Born c.1828 in Arcot, Madras Presidency, in the East Indies, and baptised at Bangalore on the 11th of July 1828.
The India Office records show him as born in Arcot, India, the son of Lance-Corporal William Davis of the 13th Light Dragoons and his wife Bridget. William Davis had married Bridget Connell in 1823.
The records also show that his father, William Davis, of Bangalore, a private in the 13th Light Dragoons, a bachelor, and Bridget Connell, spinster, of the same place, were married in the Church at Bangalore, "by banns and with the consent of their Friends, this day, by me, dated the 8th of January 1823, W.O. Watkin. Chaplain."
160 William Davis was born at Ellesmere, Salop, and had enlisted into the 22nd Light Dragoons on the 16th of July 1813. He was 5' 6" in height, with a swarthy complexion, grey eyes and brown hair, his trade being that of a labourer. He volunteered into the 13th Light Dragoons on the 11th of October 1819, and served in the East Indies from the 27th of July 1815 until being discharged on the 31st of December 1838 and landing at Gravesend on the 14th of June 1839. He had a total service of 35 years 181 days to count towards pension, having served in India for 23 years 168 days. He was 41 years old on discharge.
The medical report on him then stated:
"Private William Davis has been in hospital for 169 days within the last two years with - 'Ebilistas [sic?] Paralysis (partial) Cantusis and Dysentery'. He is at duty at present, but from the combined effects of climate, disease and intemperance looks sallow and debilitated and is regarded as getting unfit for the arduous duties of a dragoon - This is a case representative as arising in the service at Bangalore and not attributable to vice and neglect.
Conduct and character: Has been that of a good and efficient soldier. Seldom, until latterly, in hospital, trustworthy and sober. He served in the Maharatta campaign of 1817-18 and 1819. Was at the battles of Maheidpoor, capture of Talnanit and Capauldry. Volunteered and continued on active service."
Cavalry Barracks of 13th Light Dragoons, St Mary Northgate, Canterbury.
The 1841 Census shows Bridget Davis and her son Richard in the Barracks. She is described as aged 55, born Ireland, a "Pensioner's wife", with Richard, 13, a "Pensioner's son". Other men, women and children of the regiment are also shown. [RM]
Enlisted at Ipswich on the 17th of December 1841.
Age: 13 years 5 months.
Height: 5' 4".
Features: Fresh complexion. Hazel eyes. Dk. brown hair.
From Private to Trumpeter: 27th of March 1848.
In one of his letters home Captain Goad refers to Richard Davis when describing the activities on board ship during the passage out to the Crimea:
"The men sing, and I need hardly add that I am continually tootling away both solo's and duets with my trumpeter, Davis. I may safely add we are very musical." [Col. Anstruther Thomson, Reminiscences. [RM]]
Trumpeter to Sergeant: 9th of February 1856.
He was shown on the Regimental "Married roll" from the 25th of March 1857, and there were two [four?] children from this marriage. In 1867, his wife, Mary Davis, was given as his next of kin.
Richard Davis [son], December Quarter 1864, Brentford.
Gertrude Davis [daughter], June Quarter 1871, York.
Blanch [sic] Caroline Davis [daughter], June Quarter 1874, York.
Isabella Davis [daughter], March Quarter 1881, Wortley.
Reverted to Trumpeter, "at his own request", on the 10th of November 1857:
"Absent without leave from Watch-setting", 17th-30th of September1858, until rejoining on the 1st of October 1858. Tried by a Regimental Court-martial and imprisoned 1st-30th of October 1858. He was also reduced to Private, although remaining in the Band.
From Private to Corporal: 22nd of February 1863.
Corporal to Sergeant: 8th of August 1868.
Discharged from Piershill Barracks, Edinburgh, on the 5th of July 1870, "By his own request, free to pension after 24 years service."
In Turkey and the Crimea: 2 years.
In Canada, 2 years 10 months.
Conduct: "very good." Would now have had five Good Conduct badges if not promoted.
Twice entered in the Regimental Defaulters' book. Once tried by Court-martial.
Awarded a pension of 1/5d. per day on discharge. Was granted a pension increase (amount not shown) on the 9th of April 1892. Pension letters to the 10th of July 1897.
Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman, Sebastopol and the Turkish medal.
Awarded the French War Medal. The citation for this states:
"Served in the Eastern campaign, including the affairs of the Bulganak and MacKenzie's Farm, battles of the Alma, Balaclava, and Inkerman; the Siege of Sebastopol and the Expedition to Eupatoria."
According to 1228 Harry Powell, in his Recollections:
"[T]he Commanding Officer had made a sort of lottery of the decorations given to the Regiment by the French; one of the trumpeters, by name R. Davis, was lucky enough to win one but one or two of the other men who had the decoration were not actually even under arms on that day, so could not have taken part in the Charge... Some-one else drew for me in my absence, with leave."
RM: 1228 Harry Powell also mentions a conversation with Davis during the affair of the Bulganak:
"The bullets were then flying over us; we were quite close to each other. Captain Nolan, cool as a cucumber, dismounted, looks round his horse, remounts and joins Lord Raglan. My brother Trumpeter, by name Dick Davis, rode over to me and asked me if I had had a shot; I said "No" I thought they were not near enough. He told me that he had had several. I then thought it was time for me to get my pistol ready."
