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Ellis Harvey Davies (1882–1942)

by Nicholas Brown

This article was published:

Ellis Harvey Davies (1882-1942), engineer and wartime public servant, was born on 26 June 1882 at Warwick, Queensland, eldest child of Australian-born parents Henry Michael Davies, grazier of Rosenthal Creek, and his wife Alice Louise Rubelle, née Skyring. At the age of 14 Ellis was sent to Melbourne where he continued his education at Brighton Grammar School and the Working Men's College; he then served an apprenticeship with Austral Otis Engineering Co. Ltd. As a young man, he was a keen cross-country runner.

In association with Bewick, Moering & Co., Davies travelled to Western Australia to work on the goldfields as a mining engineer. On 4 March 1909 at Christ Church, Claremont, he married Christmas Mildred Ridge with Anglican rites; they were to have a son before being divorced in 1923. Returning to Melbourne during World War I, Davies joined the Richmond works of Charles Ruwolt Pty Ltd: rising to chief engineer, he was responsible for the firm's extensive contracts for the design and supply of machinery to mines throughout Australia, and in New Zealand, Fiji and the mandated Territory of New Guinea. He also designed equipment for the newsprint industry in Tasmania. Davies married 19-year-old Mary Isabel Maclean on 9 April 1923 at Scots Church, Melbourne; they were to have a son and were later divorced.

Complementing his professional standing, Davies became a respected member of the Athenaeum Club and the Austral Temple Masonic Lodge. An element of adventurousness caught public notice when in 1935 he toured a number of mines in Western Australia by motorcar, covering considerable distances and inspecting one of his 'most notable achievements'—a new milling and flotation plant for the Great Boulder goldmine. He then sailed for England and America to visit business connexions of his firm. At the register office, St Marylebone, London, on 4 April 1935 he married 22-year-old Patricia Lilian Allan Officer.

Following the outbreak of war in the Pacific, in early 1942 Davies was mobilized on the staff of the Allied Works Council, and appointed director of mechanical equipment and materials supply. He was responsible for the impressment and census of all earth-moving plant in Australia (a task which involved notifying over 40,000 owners of equipment), for importing additional plant, and for its classification and allocation to the construction of facilities required by the armed services. According to E. G. Theodore, director-general of the A.W.C., Davies displayed 'extraordinary judgement' in these duties. While taking a weekend break, he died of a rupture of the heart on 2 October 1942 at Frankston and was cremated. His wife and their two sons survived him; the sons of his previous marriages had predeceased him. His estate, including the family home at Toorak, was sworn for probate at £10,043. In a tribute to Davies, Essington Lewis, director-general of munitions, praised his 'sterling personal qualities', recalled the respect accorded him by fellow engineers and spoke of a 'tremendous loss' to the nation.

Select Bibliography

  • Herald (Melbourne), 5 Feb 1935, 3 Oct 1942
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Oct 1942
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Oct 1942.

Citation details

Nicholas Brown, 'Davies, Ellis Harvey (1882–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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