Lance Corporal Davies had worked for the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) at the Sun Mills in Manchester. He experienced fighting in the early stages of the war as he was sent out to France on 17 August 1914 as part of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and entered the fighting a week later. He was part of various attacks, including three bayonet charges. On 6 January 1915, the trench he was in was struck by a German shell. Many soldiers died as a result of the explosion, but Davies was buried under the debris and woke up ten days later in a hospital in Le Havre. His right side had been partially paralysed as a result of the attack, and as such he was invalided home to recover.
One interesting point of note was Davies’s participation in the Christmas Day truce of 1914. He said in an interview afterwards that “It was very foggy first thing on Christmas Day, but the atmosphere cleared considerably from nine o’clock. Then the Germans began to show themselves, and we did the same. At ten o’clock, we both left our trenches, and, meeting, walked arm in arm for the rest of the day. All sorts of gifts exchanged hands. About five o’clock we separated and went back to our respective trenches. Next morning, we were both firing at each other as though Christmas Day and the truce had never existed.”
This article shows that Davies was also full of gratitude to the directors of the CWS for paying his whole wages to his family while he was away fighting in the war.
Co-operative News, 10 April 1917, page 473.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.