He also qualifies Davis's participation in the Charge as being one of the three Trumpeters who escaped harm during the charge (including himself and Gammage; Howarth having died):
"William Britten of the 17th was mortally wounded and carried out of the field dying; William Howarth of the the 13th was killed, the other three Trumpeters escaped."
He is not known to have been a member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society, in either 1877 or 1879, or to have ever attended any of the functions organised for, or by, the veterans themselves.
Richard Davis - 13th Light Dragoons, a native of India, he saw action at Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol. As well as the Crimean Medal and Turkish Medal he was awarded the French War Medal. In later life he worked as a warden at the South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum at Wadsley, Sheffield. He died in December 1902 and was buried at Burngreave Cemetery, though no headstone was erected.
[Source: ( https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries/archives-and-local-studies/research-guides/crimean-war.html (accessed 2.6.2014).]]
To live in Wakefield, Yorkshire, but he was living in Sheffield in 1875.
Wadsley Park, Ecclesfield [now a suburb of Sheffield].
The 1881 Census shows him as aged 52, an Attendant at the South Yorkshire Asylum, born at Bangalore, India, living with his wife, Mary E, 42 [occupation: "Labourer" [? illegible]], born at Tipperary, Ireland, and four children: Richard, 16, born Hounslow; Gertrude M., 9, York; Blanche C., 7, York (all Scholars), and Isabella, 2 months, Sheffield.
Asylum Cottage, Wadsley Park, Ecclesfield.
In 1891, he is shown now as a widower, 62, born East Indies, British Subject, with his three daughteers still living at home. The two eldest girls, 18 and 16, are dressmakers; the youngest, 10, a Scholar.
Marriage registered [second]
Richard Davis and Elizabeth Capil [a "widow of independent means"], June Quarter 1891, in Sheffield.
The records of the former South Yorkshire Asylum show only that a Richard Davis was appointed as an attendant there on the 9th of March 1870. Nothing else is recorded apart from the word "Resigned" - no date is given.
[PB: The asylum was being built from 1868, but seems not to have officially opened until 1872.]
In 1972, The Middlewood Hospital, Sheffield, 1872-1972, by F.T. Thorpe, was published by the Hospital Authority. It contained a number of photographs, those numbered 1-11 dated circa 1890. No. 10 showed the Institution Band and Male Staff.
One of the musicians depicted standing by the drum is wearing three medals and could be Richard Davis. Although a wind instrument player in the Army it is known that he suffered from failing eyesight, and he may have found drumming easier. [There is a copy of this picture in the 13th Hussar file.]
[PB: This was called the South Yorkshire Asylum (1872-1888), the West Riding Asylum, Wadsley (1889-1929), Wharncliffe War Hospital during the First World War, Wadsley Mental Hospital (1930-1948), and latterly the Middlewood Hospital, until its closure in 1996 (when it became "a private housing development called Wadsley Park Village".
For further information, see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middlewood_Hospital, and a remarkable, predominantly photographic site, www.rotherham-images.co.uk/sheffield-gallery-six.htm.
From the Sheffield Independent, 21st of June 1898:
The Last of the Light Brigade
The death of Troop Sergeant Major Dickenson seems to have raised the question as whether he really was the last local survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Mr. George S. Grayson, of the Crown Inn, Camp Lane, a well-known veteran, says: "He was born in this district, where a number of his relatives still reside, and he enlisted into the 17th Lancers at the Sheffield Old Barracks on May 2nd 1846; whereas Mr. Richard Davis, ex-Band-Sergeant of the 13th Light Dragoons, referred to by Mr. Partington, was born into the 13th Light Dragoons at Arnee, in Madras, India, the regiment being stationed there at the time."
On his attaining the age of 13 years and 8 months he enlisted at Ipswich, into the regiment in which he was born, with the consent of his widowed mother, who had returned with her children with the regiment to England, and had been supported during her widowhood by it, which is very unusual, and reflects unbounded credit upon its commanding officer and all ranks connected with the corps for their generous sympathy.
Davis's first connection with Sheffield was on the occasion of the opening of the South Yorkshire Asylum at Wadsley, he having been appointed a warder at that institution, and he is now receiving a pension from it for his services, in addition to his Army pension. Up to May of last year he was in the habit of joining the veterans on parade at most of their gatherings, but since the burial of ex-Colour Sergeant Ward at Walkley Cemetery, he had been lost sight of, and a report was current amongst the veterans that he had left the district, but there was nothing definite known about him.
I have now heard from Mr. Davis that he had been away from the neighbourhood for some time and had recently returned. The report of his leaving, however, has been the means of the old man turning up again, and now that we have yet another Balaclava hero in our midst the people of Sheffield will rejoice with the same kind of regard as they would one of their own sons who had so nobly won that proud distinction. I am pleased to say that I found him in homely and comfortable circumstances. Although he has turned 70 years of age, I am assured that he enjoys excellent bodily health, with the exception that he has become almost totally blind within the last 18 months or so."
