Horror of World War One 'wasn't fit for young ears'

Edward Davies poses in his soldier’s uniform

Edward Davies and Ethel were married in 1918

First published in News This Is Lancashire: Photograph of the Author by

WORLD War One was the great conflict which claimed millions of lives, many in the horrific trenches in France.
Next week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the long four years which changed history.
Today, The Bolton News starts a series of articles recalling the heroes from our town and their heartbreaking and sometimes heartwarming stories.
On Monday, August 4, to mark the outbreak of the war, we will be publishing a special supplement with the names of the thousands of Bolton men who died, along with more stories from the front.
Here is the story of young soldier Edward Davies whose war service still remains a mystery to his daughter.

JEAN Brady never knew the horrors her father witnessed during World War One.

Edward Davies refused to talk about what he had seen and done saying “it wasn’t fit for young ears”, the 81-year-old says.

But now she wants her father to get the recognition she believes he deserves for years of loyal service to king and country.

He was just 17 years old when he signed up and was hospitalised three times during his Army career.

He fought in France and the Dardanelles, although exactly what happened to Edward remains a mystery to his family.

Jean, who lives in Johnson Fold, says she is “very proud” of her father.

She has various items of untold sentimental value to her, including a photograph of a very young Edward, possibly taken in Egypt in 1914.

There is also a photograph of Edward with his wife, Ethel, in which he is in full uniform.

He had married Ethel in October, 1918, at St Paul’s Church, Astley Bridge and the couple had five children, Ethel, Doris, Edward, Rosie and Jean.

Edward was born in 1896 — he died in 1960 — and his parents were Thomas and Sarah Davies. Although he was born in Hindley, by 1911 he was living in Bridgewater Street in Farnworth.

At that time Edward was working as a colliery winder, below ground.

In 1913, Edward enlisted in the Manchester Regiment 1/5 Battalion and, in 1914, he was in Alexandria, Egypt.

In 1915, he was at Gallipoli, in the Turukish Dardanelles, where he suffered various illnesses, three of which needed hospitalisation in Alexandria.

In 1917, he was in Marseilles, France, where he joined the British Expeditionary Force.

As happened with so many British soldiers, Edward succumbed to a gas shell attack — this was on July 8, 1918, and he was in hospital for a month before returning to his unit.

He also suffered from malaria and this caused him problems throughout his life.

He came back to Bolton in 1918 and lived in St Georges Road where, in October, he was still in the Army.

On January 26, 1919, he was awarded the British Star and Victory war medals. On December 12, he was also awarded the Silver War badge.

Edward’s medals were loaned to his daughter, Ethel, shortly before she died in a fire in 1962.

It is thought the medals could well have been lost in the fire.

When he left the Army, Edward went back to the mines but in 1954, a few years before his death, was working as a labourer for the cleansing department. His occupation at the time of his death was listed as a refuse incinerator.

Jean recalls her father had a depression at the front of his skull and she was told by her mother that this resulted from a bullet ricochet off his helmet.

He was, says Jean, a quiet man of few words. He would usually be seen sitting in his favourite chair by the open fire of their back sitting room in the house in Clarence Street, which was close to Bolton town centre and the focal point for many family members — especially at weekends.

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