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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Davey, Phillip (1896–1953)

by Peter Burness

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Phillip Davey, c.1915

Phillip Davey, c.1915

Australian War Memorial, H19440

Phillip Davey (1896-1953), railwayman and soldier, was born on 10 October 1896 at Unley, South Australia, son of William George Davey, carpenter, and his wife Elizabeth, née O'Neill. Educated at Flinders Street Model School and Goodwood Public School, he worked as a horse-driver at the time of his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force at Morphettville on 22 December 1914.

Davey embarked on 2 February 1915 at Melbourne with the 10th Battalion's 2nd reinforcement and proceeded to Egypt and Lemnos prior to the attack on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was present at the landing and took part in four days of heavy fighting which followed. He was engaged in the subsequent trench fighting until eventually invalided from the peninsula with enteric fever. After treatment at the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, Egypt, he returned to Australia in January 1916. On 27 June Davey re-embarked with the 10th Battalion's 18th reinforcements and proceeded to England. He joined his battalion in France in September just before it moved into the line at Hill 60 in the Ypres sector. He was accidentally wounded on 15 March 1917 and was gassed on 3 October.

At Warneton, Belgium, in the Messines sector on 3 January 1918, Davey gained the Military Medal for crawling into no man's land under heavy fire to rescue a badly wounded comrade. His brother Claude, serving in the same battalion, had received the same award the previous year, only three months before he was killed in action at Bullecourt in 1917. Another brother, Richard, was also awarded it.

Davey was promoted corporal on 24 April 1918. He took part in an attack on enemy positions at Merris, France, on 28 June. His platoon came under heavy fire and the commander was killed. Survivors were forced to shelter in a ditch under almost point-blank fire from a German machine-gun. Davey then made a single-handed attack on the enemy post until forced to return to his own position for more hand-grenades; attacking again, he killed the crew and captured the gun. He then mounted the machine-gun in a new post and efficiently used it during a counter-attack until he was wounded. For his bravery and determination in this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Davey's wounds were severe and he was invalided to hospital at Weymouth, England. On 19 October he embarked for return to Australia where he was discharged from the A.I.F. on 24 February next year.

After the war Davey had three separate periods of employment as a labourer and linesman with the South Australian Railways: from 27 April 1926 to 4 October 1938; from 6 March 1939 to 12 February 1942; and from 17 December 1943 to 22 February 1946. He married Eugene Agnes Tomlinson on 25 August 1928, they had no children. He suffered from bronchitis and emphysema for years before his death from a coronary occlusion at the Repatriation General Hospital, Springbank, on 21 December 1953. He was buried with full military honours in the A.I.F. Garden of Memorial cemetery, West Terrace, Adelaide.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Limb, History of the 10th Battalion, AIF (Lond, 1919)
  • C. B. L. Lock, The Fighting 10th: A South Australian Centenary Souvenir of the 10th Battalion, A.I.F., 1914-1919 (Adel, 1936)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • Western Argus (Kalgoorlie), 7 Jan 1919.

Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Davey, Phillip (1896–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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