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 Sydney Herbert Davies

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Sydney Herbert Davies

  • Birth 30 Jul 1838 Alderholt, North Dorset District, Dorset, England
  • Death 15 Feb 1915 New Zealand
  • Burial Dunedin, Dunedin City, Otago, New Zealand
  • Plot 0021, Block 114
  • Memorial ID 32534517

Unique amongst the veterans of the American Civil War, buried in Australia and New Zealand, was English born Sydney Herbert Davies. He held the distinction of having been in the military service of three nations, and was quite highly regarded, especially in the Confederate Army, as well as in the service of New Zealand, during the Maori Wars. He was to be awarded with three medals, two from his service in the Royal Navy, during the Crimean War, and one from his service with the New Zealand Armed Constabulary.
Davies was the son of Royal Navy lieutenant (and later Vice Admiral), George Davies, and his wife Julia, and was born at Longfleet, in the sub-district of Poole, county of Dorset, England, on July 30, 1838. [1] His father's position in the English Naval service ensured that Sydney was, at an early age, appointed to the Royal Naval School at Deptford, Greenwich county, and he is shown, in 1851, as being a student at that school. The Naval Intelligence column of the London Times of Monday, April 19, 1852, mentions that, "The following young gentlemen have passed at the college for entry into the navy as cadets, and have joined the Victory, pro tem.:- …….S.H. Davies….." By July, 1855, he had completed his Naval schooling, and had served aboard the HMS Rodney. He was later to serve in combat in the trenches, as a midshipman, before Sebastopol. At the end of February, 1856, Davies was appointed as midshipman to the HMS Versuvius. On November 5, 1856, after six years in the Royal Navy, he was honorably discharged from the service. [2] Nearly a year later, on October 27, 1857, he was commissioned as ensign in the Cambridgeshire Militia, county of Cambridge, England, and, on April 17, 1858, he was appointed as ensign in the 2nd Battalion of Her Majesty's 16th Regiment of Foot, in the English Army. On June 18, 1861, he was promoted to lieutenant, also in the same unit. The following notice appeared on page 124 of the London Gazette, dated January 7, 1862:
"Sydney Herbert Davies, late of Aldershott, in the county of Southampton, a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of Her Majesty's 16th Regiment of Foot, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition of adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty's Court of Bankruptcy, in London, on the 18th day of December, 1861, a public sitting for the said bankrupt to pass his Last Examination and make application for his Discharge, will be held before Joshua Evans, Esq., a Commissioner of the said Court, on the 8th day of February next, at the said Court, at Basinghall-street, in the city of London, at twelve o'clock at noon precisely, the day last aforesaid being the day limited for the said bankrupt to surrender. Mr. William Bell, of No. 20, Basinghall-street, London, is the Official Assignee, and Mr. John Evans, of No. 10, John-street, Bedford-row, is the Solicitor acting in the bankruptcy."
An article in a Hampshire newspaper, under the heading of A MILITARY OFFICER PROCLAIMED AN OUTLAW FOR OBEYING AN ORDER OF THE HORSE GUARDS. – RE DAVIES gave details of the subsequent actions taken against Davies, as follows: "On Saturday there was a discharge and examination meeting under the bankruptcy of Lieutenant Sydney Herbert Davies of her Majesty's 16th Regiment of Foot. – Mr. Downing (Peek and Downing), Basinghall-street, and Mr. Yates attended to oppose but the bankrupt who had not filed any accounts did not appear, and application was made that he should be proclaimed an outlaw, and directions be given by the court authorizing the assignees to institute a criminal prosecution against him. It was stated that at the time of filing his petition he was a prisoner in Winchester gaol, but contrived to obtain his liberty although a capias was in force against him, which one of the learned judges had granted on the ground that he was about to quit this country. That was denied although his regiment was lying off Southampton at the time in a transport ship bound for Canada. After a protracted discussion, Mr. Commissioner Fane declined to withhold the bankrupt's protection as he might be brought to a court-martial if he disobeyed the orders of his superior officers. Protection was accordingly granted, and this day fixed for the bankrupt's examination and order of discharge, but he was non est., having as it was alleged received premptory orders to join his regiment, which he had done and sailed for Canada.-His Honour declined to sanction a criminal prosecution, and told the complaining parties that the usual course would be adopted in this as in any other case wherein a bankrupt failed to surrender.-Subsequently Mr. Evans, the bankrupt's solicitor (who was also absent when the case was called on) applied to the learned commissioner to allow him to make an affidavit of the facts for the purpose of shewing a ‘legal impediment' to the bankrupt's surrender, with a view of an adjournment until after the lieutenant's return to this country which he (Mr. Evans) urged would not be far distant now that the American difficulty had been settled.-His Honour positively refused to interfere, and at the rising of the court Mr. Cooper, the messenger, proclaimed the bankrupt an outlaw in the usual form." [3] Davies, however, took action to ensure that he never returned to his native land to face prosecution. While stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with his regiment, in 1863, he met up with Confederate agent, George N. Sanders, who discussed the possibility of Davies obtaining a commission in the service of the Confederate Army, since Davies had expressed his desire to serve in the war then raging in the American states. Conflicting statements, in dispatches sent by Davies tend to indicate that he may have been offered a position with the rank of major, in the Confederate States Army. In a dispatch to the Confederate Secretary of War, dated at Richmond, Virginia, 9th June, 1863, he states that "At Halifax N.S. I met an agent of your Government who asked me to come here in charge of dispatches and some mechanics for the Government works; he told me that he could make me no promises but at the same time assured me that I should be able to obtain a much better commission here than I then held in