Arthur Reginald Harry Davies was born in St Chads, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, on 12th March 1890 to Alice Davies [née Smith] and her husband John Davies who was a grocer.
After his education at Wellington College, ‘Reg’, as he was known, completed a five year apprentice in 1909 at the Shrewsbury Electricity Works.
On 7th September 1914 he enlisted in the 6th (Service) Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) where he listed his occupation as a man ‘of independent means’ and it was not long before he was promoted to Lance-Corporal on 3rd October the same year. A few months later, in March 1915 he was made up to acting Corporal with promotion to the rank confirmed on 22nd July. Two days later he arrived in Boulogne along with his Battalion ready for the fight; unfortunately his stay in France was to be all too brief.
By 24th July the Battalion had completed its concentration in the area of ST. OMER and early familiarisation with the trenches soon followed around FLEURBAIX.
On 25th September the opening shots of the ‘Battle of Loos’ rang out across the battlefield as this mighty offensive got under way. Six Divisions were involved in what was referred to at the time as 'The Big Push'. The Loos battlefield lies immediately north of the mining town of Lens, in what is the heart of an industrial area of north-east France. The ground is flat, highly unattractive, and dominated by numerous slagheaps connected with the local coalmining activities. In 1915, the mining villages, collieries and other industrial buildings presented a difficult logistical challenge for any attacker. Today, little has changed except for a decline in mining activity; some of the old slagheaps and pit-heads are long gone, others are much larger than they were a century ago.
The fighting took place on ground not of the Allies choosing and before their stocks of ammunition and heavy artillery was sufficiently robust. In the opening phase it marked the first use of poison gas by the British Army in warfare. Despite heavy allied casualties, there was considerable success on day one as men broke deep into the enemy positions near LOOS and HULLUCH.
The problem was that the reserve formations, of which 6th KSLI was one, had been held too far to the rear of the front to be able to exploit any success obtained by the main attacking formations. The whole force became bogged down over the succeeding days turning it into a battle of attrition for relatively little gain. Their position, so far back, meant that the reserve battalions arrived on scene some nine hours later than expected and were ‘totally knackered’.
An hour or so later they entered the fray, shortly after which Corporal Reg Davies received a gunshot wound [GSW] to his left shoulder. His spine was fractured and nine pieces of shrapnel became lodged in his mid-torso. When he regained consciousness he was told that he would require treatment for the rest of his life.
On 5th October 1915 Reg was repatriated back to England arriving the following day; officially posted back to the Regiment’s base depot and admitted to the North Staffs Infirmary for treatment in Stoke-on-Trent. This hospital had been taken over by the War Office earlier in the war and converted into a convalescent hospital for recovering soldiers staffed by Voluntary Aid Detachment [VAD] nurses. It opened in 1869, finally discharging its last patient in December 2012.
At a medical board on 23rd January 1916 the conclusion was that Reg suffered from ‘complete paralysis and loss of sensation below umbilicus. Incontinence of urine & faeces, complete severance of cord by piece of shrapnel. Permanent total incapacity”. In the terminology of today he would be regarded as paraplegic. On 29th June he was granted a formal medical discharge in Shrewsbury, thereby qualifying him for a Silver War Badge1 and soon afterwards returned to the care of his family.
On Monday 16th July 1917 Corporal Arthur Reginald Harry Davies, late of 6th (Service) Battalion, The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) passed away at his home in Shrewsbury from wounds received during the Battle of Loos. He was 27 years of age. After his funeral he was laid to rest in Shrewsbury General Cemetery in Shropshire a few yards away from a regimental colleague, and former OW, Private J.W. Dovaston who had preceded him by a couple of months. He is also commemorated on the Shrewsbury War Memorial.
The King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) is perpetuated today in the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles.