The three men stand together. Their faces are such that one cannot define emotion. Two of the men are not stoic as much, it seems, attempting to suppress laughter while being serious soldiers. The man on the left has his eyes fixed at the photographer is there is no hint of a smile, unlike the man in the middle who appears to be suppressing one.
We know one of the men by name with certainty—the man on the left is Private William Davis. The man in the middle and to the right is unknown. The photograph is bereft of clues. You cannot see the collar or cap badges and the background is indistinct, though the photograph appears to be taken outside, not, as was common, indoors with a façade as a background. The year is indeterminate. It is taken some time between 1914—1915 as they are wearing Service Dress (Canadian Pattern) of a pre-war design. The 7-buttons and the scalloped chest pocket flaps are distinctive features of this configuration of uniform.[i] As Davis was 5’ 5.5” tall we know that the man in the middle is taller and the man on the right is shorter. Little in the way of clues.
“Sends Back Many Souvenirs of War
Member of the 18th Battalion Remembers Family With Unique Christmas Gifts.
Mrs. W.A. Davis, wife of Pte. W.A. Davis, of the 18th Battalion, yesterday received a number of unique and interesting war trophies from her husband in the trenches. Handkerchiefs and brooches, made from shells picked up after the battle of Ypres, were sent to the wife and to Pte. Davis’ two daughters, Melvina and Irene. A ring made from the nose of a German bullet was send to Oren Davis, the son.
Pte. Davis, who has been in the trenches since last September has so far escaped without a scratch. He was for a time employed in the construction of mines in the rear of the Allied lines. In one of his last letters he refers to the fact that he has been detailed for special work in the rear lines again.
By a peculiar coincidence, Pte. Davis is the third of the same name and initial in the same company of the 18th. The three Davis’ are chums and friends. A.J. Davis and Albert Thomas Davis are the two other members.”[ii]
From the news clipping we know that Davis is “chums” with two other members of the 18th Battalion, who, conveniently, have surnames of Davis. Could they be these men?
Private Arthur Davis, a scout in the 18th, was 5’ 8.5” tall. He could possibly be the man in the middle.
As to Private Albert Thomas Davis, at 5’ 11” he is most definitely not the man on the right and at a full 6” taller than Private William Davis (on the left) he is probably not the man in the middle.
As so many photographs of this period we are at a loss to gather more information to contextualize the image. We can barely surmise the date, time, and reason for the photograph. From the uniforms we can be confident that this photograph was taken some time between October 1914 and September 1915. Could it be taken when these men heard about their battalion imminent departure for England or, later, to the Continent for active duty? We will never know.
As to the Davis’s? All three of them would survive the war. Private William Arthur Davis would die in 1929.[iii] Private Albert Thomas Edward Davis would pass away due to cancer of the throat in 1950 and is buried at Stratford, Ontario. Private Arthur John Davis served with the Battalion until it was demobilized on May 24, 1919, and, at this time, his story ends there.
[i] (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2021, from https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/uniforms/uniform.htm
[ii] London Advertiser. January 7, 1916. Page 2.
[iii] See this blog post for more details: https://18thbattalioncef.blog/2021/08/21/finances-and-the-private/