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William Charles Davis was born in about 1871 in Dundee, Scotland the son of Army Pensioner Charles and Martha Davis. At the age of 15 years and 3 months William enlisted into the Scottish Rifles signing his papers at the Curragh Camp where he agreed to serve a term of 12 years. He underwent his medical inspection at Preston, the Medical Officer noting that he was just 5`1” tall and weighed 90lbs with grey eyes and light brown hair. William spent the first five months of his service `at home` before going overseas to India on the 24th September 1886 where he remained until the 12th February 1895. Having completed his term of engagement William, now in the rank of Corporal, was discharged on the 31st March 1898.

On the 3rd December 1898 William married Margaret Portlock at St. Paul`s Church in Preston, the marriage record noting that William was living at 38 Alfred Street and his occupation was a driver. Margaret who was a spinster and aged 22 was the daughter of Thomas Portlock a gardener of 78 Selborne Street in Preston. On the 7th April 1899 at 78 Selborne Street a daughter Margaret Ann was born to the couple. She was baptised the following month at St. Mary`s Church in Preston, the baptismal record noting that William`s occupation was now an attendant at the Asylum.

On the 26th March 1900 William attested for a period of one year in the rank of Corporal with the Royal Rifles Reserve Regiment. His height was now 5`10” and his weight was 148lbs. His next of kin was recorded as being his wife Margaret of 30 James Street, off London Road in Preston.

On the 19th May 1900 William and Margaret had a second daughter and named her Florence May. William was promoted to Sergeant on the 16th October 1900 and then on the 25th March 1901 he was discharged having completed his one years` service. When the 1901 Census was recorded on the 31st March 1901 the family`s home address was still at 30 James Street in Preston. William was working for a local grocer as a van driver and Margaret was a cotton weaver. Two months later on the 31st May 1901 William re-joined the Army, signing his papers at Aldershot where he attested into the Royal Garrison Artillery to serve for a period of 2 years on Garrison Duty with the Colours.

William served at home until the 12th May 1901 before going overseas to serve in the Mediterranean, his wife and two young daughters sailed with him. William was serving in Malta when another daughter Annie was born there on the 8th May 1903. Just prior to Annie`s birth William had extended his service by a further year and then extended it again in February 1904 for a further two years. In the early summer of 1904 William, Margaret and their three daughters left Malta for South Africa, landing there on the 20th June 1904. A son Thomas was born in South Africa on the 1st June 1905 and then the following month on the 29th July 1905 William and his family left South Africa and came back home to England.

Three years after they arrived back in Preston another son Charles was born in the June quarter of 1908 his baptismal record noting that William was employed as a provision salesman. When the Census was recorded in 1911 William, Margaret and their five children were living at 22 Richmond Street in Preston and William was now working for an electrical engineer as a general labourer. Margaret gave birth to the couples` sixth and final child in October 1911, another son and he was named Frederick.

In February 1914 William was left with six children to care for, the youngest lad Frederick was just 3 years old when William`s wife Margaret passed away on the 28th February 1914. His eldest daughter Margaret Ann was only fifteen years old when war was declared in August 1914 and then her father William re-enlisted into the Army on the 29th August 1914 for one year as a Special Reservist with the 3rd Battalion LNL, Service Number 3302. William`s papers initially show him as Private Davis but this was very quickly amended to show a promotion to Sergeant on the day of his enlistment. He declared his age at enlistment as 43 years and 8 months old and underwent his medical inspection after which the Medical Officer considered him fit for the Army Reserve. On the 2nd September 1914 he was posted to the 6th Battalion.

On the 4th May 1915 William was posted back to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion but it wasn`t long before he became quite ill and was subsequently admitted to the Military Hospital in Preston around the middle of June 1915. Having spent 102 days in hospital William sadly passed away aged 49 years on the 3rd October 1915, cause of death was given as asthma, heart failure, Bright`s Disease.

William was laid to rest in Preston (New Hall Lane) Cemetery;

After her father`s death his eldest daughter 16 year old Margaret Ann became the official guardian of her five younger siblings. William`s papers reveal that his children would receive a pension of 25/- per week with effect from 24th April 1916 decreasing to 20/- per week from 20th May 1916. Unfortunately it looks as though Margaret Ann was unable to cope with the pressure of looking after the children and keeping a roof over their heads, financially it must have been a struggle for her. Sadly, by December 1915 Annie, Thomas, Charles and Frederick had all been placed in the care of the Harris Orphanage in Preston and the eldest of the five, 15 year old Florence had been sent to a home near London.

In the September quarter of 1917 William`s eldest daughter Margaret Ann married a Preston soldier serving with the 1st Battalion LNL, 2361 Private Lawrence Norris – click here to read his story.

After their marriage Margaret Ann and Lawrence had moved to 25 Vickers Street in Preston but because of the change in her circumstances it took the Authorities quite a while to track her down in order to complete the final pieces of her father`s paperwork. They finally located her in 1920 after enlisting the help of the Harris Orphanage and she was then able to complete Army Form W.5080 – A Statement of all living relatives. A declaration was signed by Margaret Ann and witnessed by Justice Jeremiah Woolley on the 12th February 1920; Margaret Ann as previously noted was living at 25 Vickers Street in Preston and Florence was now resident at 3 Lostock View in Lostock Hall. Margaret Ann also confirmed that her four youngest siblings, Charles, Annie, Thomas and Frederick were all still resident at the Harris Orphanage in Preston.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 3302
Date of Death: 03/10/1915
Age: 49
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “C” Coy. 3rd Bn.

Janet Davis
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