The Langham Collection of Medals to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps

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Date of Auction: 17th September 1999

Sold for £6,500

Estimate: £3,500 - £4,500

The impressive Great War ‘Hedjaz’ D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C. group of twelve awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel William A. Davenport, West Yorkshire Regiment, attached Egyptian Army, a prominent participant of the ‘Desert Revolt’ with Lawrence of Arabia, particularly in the South Hedjaz where he “carried out many important raids on the railway”

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R.; The Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) 2nd type; Military Cross, G.V.R.; 1914-15 Star (Capt., W. York. R.); British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaf (Major); Defence Medal, privately named (Lt. Col., 5th (Glos.) Bn. Home Guard); Egypt, Order of the Nile, 4th Class breast badge, silver, gilt and enamel, with ribbon rosette; France, Legion of Honour, 5th Class breast badge, silver, gilt and enamels, several points chipped; 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 enamels with gold centre, with original tricolour neck cord; Boy Scout’s Association, Medal of Merit, gilt metal (W. A. Davenport 16.3.49) the first ten mounted court style, generally good very fine or better (12) £3500-4500


See colour plate.

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.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 8 August 1916 (Wingate - Sudan 1914-16), 25 October 1916 (Darfur), 17 September 1917 (Wingate); 7 October 1918 (Wingate - Hedjaz), and 12 January 1920 (Arabia).

William Arthur Davenport was born on 22 October 1881, son of the Rev. E. Davenport of Wellington College. He was educated at Marlborough where he distinguished himself in the Shooting VIII. He was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant in the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1903 and promoted to Lieutenant in 1908 and, in February 1912, was seconded to the Egyptian Army in which he was to serve, apart from the first fourteen months of the war, for the next twelve years.

Davenport first saw active service in Gallipoli in 1915 whilst serving with the combined 1/7th and 1/8th Cammeronians (Scottish Rifles) battalion. Following the evacuation, he returned to the Egyptian Army and served in the Equatorial Battalion which fought in the Imatong and Lafite Mountains in the Sudan (Mentioned in despatches, Order of the Nile).

Late in 1916, Davenport was selected for service with a detachment of Egyptian troops in the Hedjaz, where he operated in Emir Abdullah’s territory. Davenport’s important contribution to the Hedjaz operations should not be underestimated and, indeed, was fully recognized by Lawrence, himself, in Seven Pillars of Wisdom:

‘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.’

Davenport fought in the desert for nearly three years and enjoyed great success with his raids on the Turkish-operated Hedjaz railway. In July 1917, whilst Lawrence was engaged in the capture of Aqaba, Lieut.-Colonel S. F. Newcombe and Major Davenport raided Qal’at Zumrud, 140 miles north of Medina, destroying three miles of line by means of explosives. It was one of the most successful raids of the whole campaign, and was carried out by detachments of Egyptians, French Algerians, and Indian cavalrymen. General Wingate, in his despatch published in the London Gazette of 15 December 1919, records some of Davenport’s later successes:

‘... the only British-led troops temporarily retained in the interior being a detachment of Camel Corps and a machine-gun section, employed, under Major Davenport, upon raiding operations against the railway until the middle of September [1917].’

‘During the past three months [April-June 1918] no less than five convoys, aggregating over one thousand five hundred camels, have been captured by Arab detachments from Sherif Ali’s army; whilst in Abdulla’s area the Arabs, under Major Davenport’s direction, have carried out many important raids against the railway, notably at Seil Matara on 8th April, when five kilometres of track and three culverts were completely destroyed, and at Bowat on May 11th, when, in addition to extensive damage to the line, twenty Turks were killed and over forty prisoners taken.’

After the war Davenport commanded the 4th Egyptian Battalion in Cairo, and was afterwards employed as an intelligence officer, in which capacity he rendered invaluable service owing to his great knowledge of the conditions and topography of Upper Egypt. Colonel Davenport rejoined the 2nd Battalion of his regiment in Bombay, as Second-in-Command, in 1924, and succeeded Colonel Spencer in command at Mhow in February 1928. Leaving India in March 1929, he brought the 2nd battalion to Khartoum to introduce them to the scene of many of his past episodes and to many of his old friends. He then brought the battalion home to land at Southampton in December 1929, and to finish his Regimental service at Strensall. He retired from the army in 1932 and moved to Stroud in Gloucestershire, where he became a prominent member of the local scout movement. During the Second World War he raised and commanded the 5th Battalion, Gloucester Home Guard, for which services he was awarded the O.B.E.

The group is sold with a comprehensive selection of original documents including warrants for the D.S.O., O.B.E., and all three foreign awards; three M.I.D. Certificates, and Colonel Davenport’s own photograph album which has many fine pre-war group shots of regimental officers etc., mostly identified.