b. 02/1835 Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 02/03/1893 Edinburgh, Scotland.
James Davis (Kelly) (1835-1893) was born in Canongate, Edinburgh, Scotland in February 1835. When he enlisted with the 42nd Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch), he dropped the name Kelly. Interestingly, Davis would give an interview to the Strand magazine in the 1880s and gave an account of his action which earned him the Victoria Cross on 15th April 1858 at Fort Ruhya.
Davis was part of the Light Company under the command of Captain John McLeod. They were given orders to take cover under some trees. Two officers of the Royal Engineers then approached and asked for some men to help make a breach with the artillery. Davis was one of the men who volunteered. They found a small garden ditch under the walls of the fort, but it wasn’t high enough to cover their heads. After a short time, the officers left. Davis was on the right of the ditch with Lieutenant Alfred Jennings Bramley, when they observed a large enemy force coming out to cut them off. Bramley told Davis to shoot the leader, while he ran to warn McLeod. The leader was shot, but Bramley was also hit and lying mortally wounded in the open.
An order was given to try and retrieve Bramley. Davis and a Private called Eadie decided to intervene. They ran into the open and got to Bramley. Davis made to put Bramley on his back, with Eadie’s assistance. As Eadie helped Bramley onto Davis’ back, he was shot in the back of the head, knocking Davis down. Another man crawled forward and pulled Eadie off. Davis believed he had been hit. Davis quickly got up and took Bramley back on his back, and began to run across the open ground. Another man called Dods came out and met Davis and took Bramley off his back. Davis then ran back through the heavy fire to get Eadie’s body. He returned with him, then went back again to collect his rifle, and fired some covering fire.
Davis was gazetted for the VC on 27th May 1859, and was presented with his VC by Brigadier General Sir Robert Walpole at Bareilly on 7th April 1860. Davis left the Army shortly after the Mutiny and returned to his native Scotland. He died in Edinburgh on 2nd March 1893 aged 58, and was buried in North Merchiston Cemetery. His medals are part of the Ashcroft Collection in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
NORTH MERCHISTON CEMETERY, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND. COMPARTMENT N, GRAVE 625
Born James Davis Kelly
James Davis' medals including his VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).