100 years ago the Methodist congregation at Carnon Downs in Cornwall would arrive at chapel on Sunday to hear the sad news that Willie Davey, one of their choristers, had been killed on the Somme, aged 21. His body was never found.
At the 1st July 2016 commemoration of the Battle of The Somme at Devoran Village Hall, Bob Richards read out this interesting first person tribute to Willie Davey that he had written, whilst Willie Davey’s photograph in uniform was projected on the wall:
William John Trebilcock Davey
I was born towards the end of 1895, second of five children of Joseph Henry and Catherine Ada Davey. I got the name Trebilcock from my mother’s maiden name.
I had an older sister, Laura Gwendoline and younger siblings, Enid Irene, Gerald Ewart and Joseph Henry. We lived at Carnon Crease.
My father was a Monumental Mason, carving mainly headstones.
We were all strong Methodists and attended the Chapel in Carnon Downs.
When I left school I worked as a gardener but when the War came I joined up and was proud to be in the 10th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
The Battalion was formed in Truro in March 1915 and we were known as the Cornwall Pioneers. There were a lot of local boys in that unit.
On 20th June 1916 we landed at Le Havre and were soon in the thick of the action when the Battle of the Somme began just a couple of weeks later on 1st July.
It was a terrible time, men and boys being killed in their thousands, many more horribly wounded.
On 16th July we were temporarily attached to the 66th Division and fought alongside them. Many of these men were from the 2nd East Lancashire Regiment and sounded strange when they talked, not like us Cornish at all.
28th July we went into action and I never came back.
Nobody knows exactly how I died and nobody ever found my body.
Later they etched my name on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing along with over 72,000 others who died in that horrible campaign and who have no known grave.
Back home they remembered me on the Devoran War Memorial and also on a plaque in Carnon Downs Methodist Chapel where the family still attended after I died.
Father never did have the honour of knowing how I died or carving me a headstone.
Written by Bob Richards, Carnon Downs.
Willie Davey, remembered on the Devoran War Memorial and in his home village.
Blog posted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project.