the English Army." Yet, in a dispatch addressed to the Confederate President, dated at the camp of the 7th Tennessee Regiment, near Orange Court House, Virginia, Saturday, 26th September, 1863, Davies states, "In the early part of the year, whilst serving with my Regiment (H.B. Majesty's 16th Foot) at Halifax N.S. I met with a Mr. Sanders who was represented to me as an agent of your Government; this gentleman having heard that I had expressed a desire to serve in the present war, requested me to come down here in charge of some mechanics and despatches; I told him that I could not do so without feeling certain of being able to obtain a Major's commission which he assured me I could easily do, I therefore sent in my papers to leave the Service and obtaining leave of absence sailed from Halifax 2nd April." After going via a circuitous route, and being aboard the vessel for several weeks, including a period spent in Havana, Cuba, he was finally able to bring the dispatches and mechanics into the Confederate States. They arrived at Bull's Bay, South Carolina, on May 26, 1863, and were sent ashore at Bull's Island, where the group remained for four days, before making their way to the Confederate capital at Richmond, and the mechanics were sent to the Navy Department, while the dispatches were sent to their addressees. A document in the Confederate Navy archives shows that Davies was paid the total of $458.83 by paymaster John de Bree, at Richmond, on June 17, 1863, for "expenses incurred in bringing three mechanics from Halifax, N.S., to Richmond, Va." Davies then commenced his attempts to obtain a position in the Confederate Army, citing several factors, including his possession of a First Class Certificate as an Instructor of Musketry, from the British Army. For more than a year, during which period he spent time with the 7th Tennessee Regiment, and with Walker's Brigade of General Heth's Division, Davies was given the run around, and not provided with the commission he so desperately sought in the Confederate Army. Yet he voluntarily remained with the Brigade, and in General Walker's own words, "he has been in all its marches, and in every fight has taken a musket and fought with conspicuous gallantry, and has been twice wounded." At one point, during this period, Davies had also applied for permission to raise a battalion consisting of British subjects, who were either already serving in the Confederate Army or men who desired to serve in such a unit, citing, as a similar example, the soldiers of the Maryland line, whom he classed as "soldiers from the foreign State of Maryland." This was rejected as impractical, but, by November of 1864, he was finally recommended, and received, a commission as lieutenant in the Confederate Army, with the appointment of Drill Master. In the final months of the war he was shown as being on duty with the Inspector General's Department, and surrendered, with the Army of Northern Virginia, and paroled, at Appomattox, in April, 1865. He was paroled as a lieutenant, in the position of acting assistant inspector general. Davies is mentioned a few times in the account written by Thomas Conolly, an Irishman who spent some time with the Confederate Army, and who mentioned some of the personnel from the United Kingdom whom he met up with. In March, 1865, Conolly mentions meeting up with Davies who was on the staff of General Heth, and whom Conolly describes as a son "of Inspector of Cambridge Police." Some days later, Conolly once again mentions meeting up with some of General Heth's staff, including Davies, at a dinner held at the General's headquarters, and indicates that Davies carried a "Spencer Rifle with 7 cartridges." In another account, published in the Confederate Veteran magazine, in 1917, Davies is indicated to have always worn his Crimean medals when he was in action. [4]
With the collapse of the Confederacy, and his army career in tatters, Davies decided to head off to far away New Zealand, possibly having heard of the Maori Wars being fought there, as he was next shown as having been appointed a Sub Inspector in the New Zealand Armed Constabulary, and served in that formation from December 28, 1868 until July 1, 1869, when his commission was cancelled, for an unspecified reason. During his period of service in the Armed Constabulary, he came under fire on a couple of occasions, once, at Fort Lyon, near Kai-iwi, Wanganui, on January 26, 1869, and again at Nuhumaru on February 1st and 2nd, 1869. It is obvious that his commission was terminated for reasons other than anything dishonourable, as he applied for, and was awarded, the New Zealand War Medal, on November 13, 1873. [5] In 1870, Davies had attempted to form an infantry corps at Taranaki, but changed it to a corps of volunteer artillery instead, and offered its services to the New Zealand government. This offer was, however, rejected, due to the fact that no equipment could be supplied by the government, for such a corps. By June of 1871, he was elected captain of the Egmont Rifle Volunteers. Davies continued in service for a lengthy period, which totalled some nineteen years. It was during this period that he met the widow, Mrs. Mary Jane Bisset, and was married to her at her residence in High Street, Dunedin, on October 19, 1874. [6] As the years passed, and with retirement from the services, Davies was to attend numerous gatherings of old comrades that he had served with, not only in the military service of New Zealand, but also former British Navy and Army personnel with whom he had served, and who had also settled in New Zealand. The old soldiers and sailors had obviously discussed the prospect of forming an organisation consisting of veterans from various services of the British and New Zealand military and war veterans, and thus, in late May of 1900, was formed the Imperial Veterans' Alliance of New Zealand. Rules were adopted, and a board of control elected, with a president, two vice presidents and a secretary elected. This last post of secretary was assigned to Davies. Regular meetings were held, and important events were attended by the group, who also marched in some parades held to mark auspicious occasions. Davies remained as secretary of the group, considered an important position, for many years. His wife passed away in 1911, and Davies spent the last years of his life in residence at Kilgour Street, Roslyn, Dunedin, before his own death on February 15, 1915. He was buried two days later in the Northern Cemetery, and lies in the same plot as his wife and a daughter, Ethel Louisine, who had died in infancy. [7]


