William Malcolm Davidson


William Malcolm Davidson

31st Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force

Died 5 April 1916 aged 32

William Malcolm Davidson was born on 11 December 1883 at Greenhills in the parish of Coull. He was a son of Williamina Davidson, domestic servant. Williamina, as revealed by the census in 1891, was born at Tough, and on census night she was living at Greenhills in the household of her 81year old widowed father, who was a native of Lumphanan and (notwithstanding his impressive age) described himself as a farmer. William was there aged 7, along with other grandchildren of Mr Davidson, who may have been his siblings – Helen age 8, Barbara R. aged 1, and four boarders.


In 1896 Williamina, William’s mother, married James Anderson who was a farm servant on her father’s farm. By 1901 the couple were registered at Balnacraig Cottage, Lumphanan with three young sons of their own, James, Charles and Frank, and James’s stepchildren, Barbara, and Jessie Reid. William would have been 17/18 years of age, and he was no longer part of that household and cannot be identified with any certainty in the census that year. In 1911 James and Williamina Anderson were at Woodside, Beltie with James 14, Charles 11 and Frank 10, and a further two children Annabella M aged 7 and George aged 4. William who would then have been 28 does not appear to be in the 1911 census either and it may be that by then, if not by 1901, he had emigrated to Canada.


Davidson’s Canadian army service record shows that he joined up (No 80279) at Calgary on 8 May 1915, giving his occupation as Logger and his marital status as single. He became a Private in the 31st Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force. The 31st sailed for England on 17 May 1915 on the RMS Carpathia – the same celebrated Carpathia that had gone to the aid of Titanic passengers in 1912 and was sadly torpedoed and sunk in 1918. From 27 March to 16 April 1916, the CEF were deployed in actions at the St Eloi Craters as part of the 2nd Canadian Division. Both sides engaged in mining and counter-mining in excavations under no man’s land. British explosives placed under the German lines were detonated on 27 March. Fighting then ensued to capture the craters created by the explosions, in circumstances of almost impossible communications and confusion under heavy barrage in severely muddy conditions with few trenches for cover. Canadians relieved the British in the front line on 3 April.  On the night of 5/6 April 1916, the 31st Canadian Bn. repulsed an attack on crater 6.  The Canadians lost 1,373 men in the fighting at St Eloi. William Davidson died on 5 April 1916 aged 32. He is commemorated at Spoilbank Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission noted his mother’s residence as Backhill, Trustach.