First World War soldier's family traced after photograph found in cemetery

By Rosemary Collins, 12 December 2017 - 4:17pm

Pembrokeshire Archives and Local Studies helped Louis Sabos in his quest to find the family of Private Henry Davies

Louis Sabos at the Canonne Farm British Cemetery with the picture of Private Davies. (Credit: Louis Sabos)

The discovery of the photograph of a First World War soldier in a cemetery in France has brought together people from across the Channel in an effort to honour his memory.

Louis Sabos, from Sommaing in Northern France, contacted Pembrokeshire Archives and Local Studies after he found a photograph of Private Henry Davies near the Canonne Farm British Cemetery.

He carried out research into Private Davies and hoped to find his family so that together they could commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death in 2018.

Private Davies was born in the Welsh village of St Nicholas and worked on a farm before serving with the South Wales Borderers.

He died of battle injuries aged 21 on 4 November 1918, just a week before the end of the war.

Mr Sabos contacted Pembrokeshire Archives, who helped him with further study and posted the story on their Facebook page, appealing for Private Davies’ surviving family to get in touch.

Within an hour, Private Davies’ 2x great niece Claire Phillips of Llangwm contacted the archives.

She revealed that Private Davies had already been the subject of a short film, Gathering the Graves, written by Claire’s husband Bob Phillips, which premiered at Llangwm Literary Festival this year.

The film follows the story of the War Graves Commission and was inspired by Henry, as well as Bob’s great uncle Charles John, who was killed in the war in July 1916.

With co-producer Lloyd Grayshon, Bob is planning to develop the film into a full-length screenplay.

As part of his research, he was already intending to visit Henry Davies’ grave in 2018.

Bob said: “There are many untold stories behind the fallen soldiers of the First World War, and our intention is to bring those stories to the fore.

"I’m looking forward to making contact with Mr Sabos and telling him all about our research and what we are planning to do.”

The picture of Private Henry Davies

Pembrokeshire Archives were also contacted by Private Davies’ great niece Pam Harries, whose grandfather was his brother William.

She left the photograph at his grave when she visited in 2015 with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.

In addition, they heard from Henry’s nieces Maureen Edwards and Dilys Thomas, the daughters of another brother, George.

Mrs Thomas will turn 99 this week.

Louis Sabos said he was very happy that so many of Henry Davies’ relatives had come forward, and that he hoped “to receive many news, photographs and maybe different anecdotes on Private Davies’ short life”.

Helen Evans, archives and local studies assistant at Pembrokeshire Archives, said: “It’s been a pleasure to help Louis find some of the relatives of Private Henry Davies and to find out that a film is being made about him by members of his family.

"I’m sure this won’t be the last time we hear about this story as we approach the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.”

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