Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (11 & 12 December 2013)

Date of Auction: 11th & 12th December 2013

Sold for £13,000

Estimate: £12,000 - £15,000

‘In Port Sudan we saw two British officers of the Egyptian Army embark for Rabegh. They were to command the Egyptian troops in Hedjaz, and to do their best to help Aziz el Masri organise the Arab Regular Force which was going to end the war from Rabegh. This was my first meeting with Joyce and Davenport, two Englishmen to whom the Arab cause owed the greater part of its foreign debt of gratitude ... Of Davenport’s successes in the south we heard by constant report.’
T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, refers.

The important Great War D.S.O., M.C., Second World War O.B.E., group of twelve awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel W. A. “Wady” Davenport Bey, West Yorkshire Regiment, attached Egyptian Army, who, having served with distinction in command of a composite battalion of Cameronians in Gallipoli, and participated in the Mongalla Expedition in 1916, was twice decorated for his gallantry and leadership in ‘many important raids on the railway’ in southern Hedjaz

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamel; The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 2nd type breast badge, silver-gilt; Military Cross, G.V.R., unnamed as issued; 1914-15 Star (Capt. W. A. Davenport, W. York. R.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Major W. A. Davenport); Defence Medal 1939-45, privately inscribed, ‘Lt. Col. W. A. Davenport, 5th (Glos.) Bn., Home Guard’; Egypt, Order of the Nile, 4th Class breast badge, silver, silver-gilt and enamel; France, Legion of Honour, 5th Class breast badge, silver, silver-gilt and enamel; Khedive’s Sudan 1910-21, 2nd issue, 1 clasp, Mongalla 1915-16, unnamed as issued; Hedjaz, Order of El Nahda, 3rd Class neck badge, silver and enamel, with gold centre, and original tricolour neck cord; Boy Scout Movement, Medal of Merit, gilt metal (W. A. Davenport, 16.3.1949), several points of the French piece chipped, otherwise good very fine (12) £12000-15000

Footnote

D.S.O. London Gazette 4 September 1918:

‘For military operations in Egypt and Hedjaz.’

O.B.E. London Gazette 15 December 1944:

‘In recognition of meritorious service in the Home Guard.’

M.C. London Gazette 8 August 1917:

‘For distinguished services in the Field.’

William Arthur Davenport was born in October 1881, the son of a clergyman employed at Wellington College. Educated at Marlborough and Sandhurst, he was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the West Yorkshires on in April 1903 and soon assigned to the 2nd Battalion. Promoted to Lieutenant in July 1908, his first overseas posting was to Malta where, in February 1912, he volunteered for secondment to the Egyptian Army in which he was to serve, apart from a short period in Gallipoli, for the ensuing 12 years.

Egyptian Army - active service in the Sudan and a stint in Gallipoli

His first appointment was to a Sudanese Battalion and he was soon entrusted with the task of raising an Equatorial Company in Bahr el Ghazal province, the nucleus of which was destined to become one of the most renowned Battalions of the Sudan Defence Force. By now a Captain, he was sent to Cairo on sick leave early in 1915 but, instead of resting, volunteered to go to Gallipoli where he was given command of the 1/7th and 1/8th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), both of which bad been badly smashed in the debacle there.

After the evacuation of Gallipoli, Davenport returned to the Egyptian Army and was soon employed in minor operations in the Mongalla province of the Sudan for which he was twice mentioned in despatches (London Gazettes 8 August and 25 October 1916, refer), in addition to being awarded the Egyptian Order of the Nile (London Gazette 31 August 1917).

Southern Hedjaz - fearless desert fighter

Later in 1916 he was selected for service with a detachment of Egyptian troops in Hedjaz, an assignment which was to last three lonely and dangerous years during which he was to make his reputation as a fearless desert fighter. This reputation would serve him well in many difficult situations, particularly those which involved asserting his authority amongst desert tribesmen with differing loyalties, and the Official History of Military Operations in Egypt and Palestine graphically illustrates his ability to work alongside widely disparate allies in its description of a raid on a Turkish-operated railway line by Davenport's Arabs in conjunction with 'Egyptians, French Algerians and Indian cavalrymen'.

