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The Papers of Admiral Sir William Wellclose Davis

Reference Code: GBR/0014/WDVS

Scope and Contents

Includes: Davis's memoirs, recording his long naval career and the ships he served on; speeches and lectures, particularly relating to torpedoes; operational papers from the Second World War onwards; a large number of naval photographs, particularly from the 1950s and also a set of official Admiralty photographs of the D-Day landings; correspondence on naval subjects and history, including Davis's memories of Admiral of the Fleet 1st Lord Mountbatten of Burma.


  • Creation: 1919 - 1985


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

William Davis was born in Simla, Punjab, India, in October 1901, the elder son of Walter Stewart Davis, of the Indian political service. He was educated at Summer Fields School, Oxford, and then the Royal Naval College at Osborne, Isle of Wight, and Dartmouth College.

He first served as a midshipman on HMS Neptune (September 1917-February 1919), and was promoted at various stages of his career before being made Commander in 1935. He served in the Tactical Staff Division at the Admiralty, 1936-37, then became Fleet Torpedo Officer and Staff Officer, Plans, to the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, in 1938 before being appointed second in command and Executive Officer of HMS Hood in January 1939. He served on Hood until August 1940.

Promoted captain in December 1940, Davis returned to the Admiralty, first to the Planning Staff, then as Deputy Director of Operations Division Foreign in 1941, then from August of that year until March 1943 as Deputy Director of Plans. He was for a time seconded to the staff of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes, director of combined operations. From March 1943 to September 1944 he was given command of the cruiser HMS Mauritius, playing a role in the Allied landings in Sicily and Salerno, and also in the D-Day landings, before returning to the Admiralty.

After World War Two Davis was appointed Director of the Admiralty's Underwater Weapons Division and then he became Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet (1948–9). He was promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1950 and served as Naval Secretary to the Admiralty. From 1952 to 1954 he was flag officer, second in command, Mediterranean Fleet, when 1st Lord Mountbatten of Burma was commander-in-chief. He was appointed as Vice Chief of the Naval Staff in 1954 and (as a full Admiral) served as Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, and NATO Commander-in-Chief in the eastern Atlantic from 1958-60

He was appointed CB in 1952, KCB in 1956, and GCB in 1959.

He retired in 1960 and died in October 1987.


14 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid and a more detailed list for WDVS 1 is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, and the National Register of Archives, London.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The memoirs were presented to Churchill Archives Centre by Admiral Davis between 1976 and 1981, but the majority of Davis's papers were deposited here in 2020.


The initial collection level (fonds) description and summary catalogue were prepared by Andrew Riley of Churchill Archives Centre in June 2005, using information from Davis' entry in Who Was Who (A and C Black). Cataloguing of the rest of the archive was done by Katharine Thomson in 2022-23.


Davis, Sir William Wellclose, 1901-1987, Knight, Admiral


2005-06-29 14:34:58+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087