Sport Remembers Robert Davies, Olympic shooter

Olympic sharpshooter died ‘at the head of his men’

Robert Davies was a crack shot and an army veteran. The stockbroker served as a major in the Boer War with the renowned sharp-shooters of the 1st Middlesex Volunteer Rifle Corps.

Stockbroker’s son Davies, who was born in 1876 at Paddington, London, and educated at Marlborough College, also shot for sport. In 1906 he won the National Rifle Association’s King’s Prize at Bisley, Surrey, and was described as “one of the finest and most enthusiastic marksmen in the country”.

"Prepare to acquit yourselves like men."

Davies was a supporter of a campaign by celebrated Victorian Field Marshall Lord Frederick Roberts, who wanted every British civilian to be trained to use a rifle. In 1912, at the age of 80, Roberts caused a storm of controversy when he was one of the first to accuse Germany of preparing for war.

“If these were my last words,” he told a meeting at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, “I still should say to you: Arm yourselves... arm and prepare to acquit yourselves like men for the day of your ordeal is at hand.”

Rejoined Army to go to war

Davies, who became a stockbroker like his father and lived in Chalk Farm, North London, shot for England in 1910 and 1911 and for Great Britain at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. He came 39th out of 91 competitors in the 300m men’s military rifle and 37th out of 85 in the 600m event.

He had retired from the regular army as an honorary captain in 1908 but rejoined when war broke out, serving for two years in England before going to France in 1916 with the 9th Battalion London Regiment, Queen Victoria's Rifles.

“One of the finest and most enthusiastic marksmen in the country.”

Davies, 39, was killed “at the head of his men” on September 9 in an attack at Bouleaux Wood during the battle of Ginchy on the Somme. His body was never found and his name is on the memorial at Thiepval. Six days earlier, the conflict at Ginchy had claimed the life of England cricketer Lieutenant Ken Hutchings, an outrageously talented batsmen in the sport’s Golden Age before the war.

Remember the Somme

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The Royal British Legion is calling on communities across the UK to take the time out from their daily lives to honour those who fell. We have created a Somme 100 toolkit which contains everything you need to organise a Remembrance event in your community.

Make your own commemoration to one of the casualties of the First World War by simply placing a virtual poppy in their memory on our Every Man Remembered website.

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