|Richard Bell Davies|
Richard Bell Davies during World War I
|Born||May 19, 1886|
|Died||February 26, 1966(aged 79)|
|Place of birth||Kensington, London|
|Place of death||RNH Haslar, Portsmouth|
|Years of service||1901 – 1944|
|Unit||No. 3 Squadron RNAS|
World War I|
World War II
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Air Force Cross
Croix de Guerre (France)
Order of Michael the Brave (Rumania)
Vice Admiral Richard Bell Davies VC CB DSO AFC (19 May 1886 – 26 February 1966), also known as Richard Bell-Davies, was a British Royal Navy officer and World War I fighter pilot. He was a recipient of the Victoria Cross.
Born in Kensington, London, Davies was orphaned by the age of six and was brought up by an uncle, a doctor. Davies enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1901. In 1910 he took private flying lessons, and in 1913 he was accepted into the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
Distinguished Service Order
In the early days of the war, Davies and Richard Peirse carried out a number of raids on German submarine bases at Ostend and Zeebrugge. Both were awarded the DSO:
For services rendered in the aerial attack on Dunkirk, 23rd January, 1915:—
Squadron Commander Richard Bell Davies
Flight Lieutenant Richard Edmund Charles Peirse These Officers have repeatedly attacked the German submarine station at Ostend and Zeebrugge, being subjected on each occasion to heavy and accurate fire, their machines being frequently hit. In particular, on 23rd January, they each discharged eight bombs in an attack upon submarines alongside the mole at Zeebrugge, flying down to close range. At the outset of this flight Lieutenant Davies was severely wounded by a bullet in the thigh, but nevertheless he accomplished his task, handling his machine for an hour with great skill in spite of pain and loss of blood.
Davies was then posted to the Dardanelles, and was awarded the Victoria Cross on 1 January 1916 for an action at Ferrijik Junction, in Bulgaria near the border with Ottoman-controlled Europe, on 19 November 1915. He was 29 years old, and in command of No. 3 Squadron RNAS. His citation read:
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross to Squadron-Commander Richard Bell Davies, D.S.O., R.N., and of the Distinguished Service Cross to Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gilbert Formby Smylie, R.N., in recognition of their behaviour in the following circumstances:—
On the 19th November these two officers carried out an air attack on Ferrijik Junction. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Smylie's machine was received by very heavy fire and brought down. The pilot planed down over the station, releasing all his bombs except one, which failed to drop, simultaneously at the station from a very low altitude. Thence he continued his descent into the marsh. On alighting he saw the one unexploded bomb, and set fire to his machine, knowing that the bomb would ensure its destruction. He then proceeded towards Turkish territory. At this moment he perceived Squadron-Commander Davies descending, and fearing that he would come down near the burning machine and thus risk destruction from the bomb, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Smylie ran back and from a short distance exploded the bomb by means of a pistol bullet. Squadron-Commander Davies descended at a safe distance from the burning machine, took up Sub-Lieutenant Smylie, in spite of the near approach of a party of the enemy, and returned to the aerodrome, a feat of airmanship that can seldom have been equalled for skill and gallantry.
This was the first combat search and rescue by aircraft in history. Like the search and rescue efforts of the future, Davies' action sprang from the fervent desire to keep a compatriot from capture or death at the hands of the enemy; unlike most of those future efforts, it was a one-man impromptu action that succeeded because of a peculiarity in construction of his aircraft. The Nieuport 10 he was flying was a single seat model which had had its front cockpit decked over. When Davies picked him up under rifle fire, Smylie wriggled past Davies and through his controls into the tiny roofed-over front compartment. Smylie was so thoroughly wedged among the controls that, upon landing, it took two hours to extricate him.
Post World War I
Davies was first lieutenant of HMS Lion in 1919-20; in charge of the Air Section of the Naval Staff 1920–24; and executive officer of HMS Royal Sovereign in the Atlantic Fleet 1924–26. He was promoted to Captain in 1926 and was again in charge of the Air Section of the Naval Staff 1926–28. He was Chief Staff Officer to the Rear-Admiral commanding 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean 1929–30, and Liaison Officer for the Fleet Air Arm at the Air Ministry 1931–33. He then commanded HMS Cornwall on the China station 1933–35 and the naval base at Devonport (HMS Drake) 1936–38. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1938 and from 1939–41 was Rear Admiral, Naval Air Stations, based at RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus). He was appointed CB in the King's Birthday Honours of 1939.
Davies was promoted to Vice Admiral upon retiring on 29 May 1941. He then joined the Royal Naval Reserve with a reduction in rank to Commander. As an RNR officer, he served as a Convoy commodore, and as commissioning captain of the escort carrier HMS Dasher and the trials carrier HMS Pretoria Castle. He left the RNR in 1944.
He died at RNH Haslar in Gosport, Hampshire. His Victoria Cross is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovil, Somerset.
- List of firsts in aviation
- Sailor in the Air: The Memoirs of Vice-Admiral Richard Bell Davies, VC RN, Richard Bell Davies, 1967. Republished as Sailor in The Air: The Memoirs of the World's First Carrier Pilot, Seaforth Publishing, 2008, ISBN 1848320116
- "No. 29123". 9 April 1915. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29123/page/
- "No. 29423". 1 January 1916. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29423/page/
- Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue. p. 5–6.
- "No. 29507". 14 March 1916. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29507/page/
- "No. 31592". 7 October 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31592/page/
- "No. 31519". 22 August 1919. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31519/page/
- "No. 34633". 6 June 1939. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/34633/page/
- Royal Navy (RN) Officers 1939-1945
- Monuments To Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
- The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
- VCs of the First World War - Air VCs (P G Cooksley, 1999)
- VCs of the First World War - Gallipoli (Stephen Snelling, 1995)
- Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue. George Galdorisi, Thomas Phillips. MBI Publishing Company, 2009. ISBN 0-7603-2392-5, ISBN 978-0-7603-2392-2
- Vice-Admiral R. Davies, V.C. (obituary), The Times, London, 28 February 1966, page 12
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