[1] Details of Davies' birth from a copy of his birth certificate, No. BXCD602151, 1838, original from the General Register Office, England; copy in the possession of this author. His father's biography is included in the volume by William R. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty's Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant, Inclusive, published in London, England, by John Murray, 1849; George Davies had been very highly commended, and had been awarded with several medals and commendations through his naval and civilian career.

[2] Naval Service extract for midshipman Sydney H. Davies, from the National Archives, London, England. Details of his appointment aboard the HMS Versuvius are shown in the Naval and Military Intelligence column of the London Times dated Saturday, March 1, 1856.

[3] London Gazette, various issues from the period 1857 – 1863. See also, the Hampshire Advertiser of Saturday, February 15, 1862.

[4] Details from the Compiled Military Service Records for Sydney H. Davies, Confederate General and Staff Officers, Record Group 109, National Archives, Washington, D.C.; Thomas Conolly, An Irishman in Dixie, published by the University of South Carolina Press, 1998; Confederate Veteran magazine, volume 25, number 5 (May, 1917), article by Kate Mason Rowland, entitled "English Friends of the Confederacy,"; a staff officer in the 3rd Corps, of the Army of Northern Virginia, captain William Gordon McCabe, also mentioned the gallantry of Sydney Davies; references also supplied by researcher and author, Robert E.L. Krick, Richmond, Virginia.

[5] Application for a New Zealand War Medal [Archives Reference: AD 32/48, 2610] and Register of Applications for the New Zealand War Medal [Archives Reference: AD 36/3, 544 REPRO 1660] - copies from Archives New Zealand, National Office, P.O. Box 12 050, Wellington 6144, New Zealand; "Selected New Zealand War Medal Rolls of Entitlements, Rejections, and Applications Granted Up to 1900," compiled by Jeffrey E. Hopkins, B.A. (Hons.); see also, volume titled Roll of Honour, 1840 to 1902; Defenders of the Empire, Resident in New Zealand, published in 1988 by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists Inc., at Auckland, New Zealand.

[6] Marriage Certificate of Sydney Herbert Davies, 1874, from the New Zealand Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

[7] Otago Witness, Taranaki Herald and the Evening Post, New Zealand newspapers, various issues from the period 1869 – 1915; see also, Internet web site titled, The Northern Cemetery: Dunedin's Buried History, at; the faded inscription on his grave indicates that he had been, at the time of his death, 49 years in New Zealand, thus narrowing his arrival in the country to 1866.
See also, Confederate Navy document, dated at Richmond, Virginia, June 17, 1863, at Confederate Navy subject file P – Bases, Naval (including Navy Yards and Stations); PL – Labor and civil personnel; Albany - Richmond, page 568.


"SYDNEY HERBERT DAVIES - Died Feb. 15, 1915. Aged 76 years. An ARMY CAPTAIN. Resident of Ross Avenue. Born Poole, England. Lived 49 years in New Zealand."





  • Created by: Terry Foenander
  • Added: 31 Dec 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 32534517
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sydney Herbert Davies (30 Jul 1838–15 Feb 1915), Find A Grave Memorial no. 32534517, citing Northern Cemetery, Dunedin, Dunedin City, Otago, New Zealand ; Maintained by Terry Foenander (contributor 46909316) .