John William DAVOLL was born to parents George DAVOLL and Frances Elizabeth DAVOLL (nee PEMBLINGTON)
George DAVOLL was born in 1863 at Colton near Rugeley, Staffordshire. He was a farm labourer / waggoner who travelled around the Midlands for work.
His family surname has many variations since Richard De Vil in 1675, such as DAVAL, DAVOLE, DEVAL, DEAVOL, DEAVOLE, DEAVOLLE, DEVILLE, DEVOLL and DEVOLLE. His wife Frances Elizabeth PEMBLINGTON was born in 1860 in Tinsley Sheffield, Yorkshire.
Her family came from Audley, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. Between 1871 and 1901, George was living at Colton, Tardebigge, Great Barr, Walsall, Staffordshire. George and Frances were married in 1882. Their marriage was registered at the Lichfield Registry Office in the December quarter of that year (Volume 6b Page 753 and George is recorded as DEVOLLE)
They subsequently moved to Great Barr, Walsall, Staffordshire in 1884 and there John’s elder sister Sarah Alice DAVOLL was born. George with his wife Frances and daughter Sarah moved to Rushall, Staffordshire and John was born there in May 1891.
The family moved on and John was christened the following month in June at Mavesyn Ridware Church near Rugeley, Staffordshire.
Again the family moved on, this time to Handsacre, Staffordshire and there in 1894, John’s mother gave birth to another daughter named Minnie. In 1901, John was living with his parents and sister Minnie in Birchley Heath, Ansley, Warwickshire
DAVOLL family recorded on the 1901 Census(*2)
John's mother was keen that her children could read and write. She even read newspapers to her father-in-law who could not read.
John’s sister Sarah Alice became a governess before her marriage in 1906. The children could have been educated at home or taught at the local school in Rugeley Road, Burntwood. It was built about 1861 by the local mining company.
Burntwood No 1 Board School (3*)
In 1911, John was living with his parents, and sisters Minnie and Dorothy at Woodhouses, Staffordshire. George was a Farm Labourer and John a Waggoner.
DAVOLL family recorded on the 1911 Census (*4)
By 1914, the family including granddaughter Dorothy were living in a tied cottage called Melrose House owned by the WORTHINGTON family. It was a typical cottage of the era. The WORTHINGON family lived at Maple Hayes Hall which is now a school for children suffering from Dyslexia .They owned a brewery in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire and farm land in the Lichfield area of Staffordshire. The WORTHINGTON’s were a very charitable and used their money to good effect for the benefit of the local population and elsewhere. They allowed George DAVOLL and his family to stay on in Melrose House after his George’s retirement and the cottage was renamed Davoll’s Cottage.
Davoll’s Cottage – Formerly Melrose House (*5)
(In its later years, Davoll’s Cottage was modernised and converted into Bed and Breakfast accommodation) On the 22nd December 1914, John enlisted in the North Staffordshire Regiment at Lichfield Depot, Whittington Barracks, Packington, Staffordshire. His Regimental Number was 15995. On the 1st January 1915, John was posted to the 3nd Battalion for training. This would be at the Regimental Depot at Whittington Barracks.
Whittington Barracks (*6)
On the 28th April, only three months later, John was transferred to the Duke of Wellington’ Regiment (West Riding Regt). His Regimental Number became 16401. He could have been held on Cannock Chase Camp at Brocton as it was used for holding battalions prior to posting to the Western Front or other theatres of war. On the 14th May 1915, John arrived at the front to join the B. E. F. During his service John received Field Punishment for stealing some potatoes. John was also gazetted as AWOL for one week following a home leave in 1916. On the 3rd May 1916, John was posted to Active Service in the 2nd Battalion. Between the 1st and 31st October 1916, the battle at Le Transloy Ridge, which was one of the last battles of the Somme which took place. The fighting took place in appalling weather conditions. Little progress was achieved and many soldiers were killed and injured. John was involved in this battle and during that battle he went missing. On the 12th October, John was officially reported missing.
On the 23rd October some 13 days after John had been reported missing, he was found suffering with wounds and brought back into lines as a casualty. John’s wounds were so severe, nothing could be done for him and he died from later that day. His total service was 1year and 306 days.
John was buried later that month, 2.75 miles away at Combies close to where he died. His body was exhumed 3 months later and reburied at A.I.F Burial Ground, Flers, Somme in France. The A.I.F. Burial Ground is 2 kilometres north of the village of Flers, in the Department of the Somme, and his final resting place can be found at Grave Memorial III. D. 24.
A.I.F Burial Ground, Flers (*7) A.I.F Burial Ground, Flers (*8)
John was awarded the Victory Medal (Medal Roll 0/2/101 B7 Page 695), the British War Medal (Medal Roll 0/2/101 B7 Page 695) and the 1915 Star Medal (Medal Roll 0/2/3b Page 117)
Victory Medal (*9) British War Medal (*10) 1915 Star Medal (*11)
John’s Service Record (*12) John’s Medal Card (*13)
War Memorial Burntwood Christchurch (*14) War Memorial Burntwood Memorial Institute (*15)
Special thanks go to Mr Derek BROOKS for all the information he gave during the research into John’s life
On the 5th August 2011, Derek BROOKS wrote to the BFHG expressing his appreciation for the research done on his great uncle. The letter is reproduced below
"To all the BFHG members. Dear Group
I would like to thank you all for this project which commemorates the sacrifices made by all the young men in the two World Wars and in operations carried out by British Armed Forces during the last century and the beginning of this. I believe that in only two years since WWII have there been no military operations. I would like to thank especially Mrs Gill WILLNER and her husband for the hard work in researching and producing the information about my great uncle John William DAVOLL and his death in 1916.
I would also like to thank Mr Alan BETTS for his efforts in producing material and photographs to support the memorial article. The project is a very worthwhile one and I hope the BFHG is able to get as much support as possible and also recognition of its achievements.
Thank you again. Yours sincerely. Derek BROOKS".
Item, Source and credit
(*1) Photograph © Pete Willner (BFHG)
(*3) Photograph © Alan Betts (BFHG)
(*5) Photograph © Pete Willner (BFHG)
(*6) Photograph © Unknown
(*7) Photograph © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
(*8) Photograph © Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)
(*9) Photograph © Alan Betts (BFHG)
(*10) Photograph © Alan Betts (BFHG)
(*11) Photograph © Alan Betts (BFHG)
Burntwood Family History Group