m. 16 Feb 1879
Facts and Events
William Duckworth Davies was often referred to as "Bill", but I can only recall Granny calling him "Will". He was my paternal grandfather and we called him "Grandpa".
Bill was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, England on December 18, 1891. His father was a chemical labourer at the soap works in Runcorn. He was the youngest child of John Davies and Esther Letitia Brown to survive childhood. The following quotes are from an audio-taped interview done by my father and some of the great-grandchildren on January 1, 1980 when Grandpa was 88 years old. This is what he had to say about his childhood:
"I was born in Runcorn, England on the 18th of December, 1891 which means I am getting to be quite a teenager by now. We moved to Birkenhead about 1903 from my birthplace which was Runcorn and I stayed there until I was thirteen years of age and my mother thought there was much more of a future for us boys in Canada than England so we came to Canada in 1905.
At that time we came to Toronto and stayed from 1905 to 1911 and then I read all these placards that said "go west young man, go west" and I took that advice. and I came west and arrived in Edmonton on Sunday, the 4th of April, 1911.
It was Sunday morning and I had to walk from over in Strathcona over to Edmonton because there were no streetcars running at that time of the morning which was 6:00. It was about 31/2 miles because we had to come over the low level bridge because there was no high level at that time. I was nineteen years old I think."
The 1911 census for Edmonton was taken as of the first of June, by that time the family was living at 725-3rd. Grandpa had already found work as an electrician in a shop. The interesting thing I found in this census return was that Grandpa and his mother had their religion listed as Salvation Army, and the rest of the family were Methodists.
Life before WWI
As Grandpa stated on the tape, he worked for the Edmonton Street Railway as an electrician. On November 10, 1913 he married Lucy Millicent Crockett. The following is recorded at the Alberta Provincial Archives:
Register of Marriages, Edmonton 87.385 510 Wm. D. Davies Lucey M. Crockete 10-11-13 691 - 23rd St. (Manse) Clergy -P. G. Stewart.
My Dad was born in Edmonton April 11, 1914. Grandpa had the following to say about how he met Granny and the arrival of my father:
"So of course at that time a young man is looking for a gal. So my wife came over from England and she landed in Edmonton on Sunday morning at 6:00 and I met her at 10:00 and that was it. I didn't get married right away but I picked my gal right away. I didn't give anyone else a chance to get her."
"Then the same thing that happened to me happened to a lot of married couples. We started to have a family so the first one to come along was your Grandpa and he wasn't so bad so we kept him."
World War I
In August 1914, England declared war on Germany. Canadians, especially those British born, were willing to march off to Europe to defend the mother country in what was to be known as the "Great War" or WWI. Grandpa volunteered in January 1916 and enlisted in Canadian Expedionary Force on Monday, 24 July 1916. The following was on his enlistment paper:
Particulars of Family of an Officer or Man enlisted in C.E.F. 1. Name of Overseas Unit which Soldier joins: 138th O. Bn., C.E.F. 2. Regimental Number: 811677 3. Full Name of Soldier: Davies, William Duckworth 4. Place of Birth: Runcorn, Liverpool, England 5. Are you married, or not? Yes 6. If married, state, a) Full name of your wife: Lucy Millicent Davies b) Present Postal Address: 7920 - 118th Ave., Edmonton 7. Are you a widower? 8. Have you any children? Yes If so, give number of boys and girls: 1 Boy Also their names and ages: Herbert William 2 1/2 years 9. Is your Father alive? No 10. Is your Mother alive? Yes if so, state name and address Mrs. E. L. Davies, 8226 - 120th Ave. Edmonton 11. If your Mother is a widow: Yes Are you her sole support or not? No
Acting Corpl. W. D. Davies embarked from Halifax on the 21st August 1916 aboard the S. E. Olympic, arrived in Liverpool nine days later on the 30th. The Olympic was a sister ship to the Titanic and was converted to a troop ship for the war effort.
The next year was spent in England where the raw recruits were turned into soldiers. He finally arrived in France with the 50th Btn. Alberta Regiment on 11 September 1917 and joined the unit in the field on the 20th September.
The war had not been going well for the British forces in the area around Ypres. Against the judgement of PM Lloyd George and General Currie, from 12 Oct - 10 Nov 1917 the Canadian Corps carried on the assault known as the Battle of Paaschendaele, fighting in soupy mud against Germans emplaced in concrete bunkers. The Corps achieved its objective at a cost only fractionally less than LGen Currie's pre-battle estimate of 16,000 (80%) casualties. Within six months, the ground they had won was retaken by the Germans.
Grandpa was wounded at Ypres on 21st Oct, 1917, by shrapnel entering the right knee, badly shattering it, and fracturing the femur. The leg was amputated through the thigh at C.C.S. (Casualty Clearing Station) same day. Two days later he was admitted to No. 1 South African Gen. Hospital, Abbeville, France where he would start his recovery. On the 10th of November he was considered fit enough to return to England and was admitted to General Military Hospital in Colchester, England, also known as Whipps Cross Hospital as referred to in Grandpa's interview. He stayed at Whipps Cross War Hospital in Laytonstone for 102 days and was admitted to Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Buxton, Derbyshire on 21 February, 1918. From Grandpa's war records, it seems that he went on leave on the 24th March and was to have reported back on the 27th. On the 3rd April it was noted that he was absent since midnight March 27/18. On the 4th he was charged with overstaying his leave:
"Charge Granville Canadian Special Hospital against No. 811y677 Cpl Davies W. Place: Buxton Date of Offence: 4-4-18 Overstaying leave from midnight 27-3-18 to 6 p.m. 4-4-18. 186 hrs. Punishment awarded: Reprimanded Forfeits 8 days pay by RW."
