As another Remembrance Sunday approaches it becomes apparent that every day on the battlefield and in the trenches countless acts of bravery took place - deeds warranting the Victoria Cross were commonplace, but often passed unnoticed and unreported.

In July 1915 a soldier from Saffron Walden performed a heroic task which was to lead to the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, sadly posthumously. This was one of two bravery awards given to men of our small town who became fatalities.

Fred Davies was born in Great Chesterford, probably the youngest son of a baker, John Davies and his wife, Margaret, of The Windmill House, Cambridge Road. The 7th Suffolks were a Kitchener battalion formed at Bury St Edmunds and Fred enlisted at Ipswich, going to France in May 1915.

From June 16, the 7th Suffolks were on a tour of  trench duty in the area of Ploegsteert Wood. 

On July 18, an officer Lt. Harold P Bamkin and a Private H Armsby were killed while on patrol duty in no-man’s land. Fred and two other privates of the same patrol went out and brought back the two bodies. Today they are buried in the Essex (Calvaire) Military Cemetery, Ploegsteert.

The battalion left this quiet, rural sector on September 26, before going onto the soon-to-be infamous, industrial area of Loos. On March 11, 1916, the London Gazette carried the following citation announcing the award of the D.C.M to Fred and his comrades, 'For conspicuous gallantry'.

He formed one of a party which went out to tap an enemy wire. The officer in charge was wounded and Private Davies displayed great bravery in assisting him back to the trenches, subsequently returning to the assistance of another man of the party who had also been wounded. Heavy rifle fire was going on all the time.

However Fred had already been killed bomb throwing on October 17, just after the ‘official ’ end of the battle of Loos in the area known as the Quarries.

There were two trenches known as ‘The Hairpin’ and these were part of the Suffolks' regular front-line duties in the Hulluch-Givenchy sector.

Much bombing, mining, trench mortar fire and gas was experienced and here Fred died. His body was never recovered and his name is one of 20,693 carved in stone on the Loos Memorial.

News of his death was not reported in Saffron Walden until May 19, 1916. 

Also in the 7th Suffolks was a 20-year old officer, Charles Sorley, who was to be shot in the head and killed during the battle of Loos, four days before Fred Davies.

His name appears on the same panel on the Loos Memorial. In Sorley’s kit was found a number of poems which were published in 1916 and went through four editions.

He had no illusions about the horror of death in his poem, "When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead,”

 ‘...scanning all the o'er crowded mass, should you

      Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,

      It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.

     Great death has made all his for evermore.’