In a letter sent to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and published on the 18th of June 1898, the Secretary of the Sheffield Crimean and Indian Mutiny Veterans Association (Mr. Partington) stated that 'He had spoken to Mr. Richard Davis today, but that he was far too infirm to be able to attend the funeral of Troop Sergeant Major Dickinson.'"
May Gertrude Davis [daughter] to Thomas Tuft, December Quarter 1898, Doncaster.
Blanche Caroline Davis [daughter] to Wilfred Saxby, September Quarter 1908, Ecclesall B.
51, Thirza Street, Nether Hallam, Sheffield.
Richard Davis, 73, Army Pensioner, born India.
Elizabeth, 55, born Harworth, Yorks.
John Henry Capil, 20, step-son.
Died at 51, Thirza Street, Sheffield on 19th December 1902.
Richard Davis, aged 74, December Quarter 1902, Ecclesall B.
The burial records showing his burial in Grave No. 25 Plot T5. on the 23rd of December, 1902, the burial fee being £15. The grave in which he was buried was said to be a common one, his being the first of six interments. The cemetery authorities state that no headstone was erected. (See copy of photograph of this grave-site in the 13th Hussar file.)
Extract from the Sheffield Daily Independent, Monday, 22nd of December 1902:
Balaclava Charge; Sheffield's Last Survivor Dies
Mr. Richard Davis, of 51 Thirza Street, who is stated to be the last survivor in Sheffield of the gallant troops who so distinguished themselves so highly in the historic charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, passed away at his home on Friday last at the age of 74 years.
The late Mr. Davis was an ex-band-sergeant and trumpeter in the 13th Hussars; his regimental number being 1108; and he was one of the few men who passed through the famous charge practically unscathed. The deceased spent 24 years in the Army, and when he retired was for many years a warder at the South Yorkshire Asylum, in connection with which institution he drew a pension up the time of his death. The remains will be conveyed from his home at 1.45 p.m. tomorrow for interment at Burngreave Cemetery.
The funeral will be with military honours, and it is requested that as many members as possible of the Crimean and Indian Mutiny Veterans Association will attend. All who can come are asked to communicate with Mr. J. C. Bye, Mona Road, or Mr. J.S. Grayson, of Edward Street."
Extract from the Sheffield Daily Independent for the 24th of December 1902:
Balaclava Charge - Funeral of Sheffield's Last Survivor
"The remains of ex-Lance Sergeant Trumpeter R. Davis of the 13th Hussars, whose death took place at his residence, No. 51 Thirza Street, were yesterday interred at Burngreave Cemetery with semi-military honours. The deceased was the last local survivor of the gallant band who took part in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.
The principal mourners were Mrs. R. Davis, (widow) Mrs. G. Tuft and Miss Blanche Davis, (daughters) Mr. and Mrs. E. Watson, Mrs Fry and Mrs. H. Kirk. Amongst the Crimean veterans present, wearing their sashes and decorations, were ex-Sergeant-Major J.C. Bye, R.M.L.I., Messrs P. Melville (79th Highlanders), T. Sillcock (60th Rifles), J. Taylor (Rifle Brigade), P. Sullivan (R.A.), G.S. Grayson (2nd Dragoon Guards) and ex-Sergeant W. Severn (69th Foot). The funeral service was conducted by the Revd. A.C. Jones (Vicar of Grimesthorpe) and there was a large attendance of the public. The coffin was borne to the graveside between the ranks of the veterans, who saluted as it passed.
The deceased veteran was born in the regiment - the 13th Light Dragoons, now the 13th Hussars - at Arcot in India in 1827 and enlisted at Ipswich when only 13 years of age. He went out to the Crimea with his regiment in 1854, and on the occasion of the famous charge was acting as trumpeter on the right of the line of attack.
In the charge his horse was killed, and then for some time he was unable to extricate himself, and a portion of his trumpet and sword hilt were also shot away. He took part in the other battles of the campaign and received the Crimean and Turkish medals with clasps for the Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol, and also the French War Medal.
Davis returned to England in 1856 and quitted the Army after 28 years service. Subsequently he acted as a bandsman and warder at the Wakefield, York, and South Yorkshire Asylums for many years, eventually retiring on a pension from the Army and for his service at the asylums of the county."
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph for the 24th of December 1902 carried a similar report of his funeral, but to the part played by him in the charge added:
"He rode with his commanding officer between the guns without mishap, but on returning he had the misfortune to lose his horse, which was killed by round shot. For some time he lay beneath the animal, unable to extricate his foot from the stirrup. By hard struggling he eventually released himself, then ran as hard as he could to the rear, but owing to the smoke from the guns he had but little idea where he was going.
Whilst he was in this situation the short carriage of his sword belt, together with his trumpet, was shot away. For some time he was brought to a standstill, then he commenced again to run and soon succeeded in reaching the ground from which the advance had commenced."
William Davis does not appear to have survived to receive the Army of India Medal, no trace of him having been found on the medal roll.
Additional marriage, birth and death registrations kindly provided by Chris Poole.