Major John Cheyne Davidson
Updated: Mar 4, 2019
Name/Rank: Major John Cheyne Davidson, Chaplain
Battalions: 93rd, 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital
Born/Current Town: Newboro, Ontario/ Peterborough, Ontario
Known as in Letters: Major Davidson, Canon Davidson
Major John Cheyne Davidson was the Chaplain, or as Vincent called him, the Canon for the 93rd Battalion when they first went over to England. He is mentioned in two of Vincent's letters home, on August 20, 1916 and on January 2, 1917. Both can be seen below.
"Well once more it is Sunday and we had our usual church service although Major Davidson has left us for a hospital or something or other near London."
"The Col. does not seem to have any use for Capt. Burnham. It seems that Burnham talked the Col. in everything he did to the betterment of the 93rd. men at West Sandling and Burnham made an underhanded attack on Canon Davidson by writing home to Peterboro insinuating that the Canon had deserted the battalion and was looking for a soft job etc. The Canon I hear is now in France on his own request and Burnham is on his way to Canada. It is immature to me but if Burnham has done all he is accused of doing I would like to punch him myself. Just on an old sore. The Col. painted him a black hearted villain alright."
As you can see by the depictions above, especially the second one, Vincent had some respect for Davidson, and had little use for Capt. Burnham, which is a politician who played soldier for a very short period of time. I will be doing a post on him later. You can tell from the letter, Burnham tried to have Davidson painted as a coward and looking to escape the hard parts of the war. As you will soon find out, that is far from the truth. Davidson went over with the 93rd Battalion, same as Vincent and he can be seen on the Nominal Role which I will have posted below. When the 93rd dissolved, he found his way to the Hospital Corps and was with the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, which was located near Doullens, France. This would have been fairly close to the Front Line of trenches at the time he was in France, in the middle of Arras and Amiens. He would have seen many injured soldiers and seen the full scale brutality that the Front had to offer. That does not sound like someone that is a coward at all. You can find out a little bit more about the Hospital here, which includes a sad story of it being bombed by the Germans in 1918.
* A big thank you to Eric Edwards for pointing me in the direction of the Hospitals name.
According to his files, he was sent back to England and admitted to the 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham on June 10, 1917 for what they stated as Neurasthenia. This is defined as: an ill-defined medical condition characterized by lassitude, fatigue, headache, and irritability, associated chiefly with emotional disturbance. What this probably means to us today is that he had a type of Shell Shock, which may have been more attributed to the horrors he saw from the injured men in those hospitals, or if he spent time at the hospitals near the Front, than from the shells themselves. You can see what the Medical Board had to say about his condition below:
He was discharged from the hospital 9 days later on June 19th for 3 weeks leave, which after that the Medical Board said he was fit again for duty as the hand tremors had stopped and such. It does seem that that was not true though as after being sent back to France in July of 1917, he was back on a boat home to Canada in December of that year as he was no longer fit for service.
What I can tell from his files, which greatly contradict what Captain Burnham tried to say, was that Major John Cheyne Davidson of Peterborough saw what most men would probably call hell, and was, rightly so, scared by the experience, as many a men from that war were.
Thank you all again for reading and keep posted for more of these types of posts!