Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The 2/4th Battalion)

Research and Resources around the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry during WWI

Major Hugh Nares Davenport

From G. K. Rose, The Story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

“I recall especially the work of some who have not returned; Davenport, Scott, Stockton, Zeder, and Tiddy among the officers, and among the non-commissioned officers and men a host of good comrades.”

“That same night the Battalion did its first raid, by B Company under Hugh Davenport. The raid was ordered at short notice and was a partial success. If the tangible results were few, B Company was very properly thanked for its bravery on this enterprise, which had to be carried out against uncut wire and unsubdued machine-guns. Zeder, a lieutenant with a South African D.C.M., was mortally wounded on the German wire and taken prisoner. The casualties were numerous. Davenport himself was wounded, but unselfishly refused treatment until his men had been fetched in. It was a night of battle and excitement. To the most hardened troops a barrage directed against crowded
breastworks was never pleasant. The Battalion bore itself well and earned recital, albeit with some misdescription, in the English press a few days later.”

“Two original officers of the 2/4th, Jack Bennett and Hugh Davenport, commanded A and B Companies respectively.”

“On Christmas eve, 1916, the Battalion relieved the front line. Brown and Davenport took their
companies to Desire and Regina.”

“For conditions such as I have described the Battalion returned to do another tour in the Ablaincourt sector. The line was again held by A on the left (owing to the former three-company system no proper interchange had been possible) and bv B on the right. Davenport went to my old headquarters, which the enemy was now busy, trench- mortaring, and held half the front previously held by C, which, with D .Company, was now in support.’

23rd March 1918

“Moberly’s force comprised many administrative personnel. ‘What your men lack in numbers they must make up in courage,’ was the Major-General’s encouragement. But the men were not at once put to the test. The 20th Division, which was covering the retreat across the Somme, relieved the Offoy rear-guard, of which Davenport had now assumed command, early in the morning of March 23, and Bennett was likewise relieved in his duties at Voyennes, where the bridge was blown up.”

“Though the Offoy bridgehead had been taken over by the 20th Division, Davenport’s troops were kept in support along the railway embankment at Hombleux, for it was feared that the enemy had already commenced to cross the Somme at Ham. During the morning of the 23rd. Davenport received peremptory orders to make a counter-attack against the town with the object of regaining possession of its bridgehead. Considerable success resulted; Verlaines was cleared of the enemy’s patrols, and the advance reached the ridge east of that village. With fresh troops acting on a concerted plan something might have been accomplished. Davenport’s men were a disorganised mixture of many battalions, including, besides the Oxfords and other representatives of the I84th Brigade, a number of Cornwalls and King’s Liverpools. They were unfed, and the demoralisation of the retreat was beginning to do its work. As always on these occasions, when officers of different services were thrown together, divided counsels were the result. Moberly, an officer who could have been relied upon to make the best of the situation, was wounded in the leg during a moonlight reconnaissance with Davenport.

24th March 1918

By March 24 the position was unaltered the troops were still lining the ridge east of Verlaines and awaited the enemy’s next move with their field of fire in many cases masked by, or masking, that of their comrades. Against this type of defence the enemv’s tactics did not require to be as infallible as they perhaps seemed. Our tfity is drm n t{, these [“.nglish troops, disorganised, with mt their «,n proper commanders, unsupplied with rations–thc stop-gaps thrust forward in the last stages of a retreat. At 0 a.m. the enemy, whose patrols had during the night of Match 23/24 been feeling their way up the slopes frç»m the Somme Canal, commenced to press forward in earnest. The mixed troops, who were lining the ridge, had been ‘down’ too long to offer much resistance. They melted away, as leaderless troops will. Davenport, a gallant officer who to the very last never spared himself, was killed, shot through the head at Verlaines.”

From: Record of service of solicitors and articled clerks with His Majesty’s forces, 1914-1919 (1920)

HUGH NARES DAVENPORT.

Admitted July 1911. Member of Davenport & Rose, of Oxford. Joined Sept. 1914, as Lieut., 4th Batt. Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, subsequently promoted Capt. and Major, attached to 2/6 Batt. Royal Warwickshire Regt. Awarded the M.C. and recommended for Bar. Served in France. Reported missing March 26, 1918, since presumed killed on that date near Verlaines.

