"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."
Richard Bell Davies' story
Richard Bell Davies was born in Topstone Road (now Nevern Place), Kensington on 19th May 1886. He was orphaned at the age of six and was brought up by his uncle, Dr Edwin Beale. Bell Davies enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1901. In 1910, he took private flying lessons, and in 1913, he was accepted into the Royal Naval Air Service.
In the early days of World War One, he carried out a number of raids on German submarine bases and received the Distinguished Service Order for services rendered in the aerial attack on Dunkirk, 23rd January 1915.
On 19 November 1915, Bell Davies was flying a Nieuport Type 10 Scout during an air attack on Ferrijik, in Bulgaria, with his colleague Flight Sub Lieutenant Gilbert Smylie flying a Henry Farman. Smylie’s aircraft was shot down behind enemy lines. Without hesitation, Bell Davies put his aircraft down and managed to squeeze Smylie into his tiny single-seat aeroplane before returning safely to their own lines. For this selfless act of bravery, he was awarded the Victoria Cross by His Majesty King George V – only the second ever awarded to a naval airman.
His Victoria Cross citation included "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."
The Nieuport 10 he was flying was a single seat model which had had its front cockpit decked over. When Davies picked him up under rifle fire, Smylie wriggled past Davies and through his controls into the tiny roofed-over front compartment. Smylie was so thoroughly wedged among the controls that, upon landing, it took two hours to extricate him.
Bell Davies was Mentioned in Dispatches after the Gallipli Campaign and after the war was awarded the Air Force Cross in addition to the Croix de Guerre with Palm.
Post war, Richard Bell Davies held numerous appointments both ashore and afloat. He was promoted Rear Admiral in 1938 and from 1939 until his retirement from active service in 1941, was Rear Admiral, Naval Air Stations, flying his Flag ashore from RNAS Lee-on-the-Solent. He was appointed CB in 1939.
Subsequent to his retirement, Bell Davies embarked upon a second career as an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve. Again, he distinguished himself, serving as a Convoy Commodore and as commissioning captain of the escort carrier HMS Dasher and the trials carrier HMS Pretoria Castle. He retired finally in 1944 and died in Royal Naval Hospital Haslar in 1966.