Saturday, December 10, 2016

Oswald William Knapp Davis: Milton soldier in battle of the Somme

Methodist FlagSerial Number and Rank:  2787, Private
Birth:  Milton 1894/21035
Parents:  Robert Davis and Selina Knapp
Enlisted:  Sydney Show Camp, 16 November 1916
Occupation: Fireman
Next of Kin: F. Robert Davis of Milton
Service: 36th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement and 33rd Battalion
RTA 4 July 1919
Honour Rolls:  RSL Honour Roll
Milton Town Memorial
Milton Methodist
Milton Methodist Flag
Milton Public School

Oswald William Knapp Davis was born November 24 1893 in Milton, son of Robert Davis and his wife nee Knapp  At the age of 22 years, he had a preliminary medical examination at the Victoria Barracks on September 25 1916 and he finalized his enlistment application on November 16 1916 at the Sydney Show Camp.

At the time of his enlistment his address was given as Milton, NSW. His enlistment papers recorded his occupation as being a Fireman with previous service in the Citizen Forces for three years. The attesting office on his enlistment was Lieutenant Rupert Cork from yes, Oswald home town Milton.

Oswald was assigned to the 36th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement at the Liverpool camp with the rank of Private. Oswald embarked aboard the transport ship HMAT A72‘Beltana’ for overseas service,  The reinforcement group disembarked at Devonport England on 29 January 29 1917 and proceeded to the Details Camp at Fovant.

In March 1917 Oswald was admitted to the Fovant Hospital with NYD (rheumatism) from camp details at Sutton Mandeville and was discharged back to 9th Training Battalion after three weeks.

Oswald was charged, at the Durrington camp, with the crime of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline in that he neglected his duty while in charge of flags at a bombing range”. He was awarded 14 days field punishment No2 and fine £3.0.0 (field punishment No2 – confinement to barracks, the loss of privileges and extra fatigue duties).

Oswald re-joined the 36th Battalion on July 10 1917. Soon after he reported sick and 2 weeks later, he was evacuated to England and was admitted to the 6th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth with piles on 14 August. A week later he transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary hospital.

He was granted a furlo (leave) from August 31 to September 14 and he marched into the No1 Command Depot at leaves end. At the Depot he was classified as B1A2 – “Fit for overseas training camp in three to four weeks”.  Oswald once again re-joined the 36th Battalion on November 8 1917.

Oswald was with the 36th when they, along with all units of the 3rd Australian Division, were ordered from the north west of France to the Somme region in March 1918. This was due to the enemy break-through of the British lines and their advance toward Amiens.

During the first week of April his Battalion were heavily engaged in the battle to defend Villers-Bretonneux. He was transferred from the 36th Battalion to the 9th Light Trench Mortar Battalion on the April 29 1918; Oswald was promoted to the rank of Temporary Corporal on that same date. He reverted back the rank of Private by order of the Company Commander on July 23 1918.

Oswald was with his unit during the famed “all arms” large scale attach south of the Somme that commence on August 8 1918. He can through that battle unscathed.

On August 16 he attended the Corps Trench Mortar School and re-joined his unit on September 9. At this time his was involved on the advance to the famed Hindenburg Line.

In October Oswald was part of the attack on Montbrehain, which was the last operation in which any Australian infantry fought. This was by order of the then Australian Prime Minister William “Billy” Hughes that all Australian Division had to be withdrawn from all front line duties from October 2 1918.

Oswald returned to England, in March 1919 he was detached “to School”, is most likely as part of the post war Education and Training Scheme established to equip the Digger skills for employment when they returned to Australia. At Codford Oswald went AWL (absent without leave) from May 27 to June 10 1919. He was awarded forfeit of 14 days pay plus his pay while AWL, being a total of 28 day’s pay for this offence.

Oswald travelled aboard the Wilshire in August 1919 for his return to Australia and discharged from the AIF on September 29 1919. His name appears on many of the region’s WW1 honour rolls: RSL Honour Roll, Milton Town Memorial, Milton Methodist, Milton Methodist Flag and the Milton Public School Honour Roll.

Other men who served with the 33rd Battalion with Milton Ulladulla connections include William Booth, George Richardson, Norman Kennedy, Charles Nichols and Andy Bond.  Oswald also served in WW2 as a Lieutenant with the 13th Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps.

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