It is hard to say where Grandpa was during his extended leave but Derbyshire was close to his and Lucy's relatives and he was probably sick of hospital life by this time. On the 23rd of April he was admitted to Military hospital Kirkdale, Liverpool where he would stay another month before finally being transferred back to Canada aboard the hospital ship: Araguaya on the 25th of May, 1918. The shores of Canada must have looked very welcome to this returning soldier but he wasn't able to return to Edmonton yet. He was admitted to Military Orthopedic Hospital., Toronto where he continued to recuperate from the 10th of June to the 6th of August. Declared unfit for further service, Grandpa was able to return to Alberta and his discharge papers read:
Proceedings on Discharge No. 811677 Rank Private Surname DAVIES Christian Name William Duckworth Corps: 138th Overseas Battalion, C.E.F. Date of Discharge: September 27th 1918 Place of Discharge: Calgary Alberta Description at the time of Discharge: Age: 26 years 9 months Height 5 feet, 6 inches Complexion: Fair Eyes: Hazel Hair: Fair Trade: Electrician Intended place of residence: Busby P.O. Alta Descriptive Marks -- Amputation Right Leg---- Conduct and character while in the service have been, according to the records, etd. Present Condition: Is a well nourished man, weight up to normal. Right leg has been amputated just above knee joint, has 12 1/2 stump with well healed scar. Flaps have been atero 1/2 posterior, scar running across middle of lower surface of stump, no pain or tenderness present. Has been supplied with artificial limb which is in good repair and giving good satisfaction. VERY GOOD. Signed W. W. Nasmyth, Lieut. Col. Commanding District Depot M. D. 13 Calgary Alberta September 27th. 1918
When asked about his experiences while overseas in the war, Grandpa had very little to say and was reluctant to talk about the horrors of the war.
"How did I lose my leg? You'll have to ask Fritzie that. He knew I'd gone to France and he thought I was going to cause him some trouble so he sent over a 9.2 and I got part of it and that was it and that had to come about eleven miles to get me."
"Well there wasn't very much to tell except of course once in a while when Fritzie decided to come over and give us an air raid that made very exciting times because we didn't know just when a bomb was going to drop right on us. and in fact after I went to France and was wounded and came back to hospital in England why there I was in the hospital in London, at Whipps Cross Hospital and he came over one night and blew 60 feet of the hospital fence away of the hospital I was in, so he wasn't very particular. We often had experiences like that and whenever there was an air raid we used to get up and go out and watch the flack in the sky where the anti-aircraft guns were happening. But it was very exciting, very exciting."
After the War
"When I came back from overseas, then it was that I decided to go farming because I couldn't follow my former occupation anymore which was an electrician. I couldn't climb scaffolds fast enough after I lost my leg."
"Well with a leg off life on the farm wasn't very good. but anybody that is able bodied, really able bodied it is the only life worth living. Of course I got to be really friendly with horses because they took me around pretty well. And you can always trust a horse. If you go out at night and get lost just leave the lines go and the horse will take you home."
"I think we got snow on the 17th of October in 1921 and we didn't see the ground until May. and we had chopped trees down and we'd chopped them about 3 feet high and when the snow went they were about 8 feet high and it made it so much better for pulling stumps."
"It was very hard on livestock . Of course the barns weren't the best barns in the world but they stuck it out pretty good.. We only lost 9 head of stock the first winter, we only had about 7 left. That winter we paid $26 a load for hay that was all frozen and we had to haul it 26 miles each way."
Lucy returned to Edmonton for the birth of their daughter in the summer of 1919 and the family returned to Edmonton to live about 1920. On his return to Edmonton, Grandpa became a shoe repairer and had his own shop on the corner of Alberta Ave. & 95th St.
Bill and Lucy decided to move to Victoria and sold the house and business and moved in October 1934. The house on Tolmie Avenue was on almost two acres and Grandpa tried farming once again. This time he raised chickens but by 1938 he had given up farming and he owned a shoe repair shop in the St. James Hotel on Johnson St. By 1939 they lived at 1737 Oak Bay Ave. which would be their home until about 1968. Bill did not retire for his shoe repair business until age 70. When asked when and why he moved to Victoria, Grandpa replied:
"In October, 1934 and I loved it then and I love it now and I never want to leave it."
"Why? well my wife and I came here for a holiday in 1928 and she said this is a place that I'd like to stay I said ok so I made up my mind then and I called a sale for the first Wednesday in October and we'll be on our way and that's what happened."
"When I came to Victoria I went into raising chickens. Keeping chickens, they didn't keep me, I kept them. So I liked it alright but the money was too slow coming in and after that I thought that I couldn't go back to my original employment so I went to shoe repairing."
Granny died in 1965 and Grandpa met a lovely lady across the street. Grandpa and Vera married about 1968 but unfortunately Vera passed away on December 15, 1974 at age 67 and Bill was on his own again. After Vera's death, Bill moved into Dunsmuir Lodge, a retirement home, and there he met the woman who would become his third wife, Esther Irmgard Thompson.
Grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1982 and after a short illness, succumbed to that disease in Veterans Hospital on October 12, 1982, in his ninety-first year. He was buried beside Lucy at Royal Oak Cemetery. His widow, Esther died in 1991.