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Remembered Today:

John James Davidson, Royal Scots Fusiliers


generalist

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I have been researching this man recently - he later went on to become a Labour MP, representing Glasgow Maryhill from 1935 to 1945, when he quietly retired and vanished into obscurity. Very little seems to be known about him. I have managed to trace a few details about his WWI service, and think I have a tentative association, but would be curious to see if I've made any obvious errors...

 

He was born in Inverness on 13 December 1898, reappears in Glasgow as a print-worker in 1923, and was elected to Parliament in 1935. Anything between those dates is a bit speculative, but I suspect that at some point in the early 1900s he moved to Glasgow.

 

While he didn't leave any kind of a memoir, he did briefly discuss his time in the war during debates in Parliament. He was an NCO (on and off) with the Royal Scots Fusiliers:

 

Quote

I, too, served in the Army in the last war but probably did not get much of a character, or any character at all, because I was a corporal twice and a private three times. I want to say quite frankly that some of the most important regiments in the British Army created very great disturbances during the last war. The regiment to which the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Air belonged, the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, to which I also belonged, participated in some of those disturbances.

 

He also seems to have enlisted underage - though he also often gave his year of birth as 1899, so exactly what that means in practice is a bit unclear.
 

Quote

I served at a very early age during the last War, and I do not agree with the hon. Member who stated that the young men of 18 and 19 stood up under heavy bombardment as well as the men of 22, 25 and 26.

[...]

While I was in France during the last War, under age, my younger brother was in the Training Reserve Battalion and was guarding the Forth Bridge. I still have some of his correspondence, and judging from it he considered that he was doing as important a job as I was doing overseas.

 

So... from this information is it possible to trace anything more? There is one "John J Davidson" in the RSF with a medal card, another 14 "John Davidson", one of whom died so it's not him, and three "J Davidson".

 

The possibilities are in order:

  • 5616 John Davidson, 1st RSF - awarded 1914 Star, so pre-war soldier and not our man. 1909 enlistment papers survive and have him born ~1889.
  • 6434 J Davidson [card states Colour Sergeant, which our man was not]
  • 7883 John Davidson, 8th RSF - number suggests pre-war soldier, & 8th were in Salonika
  • 8567 J Davidson 1st RSF [also RM Labour Corps] - awarded 1914 Star, so pre-war soldier and not our man
  • 11947 John Davidson (Corporal) 6th RSF, 2nd RSF, 6/7th RSF - enlisted 24/8/15, discharged 10/12/18 aged 32, too old to be our man
  • 12654 John Davidson 11th RSF or 1st RSF - enlisted 2/9/14, arrived in France 1/4/15, discharged wounded 25/12/15
  • 13642 John Davidson 7th RSF - arrived in France 10/7/15, demob 10/3/19 . Claimed disability for wounds in 1919 (papers survive) and was aged 39, definitely too old.
  • 14795 John Davidson 6th RSF (also 1st, 2nd, 12th) - arrived France 11/5/15, demobilised 20/2/19 [thanks Charlie!]
  • 17723 John Davidson 2nd RSF - Victory & BWM so served overseas; arrived France 19/7/15 [thanks Charlie!]
  • 26167 John Davidson - 1st Garrison Battalion RSF who were Home Service / India
  • 31715 John Davidson [also Gordons] - BWM alone so probably did not serve overseas
  • 36058 John Davidson [also RE, KOSB, RE again]
  • 39378 John Davidson [also Labour Corps]. Victory & BWM so served overseas.
  • 51769 John Davidson 1st RSF [died 1918]
  • 59562 John J Davidson 11th RSF - seems most plausible; Victory & BWM so served overseas
  • 205393 John Davidson 8th RSF - not our man, 8th RSF were in Salonika
  • 265111 J Davidson [number suggests 6th Bn TF renumbering] - enlisted 10/10/14, discharged 24/8/17, Silver War Badge, aged 42 - so definitely not our man. Pension records do survive.
  • unknown John Davidson [later 314687 Labour Corps]. Enlisted 18/8/14. Born 1874 so definitely not our man.

 

I think this leaves us with 12654, 14795, 17723, 36058, 39378, or 59562.

 

12654 seems unlikely - enlisted in 1914 and discharged from the army before the end of 1915, just after our man had turned 17. Even with a creatively underage enlistment this would be quite fast. 14795 and 17723 both probably also enlisted in 1914.

 

59562 as noted seems the most likely based on name - I know there was at least one other John James Davidson of a similar age around, however. Is it just a plausible guess, or is there another clue to tracking this down that I might be missing? 11th RSF were not in action before mid-1918 so he may have been serving with another (unlisted) unit before then - by mid-1918 he was 19 1/2 and presumably no longer underage.

 

Any thoughts gratefully appreciated. I doubt it'll be possible to say anything for sure, but you never know...

 

Andrew.

Edited by generalist
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2 hours ago, generalist said:

14795 John Davidson 6th RSF (also 1st, 2nd, 12th) - arrived France 11/5/15, demobilised 20/2/19

There's a hospital admissions medical record for him. Sep 1918

14795 Davidson JF, 12th RSF , aged 21,  6 completed yrs service, 48mths with Field Force

Neurasthenia Sept 1918

 

Pension card address   Croft Head, Bridge of Wier.  Disability Pulmonary TB

 

That presumably confirms you can rule him out ?

