Vice Admiral Bell Davies VC, CB,DSO, AFC

The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the grant of the Victoria Cross to Squadron Commander Richard Bell Davies, D.S.O., R.N., and of the Distinguished Service Cross to Flight Sub-Lieutenant Gilbert Formby Smylie, R.N., in recognition of their behaviour in the following circumstances. On the 19th November, these two officers carried out an air attack on Ferrijik Junction. Flight sub-Lieutenant Smylie’s machine was received by very heavy fire and brought down. The pilot planed down over the station, releasing all his bombs except one, which failed to drop, simultaneously at the station from a very low altitude. Thence he continued his descent into the marsh. On alighting he saw one unexploded bomb, and set fire to his machine, knowing that the bomb would ensure its destruction. He then proceeded towards Turkish territory. At this moment he perceived Squadron Commander Davies descending, and fearing that he would come down near the burning machine and thus risk destruction from the bomb, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Smylie ran back and from a short distance exploded the bomb by means of a pistol bullet. Squadron Commander Davies descended at a safe distance from the burning machine, took up Sub-Lieutenant Smylie, in spite of the near approach of a party of the enemy, and returned to the aerodrome, a feat of airmanship that can seldom have been equalled for skill and gallantry.

London Gazette Supplement 86, 1 January 1916

Bell Davies had a very lively career in the RNAS surviving the Great War and rising to the rank of Vice Admiral by 1941 whereupon he joined the RNR on retirement as a Commander serving as a Convoy Commodore until 1944. A man who served his country with distinction in both Wars.  He was part of the RNAS’s aggressive forward defence posture forward based in France under Commander Sansom in the war of manoeuvre that existed in the Autumn of 1914.  The Commander had in his band of what today would be a group of ‘technicals’ (trucks with machine guns mounted on the back) frequently vectored on to German columns by Bell Davies on reconnaissance in a Farman. Bell Davies won his DSO for repeated attacks on the German submarines’ base at Zeebrugge despite being seriously wounded in the thigh.  The RNAS in France were also charged with attacking the Zeppelins for which Flt Lt Warneford won his VC by bombing one over Belgium in Jun 1915 so it was a busy year for the members of 3 Squadron RNAS. 

In April they embarked for Gallipoli and by October Bulgaria had joined the Central Powers providing a land route for resupply of German forces in the Dardanelles.  By this time, flying a Nieuport 12, the amazing story of 13 November above unfolded.  The Nieuport that Bell Davies was flying that day was a two seaters converted to a single seater with the front cockpit permanently faired over.  For those of you who have seen our Nieuport owned by John Gilbert the challenge of getting the 6-foot Smylie into the cockpit would appear insurmountable.  Bell Davies stood up and Smylie dived through the controls to the front cockpit.  On their safe arrival, it took 2 hours to get him out.