Square 111, Row 3, Grave 51668. b. 17/02/1913 Shepherd's Bush, London. d. 23/08/1945 Harlesden, London.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 22/08/1945 London.
Frederick Davies (1913-1945) was born on 17th February 1913 at 23 Goodwin Road, Shepherd’s Bush, West London. His parents were Thomas Percival and Ellen Elizabeth Davies (nee Barnett). His father was a Hansom cab driver. He was one of seven children, with three brothers and three sisters. Frederick completed his compulsory education, and despite wanting to stay on, his father insisted he left at 14. Frederick persevered and by 1935, he was a Stock Keeper at Messrs Edward Saunders, a printing and paper business in Park Royal.
It was there that he met his future wife, Annie Frances Baylis, who lived in North Kensington. They married on 19th December 1936 at St Jude’s, Kensal Green and moved into 36 Fourth Avenue in Queen’s Park. Their only son, Raymond, was born two years later.
On 2nd February 1939, Davies was recruited into the London Auxiliary Fire Service as No B8813 and started training within a week. Over the next 7 months, he combined his Stock Keeper job with training on selected evenings and weekends. On the 1st September 1939 he was mobilised to become a full time fireman, and finished his training on 10th February 1940.
Although initially at No 12 North Kensington Fire Station, he was later based at Willesden Fire Station in NW6 for the remainder of the war. It is probable that he was heavily involved in the Blitz as fire crews were very mobile, all over London, mainly in the West End and the City. On the 18th August 1941, the National Fire Service (NFS) was formed and the Auxiliary Fire Service merged into the new organisation and Davies became part of the 34 Fire Force Area.
On the night of 22nd August 1945, his engine was called to a fire in Craven Park Road. On arrival, the officer in charge was informed that two young sisters, Avril and Jean Pike, were in the front room on the second floor. A ladder was immediately pitched to the window and before it was even in position Davies ran up it and entered the burning building. At this stage, flames were pouring from the windows and licking up the front of the building. He was seen to endeavour to remove his tunic, presumably to wrap around the children, but his hands were now too badly burned for him to do so. After a short period, he returned to the window with Avril in his arms; he handed her out of the window to Leading Fireman Thorn. He was next seen to fling himself out of the window on to the ladder, the whole of his clothing ablaze. Thorn held Davies under one arm and Avril under the other, then disasterously Avril slipped from his grip and fell to the ground; unbeknown to either fireman, she was already dead. Davies' uniform was still smouldering, and he was taken to hospital suffering from severe burns on his face, back, hands and arms. He succumbed to his injuries the following day. Jean Pike also died in the fire.
Frederick Davies was laid to rest on 30th August 1945 at Kensal Green Cemetery, with at the end of the service, the firemen filing past his grave saluting him. The Pike sisters had been buried two days before in Willesden Cemetery. The Coroner at his inquest recorded a verdict of “accidental death”. He was awarded a posthumous Carnegie Hero Fund Trust Certificate and his widow a weekly grant to help with their daughter, Doreen Ann, born four months after his death. A greater honour was bestowed on Frederick Davies, when on 5th February 1946, the London Gazette published the citation for his posthumous George Cross.
On 30th July 1946, Annie attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace and was introduced to King George VI. The King pinned the George Cross onto Frederick and Annie’s son Raymond’s chest. In Frederick Davies’ memory, there is a plaque at the Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, and Davies Road is also on the site. His George Cross was presented to the London Fire Brigade Museum. In May 1991, the Queen Mother unveiled the Fire Service “Blitz” Memorial near St Paul’s Cathedral. Davies is named on the memorial along with nearly 1,000 WWII Firemen and women. He is the only GC on the memorial.
On the 23rd August 2008, the 63rd anniversary of his death, his grave was formally rededicated with the addition of a plaque commemorating his posthumous award of the GC. Led by the Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery and assisted by the Civil Defence Association, funds were raised to renovate the grave.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LONDON FIRE BRIGADE MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: KENSAL GREEN CEMETERY, LONDON.
Square 111, Row 3, Grave 51668.
Picture - Kevin Brazier
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier