William Davies was born in Overton, Flintshire in 1824. There is nothing in local (WA) sources about this man, and given the commonality of the name he is unlikely to be identified in any other sources in Britain or Australia. He took his discharge in Perth but left the Colony; his discharge papers show that he intended to reside in Sydney, New South Wales (10).
William Davies, Sapper #1732, came to Western Australia with the ‘last wave’ of 20th Company Sappers & Miners in 1858, by which time the Corps had merged with the Royal Engineers. Davies left Plymouth on Nile in September 1857 and arrived in Fremantle on New Year’s Day 1858 . He was among 27 men sent to top-up the shrinking 20th Company in WA (1). Owing to incorrect sourcing of information, his ship of arrival has been attributed to Anna Robertson in some Western Australian sources. At this time he had already served in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) for three years and ten months (9).
Despite the paucity of local records, we can see that Davies’ short time in the Colony was marked by controversy. His discharge was taken in Fremantle, WA and therefore the WO97 Army service records are available for him. And he does appear in the Company’s Muster and Pay Lists and in newspaper reports (2).
Just over a year into his posting to Western Australia, Davies was sentenced to forfeit 1d. per day for 12 months from 28 Feb 1859 (3). There is no explanation given for this penalty. However, it could have something to do with what follows. Davies was part of a scandal about misappropriation of government property.
In April , Thomas Dixon, a hardworking and trusted officer and Henderson’s right hand man, was suspended on suspicion of peculation. The Comptroller General [Henderson] and Governor Kennedy instituted rigorous inquiries. The anti-administration Press seized the opportunity to attack the Convict Establishment week after week. It took three months to bring all the accused to trial – and then Dixon was acquitted through the ineptitude of the prosecution, and six soldiers of the 20th Company were acquitted of charges of theft by sympathetic juries which considered them no more guilty than their supervisors and were inclined to discount the evidence of convicts. Some of the men acquitted through a failure of justice (as Governor Kennedy reported) were shipped back to the depot at Woolwich (4).
It is clear that the six men were NOT shipped anywhere as their names – John Cameron, William Davies, John Gogan, James McNicol, William Newton and Amos Scott – appear in subsequent Musters.
Davies understandably remained a Private throughout the remainder of 1859 and early 1860, but despite the scandal, he was promoted to 2nd Corporal on 1 Aug 1860 (5). 2nd Corporal Davies again featured in the Musters of January to March 1861. He was based in Guildford in February and Perth in March when his Good Conduct pay was restored and then forfeited once more. Sometime during the second quarter of 1861 he was busted back to Sapper (6).
In the last quarter Muster of 1861 he is recorded as being in the guard room on 21st October and released in early November without trial; there is no indication of his offence. Finally he was discharged from the Army on 21st December (7).
On 14 Apr 1862, a remission ticket was issued to the 26 men in the 20th Company discharged in Western Australia and handed by Frederick P Barlee, Colonial Secretary to Lieutenant Colonel Bruce, Commandant in Charge of Troops, Western Australia, in Executive Council the following day.
The ticket entitled the men to a remission of £10 in the purchase of waste lands of the Crown in Western Australia, the title deeds of such land purchased not to be issued until a period of two years had elapsed since their discharge from the Royal Engineers, until which date they must have resided in the Colony of Western Australia. However, William Davies is specifically excluded by Barlee in his record of the issuance as having ‘left the Colony’ (8).
In May 1862 Davies was examined as an ‘invalid soldier’ and registered for a deferred pension at the age of 60 ‘with gratuity’ after service in the Army of 15 years, one month (9). It would appear that he lived to collect his deferred pension as the paperwork was sent to Sydney on 21 Aug 1885 (10).
1. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists January 1858 [WO11-158].
2. Perth Gazette, 1 Jul 1859.
3. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists December Quarter 1859 [WO11-169].
4. The Royal Australian Engineers 1835-1902, Maj. Gen. R R McNicoll, CBE.
5. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists December Quarter 1860 [WO11-183].
6. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists Jan-Jun 1861 [WO11-187, WO11-191].
7. Muster Rolls & Pay Lists December Quarter 1861 [WO11-199].
8. Colonial Secretary’s Inwards Correspondence 1862 [CSR 499-15].
9. Examination of Invalid Soldiers, Registered for the Deferred Pension May 1862 [WO131-0042].
10. Chelsea Pension Discharge to Pension document WO97-2633-121.