In early October 2010, a query came to the VDFHS Cemetery Committee requesting the inscription from the marker of a John Warren-Davis buried in Pleasant Valley Cemetery in Vernon.
What first appeared to be a simple request resulted in a nine-month journey…
The requestor, a distant relative of John Warren-Davis’ wife, further provided the following information, “He died, aged only 26, on 19 Aug 1920 at 'The Vernon Hotel' and this was stated in his British probate record. His grandson does not know why he was in Canada. He was a Captain in the Welsh Regiment and served in France in WWI and nobody knows his reason for being in Vernon. Although his wife lived till she was 74 in England she was said to have become very disturbed following his death and his two children were brought up by his brothers. A family rumour is that he died of Blackwater Fever but in 1920 I assume there were no malarial mosquitoes in that area.”
Image - British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Card
Additional findings revealed that John Warren-Davis was from Tre Warren, Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales. His birth was registered in 1894 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. The 1911 Wales Census shows John attending school in Haverfordwest.
A survey of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery records revealed that there was no John Warren-Davis buried at the cemetery. However, closer investigation revealed that at the time of his burial, the City of Vernon incorrectly recorded his surname as ‘Davis’ and his given names as ‘J. Warren’. Unfortunately even though it was determined he was buried at the cemetery, a visit to the cemetery revealed that Captain Warren-Davis did not have a marker.
The original message detailed a mystery. Why did John Warren-Davis come to Canada and how did he die?
Further research yielded a death registration and an article about his death. According to his death registration Captain Warren-Davis “came to his death on the 19th day of August 1920 at the Vernon Hotel, Vernon from poison administered by his own hand”. Sadly it also states, “This man was a stranger here and it has not been possible to get any information about him”. In fact the death registration contains very little detail beyond his name, birthplace (incorrect on the registration as it states “England” and not Wales), marital status and cause of death.
Image - British Columbia Certificate of Registration of Death
The article from the Vernon News, titled “Committed Suicide by Taking Poison”, dated 26 Aug 1920 says that the deceased purchased arsenic on the 17th of August from R.E. Berry’s drugstore. It further reveals that a long letter was found that gave some “painful and revolting details regarding his life and intimated that he intended to kill himself”.
Image - Obituary from the Vernon News
The inquest into his death yielded the following verdict: “We find that the deceased, John Warren Davis, came to his death on the 19th day of August, at the Vernon Hotel in the city of Vernon, by the taking of poison administered by his own hand”
The fact that Captain Warren-Davis did not have a marker was troubling, after all this is a soldier who served his country in the First World War.
In Canada there is an organization called the Last Post Fund that since 1909 has ensured that no eligible Veteran is deprived of a dignified funeral, burial and headstone for lack of financial resources. Its chief mandate is to deliver the Funeral and Burial Program on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada. A query was sent to the Last Post Fund inquiring if Britain had a similar program that could supply Captain Warren-Davis with a marker.
A response from the Last Post Fund indicated that they would indeed assist in providing a marker for Captain Warren-Davis. Many forms and a visit to Vernon City Hall later a marker for the Captain was installed in late July 2011.
Image - Marker of John Warren-Davis
Even though mysteries still remain with regards to Captain Warren-Davis and his death, his grave is now marked in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery.