Son of Mr. Charles Henry Davenport and Mrs. Caroline Davenport, of Cross Lane Farm, Mossley, Congleton, Cheshire, and P.O. Box 735, Revelstoke, British Columbia. He had five sisters, Ellen, Alice, Annie, Lucy and Elsie Davenport, along with two brothers, Charles and Harry Davenport. In 1911, at the age of 14, he was employed as an Errand Boy. Prior to enlistment he was employed as a Fireman.
He enlisted into the 30th Battalion, The Canadian Infantry at Victoria, British Columbia on the 9th of November 1914 at the age of 22. He later transferred to the 15th Battalion, attached to the 48th Highlanders of Canada. On the 2nd of June 1916, the Battalion moved off from their position of the Scottish Lines and proceeded to a position at Zillebeke where they arrived with a few casualties at 02:00 hours on the 3rd of June.
The Battalion moved off at 20:00 hours and arrived at their rendezvous at 23:15 hours where the Battalion was ordered to a point east of Zillebeke village, to take up a line running south about 250 yards from Observatory Ridge Road. The Battalion with transport moved off to the new position around 23:30 hours. The formation was completed and advance to position of attack at 02:15 hours. It was broad daylight and as soon as the line started the enemy opened up with artillery. Their barrage and curtain fire was simply wonderful. The lines of men advanced as steadily as if on parade and in spite of heavy artillery and machine gun fire the Battalion arrived at the point a little east of Valley Cottages with only a few casualties. For about 100 yards until they reached their position the fire was most severe and the number of casualties increased and by this time reached 6 Officers and 100 Other Ranks. In the meantime, the Officer Commanding had pushed forward as far as Valley Cottages and established an Headquarters, where the signallers were tapping in on numerous wires but none of them established connections with the 3rd Brigade Headquarters. Connections were however established with the 14th Battalion and also the 16th Battalion and was well maintained throughout the day. The Battalion reported ready at 03:27 hours, the artillery fire increased and at times the British shells were dropping into the new positions where the men were digging in, the number of casualties increased. The artillery opened with such a light bombardment that it was not believed to be the main one until rockets were shot up from the Brigade. These however did not show green and were not observed, only showing a streak of smoke. The real attack at 08:35 hours began on the signal being given, the Officers and the men most courageously, getting out and rushing forward in the face of a perfect hell of artillery and machine gun fire. It did not seem possible that anything could live through it, the right of the line was temporarily held up by a thick hedge and before a way through it was found, the first line was all shot down. The second and third lines came up and kept right on. On the left the men took advantage of a little dead ground and rushed right on. During the whole of this time the enemy maintained an intense artillery and machine gun fire on the men and the communication trenches and ground to the rear. Machine guns were enfilading the Battalion heavily from the Snotu at it became apparent that the objective could not be reached. Accordingly, the men fell back to the starting point and dug themselves in along the line. During the whole of the day the enemy maintained a heavy shell fire on the front line and communication trenches increasing it at 19:45 hours to an intense fire accompanied by heavy rifle and machine gun fire. This bombardment lasted for about an hour and the line was fairly quiet at 01:30 hours on the 4th of June. The Battalion was relieved by the 2nd Canadian Battalion and proceeded to the rest billets at Scottish Lines. It was during the events on the 3rd of June that Private James Davenport was killed in action. He is buried at the Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, Ieper, Belgium.
Extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1916
Imagine a bombardment breaking in upon the silence of the night with a suddenness that is at once startling and awe inspiring, lurid flashes lighting up the firmament, the loud reports of guns, the roar of the shells tearing through the air and the crunch of high explosive shells. Imagine the noise of several thunderstorms rolling in a grand cadence among the mountains and at intervals breaking in upon the resounding dispatch of the guns. The rat a tat of machine guns beating their devils tattoo and sending a ball of lead on path and parapet. Imagine a man hit by shrapnel, his life blood ebbing slowly away, while several pals are trying their utmost to make the passing more easier. Imagine all this and you have a faint and we say faint idea of the inferno amid which Private James Davenport of the Canadian Highlanders saw life's morn decline and the manner of his passing. It was a small affair, this bombardment as war goes nowadays, yet during it another Congleton hero had given his all, could one do more for the Old Country. He had bravely done his duty for the Motherland he had only seen once in five years, for 5 years ago he emigrated with his parents to Canada and returned to this country with the first Canadian contingent. It is only a short time ago that he was over on furlough when he stayed with his sister Mrs. Alice Lancaster and her husband at their home in Canal St. But although he has passed beyond all the sights and sounds of war, his name will not die into oblivion, so far as Congleton people are concerned at any rate. Like his brother he was a true patriot and risked his life so that others may live and so long as the cause lives for which he died his memory will be cherished by a grateful country. His was no lukewarm patriotism, and his courage was beyond question, indeed it is not so long ago that he was recommended for a D.S.M. for conspicuous bravery. His younger brother, who has been seven months in France is imbued with the same spirit of patriotism and enlisted at the age of 15. Verily, Congleton ought to be proud of her soldier sons. The first intimation that Private Davenport had been killed was conveyed in a letter from his comrade (Private Whitfield 5th Battalion Canadians) to Mrs. Lancaster, His grief at losing one of the best boys in the unit is sincere and unaffected and he tells how his passing was regretted by the rank and file generally, the letter typical of the spirit of the Tommy reads. Being a close companion of your dear brother Jim, I feel it is my duty to write you a few lines regarding him. Of course, you have been notified by now of his passing away. He was a heroic boy, everyone liked him and now he has gone, we will miss him dearly. He always did his duty and was always first on the spot when needed, and he died a hero's death. He has been buried in a suitable place. How can I comfort you? Think of all the good work he has done out here, how I wish we had more like him. God, I am sure will recompense such as he. Any further news you desire I will be only too pleased to give you. All his comrades join with me in expressing deep sympathy in your sad bereavement. It will thus be seen that Private Whitfield took it for granted that Mrs. Lancaster had heard the particulars of her brother's death from official sources, perhaps never thinking that such information would be conveyed to his parents in Canada. As a matter of fact Mrs. Lancaster had heard nothing definite and wrote to this effect to Private Whitfield who promptly replied as follows.
I received your letter dated June 27th two days ago and I was surprised to hear that you had not received any news from the War Office but I suppose your people in Canada have been informed regarding Jim. As regards any mail coming here for him same will be returned by our Orderly Room. It was the night of the 3rd of June 1916 that Jim was killed. I was not there at the time but everything possible was done for him. As you are no doubt aware severe fighting had been going on here for several days, the shell fire on both sides exceedingly heavy and I understand that it was a piece of shrapnel that hit him. According to my own knowledge Jim never needed anything, he always seemed jolly and happy. Prior to the attack I spoke to him and he was just the same as ever, ready to do his duty with a smile. A most suitable cross has been placed over his grave and someday I may be able to inform you of the exact location of same. Several of our comrades were buried close by. I miss Jim very much indeed, as he and I generally shared dug outs and bought little things for each other. You, I know will miss him very much. However cheer up, this is not the only life. He did his duty here, God will bless him.
Yours, Sincerely, Frank Whitfield.
Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for the reserach on James