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|Lieut.-Colonel Guy Mortimer Coleridge DAVIDGE, D.S.O.|
Commanded the 1st Battalion Worcestershire
Regiment from March 1917 to May 1918.
Commanded the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment from 1921 to 1925.
Commanded the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment from 1915 to July 1916.
Guy Mortimer Coleridge Davidge was born in
Woolwich in 1878.
Colonel Davidge first joined the Worcestershire Regiment in 1898. He served as a subaltern in the Mounted Infantry of the 2nd Battalion in the South African War, taking part in the sharp little action at "Worcester Kopjes" (Slingersfontein), of which a printing now hangs in the Officers' Mess. After that war he was for a time at the Depot, and then served with the 1st Battalion in the Isle of Wight, 1911-1912 ; towards the close of the latter year he was appointed Adjutant of the 7th Battalion at Kidderminster. He was still holding that appointment when the War broke out in 1914.
With the 1/7th Battalion he proceeded to France at the beginning of April, 1915. At first the Territorial Battalions had a fairly quiet time of trench warfare in the Ploegsteert area, a fairly quiet time during which the young Battalions found their feet and established the spirit and the discipline which was afterwards to win them high honour both in France and in Italy. In this initial training the Adjutants of the Battalions bore no small part.
In the winter of 1915 the Territorial Battalions were transferred from Flanders to Picardy, and experienced much bitter weather and trying work in the trenches of the Somme area.
Before the end of the year the command of the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment fell vacant by the promotion of Colonel Hankey, and Colonel Davidge was transferred to fill the vacancy.
With the 3rd Battalion came his first big engagements in the Vimy Ridge fighting of the Spring of 1916. This was a very unpleasant warfare, of which the dominant feature was mining and countermining on the slopes of the famous Ridge, with incessant small attacks and counter-attacks; throughout this fighting the Colonel proved on many occasions his moral courage, no less than his physical bravery and determination. Three weeks of bitter and indecisive fighting cost the Battalion no fewer than 11 officers and 300 men, but their confidence in their leader was never shaken.
From Vimy the 3rd Battalion was sent down south to join the great concentration of troops then assembling for the Battles of the Somme.
During the first few days pf that great struggle, the 3rd Worcestershire were in reserve, but the Battalion was brought up on July 4th into the fierce fighting at the Leipzig Salient in front of Thiepval. Here for two days (July 6th and 7th) the 3rd Worcestershire fought fiercely, losing nearly 200 of all ranks before they were relieved. Thence the Battalion was moved a few miles to the southward to take part in the desperate fighting then in progress around Ovillers.
At Ovillers the good leadership of Colonel Davidge had decisive results, for under his command the 3rd Battalion seized and held a trench junction near Pozieres, East of Ovillers, which movement had the effect of practically isolating the latter village and compelling its eventual surrender to the Territorials of the 48th Division, including his old comrades of the 7th Battalion, which was then attacking the village from the south. But on July 13th, before the village actually surrendered, Colonel Davidge himself was hit and badly wounded.
Early in March, 1917, the Colonel returned to France, this time to the 1st Battalion. He took over command just after the brilliant little action at Bouchavesnes, and commanded during the difficult series of operations by which the British forces followed up the German retreat to the Hindenburg line, boldly risking his life on more than one occasion during the skirmishing in bitter weather around Vancelette Farm. Then the Battalion was sent north into the Ypres Salient to take part in the great offensive which was to fight its way forward to Passendaele.
The first day of that great offensive was one of the most brilliant in the history of the old 29th. The Battalion went forward with splendid dash from the British front line in Sanctuary Wood, swept across the Menin Road, capturing many prisoners, and reached its allotted objective on the slope facing Westhoek. Then it was found that the troops on the right had failed; the Battalion formed a defensive flank facing right, and held its ground under heavy fire and in pouring rain until duly relieved—the relieving Battalion being, curiously enough, the Colonel's former command the 3rd Battalion of the Regiment. That fierce day's work won Colonel Davidge the D. S. O. (London Gazette, 9th January 1918). His citation read: "Maj. (A./Lt.-Col.) Guy Mortimer Coleridge Davidge, Worc. R. -For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the right flank of his brigade had become exposed he was ordered to form a defensive flank with his battalion. This he did with the utmost skill and success, thereby enabling the troops on his left to maintain the ground they had gained. He visited the position taken by the battalion under very heavy machine gun and shell fire, displaying splendid coolness and disregard of personal safety."
The 1st Worcestershire had lost heavily in the battle, and were subsequently sent down to a quieter area to re-form. The ensuing winter proved severe, and during it the Colonel's health broke down. He was invalided to England, where for some time he commanded a young soldiers' battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I.
March, 1918, brought the great German offensive. The 1st Worcestershire lost heavily in the heroic fighting of the great retreat. Reinforcements were sent out, and with them went Colonel Davidge. He again took over command of the 1st Battalion in the trenches in front of Amiens at Villers Bretonneux. There, on April 24th, 1918, the enemy made a sudden fierce attack, using tanks for the first time. In this fight the Colonel was at one time in great danger from a hostile tank; but the attack was successfully repulsed after a fight in which the Worcestershire gained great credit. But the 8th Division was by then so weakened that it was decided to transfer it to the supposedly tranquil sector on the Aisne.
The Aisne, however, was to prove the reverse of tranquillity. Hardly had the 8th Division settled down in that pleasant land when the enemy began there the last and swiftest of his offensives. At dawn on May 27th the enemy attacked in overwhelming strength, and by noon of that day all the nine battalions of the 8th Division had been practically annihilated. To endeavour to stay the further advance of the enemy a temporary line was formed of all such details of the Division as had not been involved in the general catastrophe; with these was Colonel Davidge, who, by fortunate accident, had been sick and back in the transport lines at the moment of the attack. Rallying around him such remnants of the Battalion as he could collect, the Colonel inspired their resistance during the days which followed.
Fighting desperately a continuous series of rearguard actions, the remnants of three British Divisions were driven back step by step from the Aisne to the Vesle and then across the high ridges which separate that river from the valley of the Ardre. Three days and nights that fight lasted, three days and nights of incessant strain and peril, during which the Colonel had at least one miraculous escape from death or capture.
On 27th May 1918, the culminating day of that retreat, Colonel Davidge was with Colonel Grogan in that last amazing fight on the Boulease Ridge, Aisne, when Colonel Grogan rallied his exhausted men by boldly riding up and down the firing line under the close fire of the enemy. Colonel Grogan was awarded the V.C. His no less indomitable companion Colonel Davidge received a bar to his D.S.O. He was three times mentioned in despatches.
This was the Colonel's last fight. Reinforcements had been brought up, and a firm line established south of the Ardre. Behind that line the remnants of the 8th Division were withdrawn to reorganise, and in that new position Colonel Davidge was once more badly wounded on May 30th by a chance shell.
This wound kept the Colonel at home until the War was over. On recovery he re-joined the 3rd Battalion as Second-in-command until November, 1921, when he took over command of the 2nd Battalion in Dublin.
Colonel Davidge commanded the 2nd Battalion from 1921 to 1925, when he retired. Colonel Davidge was a keen athlete,
cricketer and a first-class tennis player.
Lieut.-Colonel G. M. C. Davidge, D.S.O. died at home in Hove on the 17th February 1956, aged 77. Brigadier H. U. Richards, C.B.E., D.S.O., represented the Worcestershire Regiment at the funeral which took place at Brighton on the 22nd February 1956.