Royal Garrison Artillery
17th Heavy Battery; 44 Anti-Aircraft Company
Place of birth:
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Grave or panel reference:
Name of father:
Name of siblings:
Annie, Ellen, George, Amelia, David, Edith
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Date of birth:
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Name of mother:
Hannah Davey (née Ashton)
Name of spouse:
Annie (née Hill)
4 Cornwall Road, Stroud Green
Edmund James Davey was born on 6 March 1882 in Clerkenwell, where his family lived in Wilmington Square. He was the third child and eldest son of Edmund Davey, who came from Devon, and Hannah Davey (née Ashton). Both of Edmund’s parents worked in shoemaking, his father as a boot closer (a person who sews the uppers on to shoes) and Hannah as a boot machinist.
The family moved to Moray Road, where Edmund and his older sisters Annie and Ellen were followed by four more children: George, Amelia, David and Edith. Annie and Eileen worked as boot machinists like their mother (Annie had done so from the age of 14), Edmund and George were compositors for printers and Amelia worked as a dressmaker at home. George died in 1908, aged 24.
By 1911 the family were living in Regina Road, two streets away from New Court Congregational Chapel. Edmund was now working as a compositor for a publisher of scientific works and the two youngest children were also employed, David as an analyst for a chemist and Edith as a clerk for a provision merchant. Also living with them was Edmund’s Aunt Ellen, a cartridge case-maker.
In 1912 Edmund married Annie Hill at New Court. They were both long-standing members of the chapel, as were several of his siblings, and his religion is given as non-conformist (congregationalist) on his military record. Edmund and Annie moved to Cornwall Road, Stroud Green and the following year had a daughter Hilda Grace.
Edmund signed up on 1 December 1915 but was put in the Army Reserve, returning home to his job and family. He was not mobilised until 8 May 1917, perhaps because he was relatively old at 35 and married with a child. He served as a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) and was assigned to a signalling course in Southampton, achieving a first-class qualification in September.
On 1 October he was posted to France with the British Expeditionary Force, serving in the 17th Heavy Battery. The Heavy Batteries of the RGA were positioned well behind the front line and had immense destructive power; they were equipped with heavy guns, firing large-calibre high-explosive shells in a fairly flat trajectory. They were most often employed in destroying or neutralising enemy artillery and putting destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, stores, roads and railways behind enemy lines.
However, Edmund soon became a casualty. At the end of December he was admitted to No 1 Casualty Clearing Station at Chocques, finally being invalided to England at the end of January 1918 by St John Ambulance from Étaples on the coast on the Belgian hospital ship Stad Antwerpen. He was admitted to the 3rd Scottish General Hospital in Stobhill, Glasgow, where wounded soldiers arrived at a temporary platform on a railway siding that ran into the grounds of the hospital.
Edmund was not discharged until May, when he was granted a very short furlough, subsequently extended on account of there being German measles at home. He was considered fit for employment. His medical certificate classification of B2 indicates that he was fit for Labour Service overseas, could walk five miles and was able to see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes.
He was not sent overseas again but posted on 22 June to No 3 Reserve Battery, part of No 1 Reserve Brigade of the RGA, which was based in Shoreham, Kent. On 19 August he moved to 44 AA Company, an anti-aircraft unit based in Portsmouth. He was demobbed in January of the following year and transferred to the Army Reserve Class Z. His pension form indicates that he suffered from phlebitis of the thigh and leg as well as pleurisy, which was deemed a 30 per cent disablement attributable to his military service. As such, he was awarded a disablement pension of 8s 3d plus 2s child allowance per week to be paid until 11 November 1919.
Edmund’s youngest sister, Edith, had died in 1918 at the age of 26. Their mother died the following year. Edmund, Annie and Hilda continued living in Cornwall Road, sometimes with others. Edmund was still working as a compositor in 1939.
According to his granddaughter (who herself played the organ for Congregationalist services in Regina Road, after the New Court Chapel congregation moved there in the 1960s), he worked as a “corrector of the press” for the News Chronicle, and was an active union member and supporter of the Liberal Party. She fondly remembers being fascinated as a child by his various magnifying glasses and his love of blowing bubbles. His wife died in 1966, aged 84, and Edmund died in 1974, aged 92.