 

2 hours ago, generalist said:

17723 John Davidson 2nd RSF - Victory & BWM so served overseas; arrived France 19/7/15

Pension card for this man  with address 257 North, Lumph..., Cupar Fife.  Disability not given (unless it is that Lumph word I could not read)

 

The above two are just to reinforce your assessments.

 

Have you traced Electoral Roll- Absent Voters List for 1918 or even 1919 ?- if they exist

 

Did he marry ?- presumably not before he left the army so no useful info there.

 

Charlie

 

 

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3 hours ago, generalist said:

elected to Parliament in 1935.

When elected he was chairman of the Glasgow Socialist Party and was 'a mechanical worker for a Glasgow Evening Paper'. They ought to have done a little write-up ?

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Oddly died Southend on Sea

 

Name: John James Davidson
Death Age: 77
Birth Date: 13 Dec 1898
Registration Date: Jan 1976
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3 hours ago, charlie962 said:

There's a hospital admissions medical record for him. Sep 1918

14795 Davidson JF, 12th RSF , aged 21,  6 completed yrs service, 48mths with Field Force

Neurasthenia Sept 1918

 

Pension card address   Croft Head, Bridge of Wier.  Disability Pulmonary TB

 

That presumably confirms you can rule him out ?

 

Pension card for this man  with address 257 North, Lumph..., Cupar Fife.  Disability not given (unless it is that Lumph word I could not read)

 

The above two are just to reinforce your assessments.

 

Have you traced Electoral Roll- Absent Voters List for 1918 or even 1919 ?- if they exist

 

Did he marry ?- presumably not before he left the army so no useful info there.

 

Charlie

 

Thanks for these two! J*F* suggests another man, and Cupar is a long way away for the other, so it seems to confirm the hunch. I don't know for sure he was living in Glasgow at the time (the family may have moved around a bit) but it seems likely.

 

Unsure on whether there was any lasting injury. He didn't mention it if so, and haven't seen a contemporary mention it, but his local party did get concerned about his ill-health in the early forties, so maybe there's something there.

 

Marriage was in 1923 - one of the few definite things pinned down so far! 

 

Haven't tried the electoral rolls yet, thanks for the pointer. 

 

Andrew.

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3 hours ago, charlie962 said:

Who was his younger brother- can we trace anything on him ?

 

There's one younger in the 1901 census (Peter, aged 1) and presumably any younger would be too young to enlist even in a training unit. A George Davidson, living same address, witnessed his marriage cert in 1923 but don't know the relation (brother? Cousin? Uncle?)

 

Common names, unfortunately!

 

Andrew. 

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2 hours ago, alf mcm said:

Andrew,

 There is a private family tree on ancestry. https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/pt/RequestTreeAccess.aspx?tid=39042497&pid=352196564672  It may be worthwhile contacting the owner.

 

Well spotted - but tragically, I think that one is mine :-) (I have a tree I use for miscellaneous research like this - no-one related to anyone else, but it's a useful way to draw all their records together.)

 

Thanks,

 

Andrew.

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2 hours ago, charlie962 said:

When elected he was chairman of the Glasgow Socialist Party and was 'a mechanical worker for a Glasgow Evening Paper'. They ought to have done a little write-up ?

 

This has baffled me a bit as well - there was very little about him in the Scottish press when he was elected. My diligent dredging of the BNA has turned up only two or three passing mentions, more or less this and not much more detail, not even a grainy stamp-sized photo - I think I would have to get back to the microfilm and look at the not-yet-digitised papers to find anything. Sadly haven't even managed to work out which paper yet.

 

Thanks,

 

Andrew.

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1 hour ago, corisande said:

Oddly died Southend on Sea

 

Name: John James Davidson
Death Age: 77
Birth Date: 13 Dec 1898
Registration Date: Jan 1976

 

Well discovered - this is the final part of the mystery! We had got stuck on the lack of a Scottish death record but the date makes this pretty unambiguously him. It's not clear how he wound up there - he left office at 46, despite a decent chance at reelection, he probably wasn't wealthy, he may not have had an actual job to go back to (& he would have been competing with a lot of younger newly-demobbed men for work), and then nothing at all until he shows up in England thirty years later.

 

Still trying to work out how to attack this side of the problem. Makes the service records issue look straightforward :-)

 

Thanks,

 

Andrew.

 

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This clipping courtesy FindmyPast Newspapers may also be of relevance to his standing down for the  45 election,

1249840064_GWFDavidsonJJMP1942.JPG.d5f55fa9914ccd7f59bcb66187421f6a.JPG

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On 25/05/2020 at 13:03, charlie962 said:

This clipping courtesy FindmyPast Newspapers may also be of relevance to his standing down for the  45 election,

 

 

this is great, thanks! Very interesting to see his comments & is also the only thing to absolutely confirm he's the same person as the Inverness chap - we had been assuming it was so as all the other details lined up so neatly, but it's very useful to have a contemporary mention it.

 

Andrew.

Edited by generalist
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