Harry DAVENPORT (aka Harry SWENDSON)

Harry DAVENPORT (Harry SWENDSON)

Harry Davenport (Photograph courtesy of Dave Murray)

Harry Davenport (Photograph courtesy of Dave Murray)

Per his Attestation paper on military service record (Lieutenant), Harry Davenport, with a note ‘true name Harry Swendson’, was born at Toronto, Canada. He gave his age as 41 years, his marital status as widower, and his occupation as Billiard Table Proprietor. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 10 5/8 inches tall, weight 168 lbs., with a fair complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was written as ‘none’. He claimed that he had no previous military service. He stated that he was a member of the Wongarbon Rifle Club.

The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate reported on 29th October 1915 (p. 4) that ‘H. Davenport’ was one of the Wongarbon boys who had joined the Coo-ees.

According to an article in The Farmer and Settler on 19th October 1915 (p. 3), thirteen men stepped forward and gave their name, ‘either to march under Captain Nicholas, or to come after harvest’, when the Coo-ees recruited in Wongarbon on 14th October 1915.

It appears Harry Davenport was one of these men, but he needed time to get his affairs in order, as he did not join the Coo-ees until the 24th October 1915 at Orange, where he undertook his medical examination, and was attested by Captain T. A. Nicholas. A note on the top of his Attestation paper in his service record said he ‘presented at Orange 24/10/15’.  His original Application to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force form, addressed to the Recruiting Officer at Orange, gave his postal address as ‘Wongarbon’.

After completing the march he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion. During this time he was reported in The Farmer and Settler on 5th January 1916 (p. 3) as being a platoon sergeant in E Company, which consisted of many of the Coo-ees.

On his Application for a commission in the Australian Imperial Forces form dated 10th July 1916 in his service record he stated previous military experience of 7 years with the Vancouver Rifle Club in Canada, and being with the Wongarbon Rifle Club since July 1914. For education qualifications he stated he attended Central High School Toronto, Ont., Canada, and Wentworth Military Academy in Missouri U.S.A. Also recorded is “Sergt. “C” Coy 13th Battalion Kiama”. He gave his date of birth on this form as 31st March 1874, and his age as 42 years and 3 months. He gave his next of kin as daughter, Vieve Gwen Davenport, 324 Michigan Ave., Chicago, U.S.A. His religion is noted as Church of England on this form.

Private Davenport was sent to the A.I.F. Officers Training School at Duntroon where he trained to be an officer. On the 25th July 1916 he was appointed a Second Lieutenant.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was 493 Dowling Street, Moore Park, Sydney, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as a friend, Miss F. Pole-Hore, 493 Dowling Street, Moore Park, Sydney, N.S.W.

On the 8th November 1916 Second Lieutenant Davenport departed Sydney as part of the 22nd reinforcement for the 4th Infantry Battalion aboard the SS Port Nicholson. 

He arrived at Devonport in England on 10th January 1917. He marched into the 1st Training Battalion at Durrington the same day.

On the 18th June 1917 Second Lieutenant Davenport departed England for France, arriving at the 1st Division Base Depot at Le Harve on 20th June 1917.

On 11th July 1917 Second Lieutenant Davenport left Le Harve to join the 4th Battalion. He marched in on 15th July 1917 whilst the Battalion was conducting training in the Bray Sur Somme area of France.

On the 16th July 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant.

Less than three months after his arrival in France, on 4th October 1917 Lieutenant Davenport was wounded in action, being shot in the chest, while the 4th Battalion was engaged in an attack at Broodseinde Ridge, Belgium.  He was evacuated to an Aid Post, but died of his wounds prior to arrival.

He was buried on Broodenside Ridge, however his grave marker was destroyed in further fighting.

Lieutenant Davenport has no known grave, and is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium.

Swendson H. (served as Davenport H.) name in Lieutenant section on 4th Bn. Australian Infantry Battalion panel at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium (Photograph: H. Thompson 11/9/2012)

Swendson H. (served as Davenport H.) name in Lieutenant section on 4th Bn. Australian Infantry Battalion panel at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium (Photograph: H. Thompson 11/9/2012)

His name is also listed on the Wongarbon Soldiers Memorial, and the Atchison County WWI Memorial Honor Roll at Atchison, Kansas.

Harry Davenport appears to have had a few mysteries in his past. It is not known exactly when he arrived in Australia, but he is reported in an article in The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate on 12th February 1915 (p. 2) as having purchased a billiard room, fruit and tobacconist’s shop in Wongarbon.

According to correspondence from Harry Augustus Swendson’s family in Harry Davenport’s service record, his family had no knowledge of Harry Davenport marrying, or having a daughter. His family had received letters (addressed from H. Davenport) and a photograph from him in his AIF uniform while he was overseas on active service before he was killed.

According to an article titled ‘Lt. Harry Swendson’ on the Shawnee County Casualties in WWI web page http://www.shawneeww1.info/stories/storiesSwendson.html, his actual date of birth was 31st March 1880, not 31st March 1874 as he claimed in his AIF service record, which would have made him only 35 years of age when he joined the Coo-ee March, not 41 years as he claimed. He was also actually born at Hawthorn, Atchison County, Kansas, not Toronto, Canada, as he had claimed on his application papers.

He is noted on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site as being the son of S. and Sarah A. Swendson, a native of Hawthorn, Kansas, U.S.A., and being aged 35 years when he died.

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