WW1 Lance Corporal Karl Nilsson Davidson 10/882

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Karl Nilsson Davidson (10/882) was born 9 August 1894 to George A. Davidson and Ida Clotilde Davidson, in Dargaville. George A. Davidson was teaching at District High School, Dargaville subsequently became Headmaster of Taumarunui District High School Karl went to Mt Eden School and then to Auckland Grammar School. He was a College and Grammar School defence cadet from 1906-1909 and in the New Zealand Territorials for four years 1910-1914. He was a member of the College Rifles Rugby Football Club, Remuera. He was a keen athlete enjoying football, tennis and boxing. He was popular socially and musically, as he had ‘a very fine baritone voice.[1,2] After leaving school he was employed for a short time in the Office of the Parnell Borough Council then he became a Law clerk with solicitor J. F. Strong, in Taumarunui. 

He enlisted on 13 August 1914, he was described at 5ft 8 ½ inches tall, with brown eyes and dark brown hair. He embarked on 16 October 1914 arriving in Egypt on 3 December 1914 as a Private with the Wellington Infantry Battalion. He embarked for the Dardanelles and Gallipoli, arriving in April 1915 but was sick with gastroenteritis in August 1915 and was invalided to England. After his recovery, he was sent back to Egypt until April 1916 when he was transferred to France. He was not well and was hospitalised for a week after which, he was transferred to his regiment in France where they were fighting on the Western Front near the Somme. In late August 1916 the New Zealand Division was transferred from the ‘quiet’ Armentieres sector to the Somme sector.  

At 6.20 a.m. on 15 September 1916, the New Zealand Division set off from the front into no-man’s-land behind a curtain of artillery fire. In the first push, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, the New Zealanders captured the German-occupied Switch Trench after close-quarter fighting with grenades and bayonets, while the British 41st Division secured the town of Flers. The front line moved northwards, where the corps consolidated its new positions and repelled German counter-attacks. [3] A switch line was the trench that connected two trenches running in parallel to the front line. They were created in locations where the enemy might or did overrun a trench system, thereby exposing the flanks. [4 ] Trench maps show in detail the changing Front Line and its associated communication trenches, as well as the location of enemy positions and defences including artillery gun emplacements, machine guns, mines, wire entanglements, and observation posts. They record the names that soldiers gave to the trenches, as well as the names of nearby farms, villages, woods, and other landmarks. These are often referred to in the written histories of the War, including personal war diaries and official regimental accounts. Accurate locations, and the distances and bearings between them were essential for the artillery, and all the maps show the British Trench Map Grid System as a prominent overlay, a unique referencing system often used in associated written records. Trench maps illustrate the innovative survey, compilation, and printing technologies that advanced rapidly during the conflict. Comparing trench maps to each other over time, and to the present day, allows a detailed and fascinating graphic insight into the changing topography of the Western Front [5] 

On 16 September 1916 Karl Nilsson Davidson (10/882) died of wounds received in the field at the Battle of the Somme. He was 22 years old. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. There is an obituary to him in the Auckland Grammar School Chronicle. 1916. He is remembered on the memorials: Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France Roll of Honour, College Rifles, Rugby Union Football and Sports Club, 33 Haast Street, Remuera, Auckland  


1. Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph 

2. Auckland Grammar School Chronicle. 1916. 

3. New Zealand History Online 

4. Great War Forum 

5. National Library of Scotland British First World War Trench Maps  

Image reference 

[1] Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph 

[2] K. N. Davidson. Obituary. Auckland Grammar School chronicle. 1916, v.4, n.2