Name: DAVENPORT, HUGH NARES
Initials: H N
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Major
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
Unit Text: 2nd/4th Bn.
Age: 32
Date of Death: 24/03/1918
Awards: M C
Additional information: Son of Thomas Marriott Davenport, of Headington Hill, Oxford.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: II. B. 1.
Cemetery: HAM BRITISH CEMETERY, MUILLE-VILLETTE

First World War in Headington
Roll of Honour of All Saints Church, Highfield
Hugh Nares DAVENPORT (1886–1918)

Hugh Nares Davenport was born in Davenport House, Headington on 18 February 1886. He was the son of Thomas Marriott Davenport (born in St Peter-in-the East parish, Oxford in 1841) and Emily Jemima Clutterbuck (born in Watford in c.1850). Hugh’s father was a solicitor and his mother was the daughter of James Clutterbuck, the Vicar of Long Wittenham, and they were married in the third quarter of 1877 in the Wallingford Registration District. They had eleven children:

* Henry Reginald Davenport (born at 12 Canterbury Road, Oxford in 1878; died aged 21 at the Acland Home in Oxford and buried at Headington Cemetery on 13 January 1900)
* Lucy Catherine Davenport (born at 12 Canterbury Road, Oxford on 10 November 1879 and baptised at SS Philip & James Church on 2 January 1880)
* Gilbert Capell Davenport (born at 12 Canterbury Road, Oxford on 17 April 1881 and baptised at SS Philip & James Church on 22 May 1881)
* Violet Louisa Davenport (born at Davenport House, Headington and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 24 June 1883; died aged 10, buried at Headington Cemetery on 29 January 1894)
* Norah Emily Davenport (born at Davenport House, Headington and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 14 December 1884)
* Hugh Nares Davenport (born at Davenport House on 18 February 1886, baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 11 April 1886)
* Evelyn Mary Davenport (born at Davenport House on 29 March 1887, baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 30 April 1887)
* Leonard Marriott Davenport (born at Davenport House, Headington and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 9 May 1889)
* James Salter Davenport (born at Davenport House, Headington on 8 July 1890 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 12 August 1890)
* Cecil Thornhill Davenport (born at Davenport House, Headington on 3 February 1892 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 10 March 1892)
* Rachel Margaret Davenport (born at Davenport House, Headington on 15 April 1895 and baptised at St Andrew’s Church on 27 May 1895).

When they were first married, Hugh’s parents lived at 12 Canterbury Road in North Oxford. In 1881 Hugh’s father Thomas succeeded his own father, John Marriott Davenport, as Clerk of the Peace for Oxford, and in 1882 he moved with his family into Davenport House at the top of Headington Hill, which had been formerly occupied by his brother.

At the time of the 1891 census Hugh’s parents were away from home, and five of their young children, including five-year-old Hugh, were left at Davenport House with the family’s six servants (a nurse, cook, parlour maid, house maid, kitchen maid, under nurse, and nursery maid).

Hugh was sent away to board at Marlborough School, where at the age of fifteen he spent census night of 1901. From there he went on to study at the University of Oxford, matriculating from Oriel College on 21 October 1904. He passed Responsions (the preliminary examinations for entry) in Hilary Term 1904 and compulsory examinations in Latin and Greek in Hilary Term 1905 and Holy Scripture in Michaelmas Term 1905. In the Final Pass School, in Trinity Term 1907 he passed examinations in the following groups: A1 (for which two books, either both Greek, or one Greek and one Latin, were studied) and in Michaelmas Term 1907 B3 (the Elements of Political Economy), and B4 (a branch of Legal Study) . He was awarded his B.A. at a degree ceremony on 23 January 1908.

The 1911 census shows Hugh Davenport as a law student of 25, living at home at Davenport House with his parents, his three sisters Lucy, Norah, and Evelyn, his brother Cecil who was now an Oxford undergraduate, and their five servants.

Hugh Davenport’s parents were spared from seeing two of their sons die in the First World War: his father Thomas Davenport died at Davenport House and was buried at Headington Cemetery on 1 September 1913 and his mother Emily died at the Acland Home and was buried with him on 17 August 1915.

Poppy Hugh Davenport volunteered to serve In the First World War at the earliest opportunity, commencing service on 14 September 1914. He first served as a Captain in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and then as a Major in the 2nd/6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He served in France between 1915 and 1918, and was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Military Cross. He was killed in action near Ham at the age of 32 on 24 March 1918, and is buried at the Ham British Cemetery at Muille Villette (I. B. 1). He is listed on the roll of honour of All Saints Church, Highfield.

Hugh Davenport’s younger brother Leonard also died in the First World War, at the age 27 on 6 September 1916. His other brothers came back: his older brother Gilbert Capell Davenport served with the 7th Hampshire Regiment from 1914 in India and Aden; and his youngest brother Cecil was a Second Lieutenant in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry by 1916.
After the War

Hugh Davenport’s Davenport’s older brother Gilbert Capell Davenport became a Land Agent and from 1936 lived at Quarry House in Quarry Road. His younger brother James became a Brigadier and survived until 1954.

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