Aldershot

The Lonely Fusilier

Examining the inscription on the headstone of my great-great grandfather John Buckley (1839-1901) who lies interred with his wife Emma Holland (1840-1919) in Aldershot Military Cemetery, I noticed another name: Charles J Davenport. Who was he, I wondered?

The grave of John Buckley, Charles J Davenport, and Emma Buckley, Aldershot Military Cemetery, by kind courtesy of FindAGrave.com

Research revealed that Charles (1871 – 1901) was the first husband of John Buckley’s daughter, my great grand aunt Florence Buckley. So why wasn’t Florence buried with her husband? The simple answer is that following her first husband Charles’ death, Florence appears to have remarried in 1904, to a Thomas Naylor. Florence died in 1960, and her ashes are interred with Thomas’ at Weybridge cemetery.

Charles Joseph Davenport was born in Saffron Hill, Holborn, London to Joseph Henry Davenport (1825-1878) and Harriet Jane Langhelt (1843-1921). Charles’ father Joseph was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire and is listed as a ‘Licensed Victualler and Silversmith’ on the occasion of Charles’ and Harriet’s marriage in 1866. However, all was not well in the Davenport household, because following Joseph’s death in 1878 when Charles was just 7 years old, Harriet appears to have spent some time in the workhouse, before marrying widower David McLay in 1884; the 1891 census shows Charles’ younger brother Joseph aged 17 (born 1874) and sister Eliza F aged 9 (born 1882, so clearly not Joseph’s daughter!) as McLay’s stepson and stepdaughter. By 1911 Harriet, aged 67, is widowed again, and living with her 46-year-old son Joseph Rowe, his wife Eliza, Jack Davenport aged 8 ( Rowe’s Stepson) , Maud Davenport aged 5 (Stepdaughter) and Joseph and Eliza’s son Joseph aged 1. Given that Harriet is 67 by then, it’s very unlikely that Jack and Maud are Harriet’s children, but perhaps they were the children of a sibling of Harriet’s first husband, Joseph Davenport? Quite why Harriet ‘deserted’ Charles but not Joseph Jnr, and then went on to name daughter Eliza as a Davenport is a mystery – perhaps to lend Eliza legitimacy?

Back to Charles…. on the 28th March, 1883, aged just twelve years old, following six months at ‘Islington School‘ (The Workhouse) and two years at ‘Mitcham School‘ (for children between the ages of 7 and 12 who were destitute, homeless, vagrant or otherwise in need of housing & education ) Charles joined the Training Ship Exmouth – he was there for a year, then signed up with the Army – The Royal Scots Fusiliers. He remained with the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, rising to the rank of Sergeant Drummer by the time of his death in Pretoria, SA in November 1901 after being “dangerously injured” just a year before the end of the second Boer War .

Charles’s conduct was said to be ‘Very Good’ during his time on TS Exmouth, where in addtion to continuing his formal education as required by the Education Act, he learned to swim and to play the Piccolo! He appears to have been a dedicated career soldier, earning the following clasps:

Cape Colony
Transvaal
Tugela Heights
Relief Of Ladysmith
South Africa 01

It seems likely that Charles met my great grand aunt Florence Buckley whilst stationed at Aldershot in the years prior to the Second Boer War (11 October 1899 – 31 May 1902) where my great-great grandfather John Buckley and his family were stationed. Charles and Florence married at the Parish church of St. Michael the Archangel on 25th August 1896, where, sixty-one years later in August 1957, my own parents would be married.

Charles and Florence would not have many years together – just five years later, on 21st November 1901, Charles would die aged just thirty-one of wounds incurred in Pretoria, South Africa. I have not discovered any children of the marriage.

Although Charles Jospeh Davenport is not a direct ancestor of mine, he is related by marriage, and I was curious at first to know why he was buried with his in-laws but not his wife; which led me to discover that Florence had remarried three years later.

I felt sad for Charles that he had lost his father at such a young age, was then (apparently) deserted by his destituate mother, which led him to be instutionalised by the age of eleven, to die childless at thirty-one. I can only hope that the few years he spent with Florence were happy ones. Since he has no descendants to remember him, I hope this account will go some way towards preserving his memory.

Elaine Jackson, Camberley, April 2021.

If you have Davenport ancestors and know any more of Charles’ life, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to reach out via my Twitter page , my Buckley Family Research Facebook Group or the contact form below.

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