Major Alan Timewell Davis
Officer who led his men in hand-to-hand fighting near the German-dutch border at the war’s end
MAJOR ALAN TIMEWELL DAVIS, who has died aged 94, won an MC in the last weeks of the Second World War. On March 29 1945 Davis was in command of a rifle platoon of 7th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment (7th Hampshires), part of 43rd (Wessex) Division. He was ordered to seize an important bridge just north of Anholt on the river Issel, close to the Germandutch border.
He and his men came under machine-gun fire from German paratroopers as they cleared the houses covering the approaches. Two other platoons in his company then became pinned down by machine guns firing from their front and both flanks.
In this critical situation, Davis led his men in a flanking movement under heavy shelling. They had to cross 70 yards of open ground. Davis could see demolition wires under the bridge and was in great danger of having it blown up under him.
He cut the wires to the explosive charges with his clasp knife and then led his men in a charge across what became known as the “Hampshire Bridge”. With the support of tanks, flame-throwers and self-propelled guns firing into the houses on the opposite bank, they cleared the remaining enemy positions.
A fortnight later, on April 13, the battalion had a hard fight for Cloppenburg. Davis led his platoon under fire with great dash before crossing a stream in the middle of the town and then in bitter, hand-to-hand fighting from street to street. The citation for the award of his MC stated that every house was a strong point and that the success of a hazardous and exhausting operation was entirely due to his drive, leadership and high courage.
Alan Timewell Davis was born in Bristol on March 22 1923. His father had run away, aged 17, to join Damant’s Horse and served in the Boer War and the First World War.
Young Alan was educated at Bristol Grammar School and then joined 7th Hampshires. As the Battalion Intelligence Officer, he landed in Normandy on June 22 1944 (D+16) over the same beaches that 1st Hampshires had assaulted on D-day.
In July, in 43rd (Wessex) Division’s attack on Hill 112, a dominating feature south-west of Caen between the Odon and Orne rivers, 7th Hampshires suffered casualties of 18 Officers and 208 other ranks. The Bn HQ vehicles were hit and Davis was fortunate not to be wounded.
Davis then served as adjutant, during the remainder of the Normandy Campaign, the breakout across the Seine, the garrisoning of Brussels and the Battle of Arnhem. In October, he was given command of a rifle platoon and took part in defending bridges over the river Meuse and then in attacks on strongly fortified villages in the advance to the Siegfried Line and battles to clear the Reichswald of determined German paratroops.
As they prepared to cross the Rhine, Davis and his men were billeted on a large estate. One evening, he and his sergeantmajor raided a local game farm and employed a few blast grenades to produce a good supply of oven-ready pheasants. These were roasted on bayonets over campfires.
In March, 7th Hampshires crossed the Rhine on the heels of 15th and 51st Divisions. Davis had borrowed a Sten gun from his batman to shoot partridges and he was injured by a split cartridge. This was gazetted as “Wounded but remained in action.” The actions in which Davis was awarded his MC followed and the German surrender on May 5 found 7th Hampshires on the Hamm-ost Canal at Gnarrenburg.
The battalion was disbanded in July 1946. In recognition of the Regiment’s outstanding service in the war, the Hampshires were granted the right to add “Royal” to their name. Davis retired from the Regular Army and from 1948 to 1984 he worked for Mardon, Son & Hall, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco.
For many years, he carried on soldiering with the 44th Royal Tank Regiment (North Somerset and Bristol Yeomanry) and retired in the rank of major. Settled in a village near Bristol, he was an apiarist, photographer and a proficient artist. At Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust, one of his decoy duck carvings was made specially for Sir Peter Scott.
Alan Timewell Davis married, in 1963, Alison Margaret Cameron who survives him with their son (a retired brigadier) and daughter.
Major Alan Timewell Davis, born March 22 1923, died October 9 2017
The success of a hazardous operation was due to his drive and courage