11th September 1916

Private Thomas Davis, 10th Battalion Canadian Infantry, died on 11th September 1916 serving in France. He was born in Birmingham c. 1890. By 1901, it appears that his father had died and he was living in a three-roomed back-to-back house (1 Court 4, Pickford Street) with his widowed mother, Ann, and three siblings, aged 8-15. Ann was working as a charwoman, and also had three boarders living in the house with her and her children.

Within a few months of the census being taken, Thomas and his younger brother, Alfred, had become inmates at Marston Green Cottage Homes. The homes had been established just over 20 years earlier so that children who would otherwise have been admitted to Birmingham Workhouse had an alternative to protect them from the “malign influence” of workhouse accommodation. Based on the idea of a village  of small houses, cottage homes were set up in rural locations with about 20-30 children in each “family” home. Often with on-site workshops, schools, and infirmaries, the intention was to teach children practical skills that would enable them to find employment when they left the homes. It seems that Thomas lived at Marston Green Homes until 1905 when he left as one of a party of 142 children sent by Middlemore Homes, Birmingham to Canada.

His date of birth is unclear as the 1901 census suggests he was born in 1890 but passenger records suggest 1891, and Army records give 1892. With such a common name, and confusion over birth dates, it makes it difficult to be certain about the information.

Thomas seems to have sailed from Liverpool aboard the SS Siberian on 20th June 1905, arriving on 1st July 1905 at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The 142 British Home Children were destined for the Fairview Home in Halifax, which had been opened by Middlemore in 1895. Altogether, Middlemore Homes sent some 5,000 child migrants from Birmingham to Canada.

Thomas enlisted in the Canadian Infantry on 28th September 1914. His attestation form gives his date of birth as 25th February 1892 and his next of kin as his sister, Mrs Mary Stuart, 3, Back of 84, Edward Street, Birmingham, England. Also noted on his service record was his brother, Alfred J. Davis, with an address in Calgary. Thomas’s occupation was given as “teamster” – a lorry driver or driver of horses.

He was wounded at Givenchy on 26th June 1915, receiving a gun shot wound to the left hip. After the bullet was removed at No. 6 General Hospital, Rouen, he was sent to Clifton House, Southampton aboard the Hospital Ship, St Andrew. He returned to duty on 1st September 1916 but paraded sick in December 1916, saying he was still in pain, although the shrapnel had been removed and the wound had healed.

He was sent to Moore Barracks Hospital, Shorncliffe and then to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Monks Horton, Kent for a few weeks rest.  He then contracted measles and was quarantined as he was about to be released. He was discharged back to the lines on 24th March 1916 and returned to France in May 1916.

He was killed in action on 11th September 1916 and is buried at the A.I.F. Cemetery, Flers. He is commemorated locally on the war memorial at Marston Green Cottage Homes

If you have any further information on Thomas Davis, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk


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