th 5 officers and 72 N.C.O.s and O.R.s were sent up to the fire trenches for a 24 hour tour, and later that day a squadron moved up to occupy the reserve trenches. The following day a further 6 officers and 92 N.C.O.s and O.R.s were taken to the same trenches for a spell of 24 hour duty. The 17th October brought more excitement: the Regiment’s bivouac area and its surroundings were shelled heavily for an hour, but luckily there were no casualties. ‘C’ Sqdn. went into the line for 24th hours, and the following day it was the turn of ‘D’ Sqdn. with their Sqdn. Leader, Major Lord Vivian. On 20th, ‘A’ Sqdn took its turn: Frederick Davey, in ‘A’ Sqdn. would have seen for himself a little more of what was involved.
The 26th October brought the first casualty when the bivouac area was again shelled: a man was severely wounded. Next day they were shelled again, without loss, and the Turks kept this up for the next three days; the dug-outs were good, however, and the Regiment were not much troubled. It was now time for the Regiment to go into the line and on October 30th they paraded at 6.30 pm and marched to the left sector, 2nd line trenches which were occupied until 9.45 pm the same day, when they returned to the bivouac. During the following three days work continued on the construction of the 2nd line trench system south of Karakol-Dagh.
On 3rd November the Regiment left the bivouac at 1730 hrs and marched to the front-line trenches at Jephson’s Post, to take over a line of the X1th Division trenches from the 11th (Service) Battalion, Manchester Regiment. It was a relatively quiet area, the main danger coming from Turkish snipers and a very occasional shell. A snipers’ post was located, and a night patrol was sent out on 5th to eliminate it only to find it abandoned with two dead Turks already dealt with. To remain completely concealed was difficult as the trenches had been left in a poor and dangerous state and much work was needed to be done. The Regiment spent 8 days in the line, relieved on 11th November. During this time the trenches were cleaned and rewired, kitchens and officers’ dugouts were constructed, latrines improved and listening posts established. Casualties were slight: I man wounded on 4th by sniper fire and a man killed on 8th in ‘A’ Sqdn.
Sadly that man was Frederick Davey, killed just after midnight by a sniper’s bullet through his head at 0020 hrs. whilst on sentry duty. The extract from the war-diary reads:
November 8th Suvla:
Patrols went out to find snipers. Failed to find any within 350 yards of our line. Turkish working parties were heard close to their own wire. At 0020 one man was killed at his post. Work on fire trench and wire was proceeded with.
A surviving letter from a subaltern in the Regiment also mentions the incident: ‘ ‘A’ Squadron had a sentry on duty shot through the head - very bad luck as night shots are always chance shots.’
Desultory sniping continued on both sides. The next interesting entries into the war-diary reads:
November 10th Suvla:
On the night of 9th/10th when at work with a wiring party a man was wounded. Capt. Hugo (RAMC attached) went out under fire with a stretcher party and brought him in.
November 11th Suvla:
At 1045 hrs D43 was shelled. Capt.E.Hain was killed in his dug-out and two men wounded, one dangerously. Capt.Hugo (RAMC attached) again behaved with bravery, standing by his orderly whose thigh was broken by falling debris, and holding him up till help arrived. A shell fell at his feet but did not explode.
After eight days in the line and with a marching strength of 406 officers and O.R.s the Regiment was relieved on 11th November at 20.50 hrs. by the 6th Battalion, Border Regiment, moving back to their bivouacs. On 15th November, they were attached to the 2nd Mounted Division, and moved to Lala Baba and the Salt Lake to the support trenches ‘A’ section. On November 18th the Regiment went for its second tour into the front line, this time at the White House sector where they relieved the 1st Scottish Horse at Boxcourt Alley, another very quiet sector with the Turks content to ‘live and let live’, and only an occasional casualty from shelling.
The night of 26th/27th November was marked by the terrible storm, followed the next day by heavy snow. The trenches were flooded, destroying the parapets and making them untenable, necessitating a move to the open ground behind. Many men were completely submerged in water, half drowned. Blankets, waterproof sheets, kits and equipment were washed away, including even the officers’ kits from their dug-outs. The Turks were similarly occupied and in effect the war was closed down. The Regiment soon dug an emergency cover trench on Yeoman’s Knoll, in the biting wind and snow, lying out in the open all night, while ‘B’ Sqdn. attempted to sit tight with the greatest difficulty and discomfort.
On 28th ‘C’ Sqdn. of the 1st West Somerset Yeomanry arrived as reinforcements. The 1st Devon Yeomanry remained until 29th November, reduced now to 205 officers and O.R.s., all wet through, the remainder already evacuated, many with severe frost-bite. Relieved by the 4th Cheshires on 29th, the Regiment was once again back at Lala Baba. They were now attached to the 53rd Division, and remained in the Divisional reserve. Transferred again on 9th December to the 2nd Mounted Division they returned for a third tour in the reserve lines on the Salt Lake plain on 10th. December, where ‘D’ Sqdn. provided part of a cover force for the evacuation. On 19th December the battalion was evacuated from ‘C’ beach to Imbros during the night. After 2 days at Imbros and 4 on Mudros the Regiment finally reached Alexandria on December 30th and was transported by railway to Sidi-Bishr Camp.
Frederick Davey would have been given a temporary burial the night of 8th November behind the front line. Today he lies in the beautiful Hill 10 Cemetery at Suvla Bay. Frederick Davey’s parents, Emily and William, had no doubt received details of his death from Frederick’s friends (who had informed them that he had been killed at midnight on 7th), and the grieving parents who received a short poem in his honour which was published in the local paper alongside his photograph:
In loving memory of our dear son, Trooper F.W.Davey, who was killed in action
in Gallipoli on November 7th 1915 at midnight