Equally complimentary although far more detailed was General Sir Reginald Wingate's despatch of 15 June 1918, in which he stated ‘Whilst in Abdulla's area, the Arabs, under Major Davenport's direction, have carried out many important raids against the railway, notably at Seid Matara on 8 April, when five kilos of track and three culverts were completely destroyed, and at Bowat, on 11 May when, in addition to extensive damage to the line, 20 Turks were killed and over 40 prisoners taken’ (London Gazette 15.12.1919 refers).

This emulation of T. E. Lawrence's legendary exploits elsewhere in the region brought him not only the Honours and Decorations of his own country and her Allies, but also to the notice of the great man himself. In Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence refers to Davenport's contribution to the Desert War in two separate references:

'In Port Sudan we saw two British Officers of the Egyptian Army waiting to embark for Rabegh. They were to command the Egyptian troops in Hedjaz, and to do their best to help Aziz el Masri organise the Arab Regular Force which was going to end the War from Rabegh. This was my first meeting with Joyce and Davenport, the two Englishmen to whom the Arab cause owed the greater part of its foreign debt of gratitude. Joyce worked for long beside me. Of Davenport's successes in the South we heard by constant report'.

And:

'So far as could be seen in the excitement, our side had suffered no loss. Among the 90 military prisoners were five Egyptian soldiers, in their underclothes. They knew me, and explained that in a night raid of Davenport's, near Wadi Ais, they had been cut off by the Turks and captured. They told me something of Davenport's work: of his continual pegging away in Abdulla's sector, which was kept alive by him month after month, without any of the encouragement lent to us by success and local enthusiasm. His best helpers were such stolid infantrymen as these, whom I made lead the prisoners away to our appointed rallying place at the salt rocks.’

In addition to his D.S.O. and M.C., he was thrice mentioned in despatches in respect of his services in Hedjaz (London Gazettes 17 September 1917, 7 October 1918 and 12 January 1920, refer), and was awarded the French Legion of Honour (London Gazette 16 August 1918), the latter no doubt in respect of his command of French Algerians; so, too, the Order of El Nahda (London Gazette 16 January 1920).

Later career

Davenport's later services may seem mundane by comparison but his career was far from over when the Armistice of November 1918 was finally signed. After the War, he returned to Cairo to command the 4th Battalion of the Egyptian Army and was British Liaison Officer in the Nile Delta in 1921. In 1924 he left the Egyptian Army and rejoined the 2nd West Yorkshires, then in Bombay, succeeding to the command of the Battalion at Mhow on 23.2.1928. He brought the 2nd Battalion home in 1929 - via Khartoum -and, after a final term at Strensall, retired from the Army in 1932.

Retiring to Stroud in Gloucestershire, he became a prominent figure in the Boy Scout Movement and, when the Second World War broke out and necessitated measures for Home Defence, Davenport raised and commanded his Local Volunteers, later the 5th Battalion, Gloucester Home Guard, which services added an O.B.E. to his many accolades.

Sold with a quantity of original documentation, including the recipient’s D.S.O. warrant, dated 4 September 1918; Order of the Nile award document, with related permission to wear warrant, dated 25 August 1917, and foreign office communication; Legion of Honour award document, with related typed copy of letter from the C.-in-C. French Forces, Egypt, dated 1 July 1918; and Hedjaz Al Nahda award document, with typed translation; O.B.E. warrant and related forwarding letter, dated 18 March 1947 and Home Guard certificate of service for June 1940 to December 1944; a fine photograph album of West Yorkshire Regiment interest, with many career scenes from 1903-27, but also some earlier images from Wellington College and Sandhurst days, and a extensive file of research.