DAVIES,  Rupert Lisburn Gwynne [1916  - 1976]

Whilst I have been aware for many years that actor Rupert Davies was born in Liverpool until recently I was unable to add any more details of his origins. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no biography, and on-line sites provide little more than an account of his acting career. In the end I was forced by curiosity to take the drastic step of actually paying for a copy of his birth certificate to reveal a little of his early life.

He was born, Rupert Lisburn Gwynne, on 22nd May 1916 to father Howard Davies and mother Louie Lloyd (née Thomas). Both his parents were born in Wales, in about 1883, he in Llannon, a small village in Carmarthenshire, she in Cardigan. Howard’s father, Evan Henry, was a Congregationalist Minister. In the 1901 census Howard was shown as a schoolteacher, but by 1911 he had married, moved to Liverpool and entered the banking profession as a clerk. It seems that the Davies’ family homes in Liverpool were above the banks in which he worked. In 1911 he was living at 145 Walton Road L4. This is now the Thomas Frost Wetherspoon’s pub but was then the London and Provincial Bank. (The bank was acquired by Barclays in 1918). By the time of Rupert’s birth some five years later Howard Davies had progressed to becoming a bank manager, moving to Bank House, 189 Walton Road L4, the address on his son’s birth certificate. The building still stands and (last checked) is the premises of the ‘Rug Shop’.

I have no information on Davies’ schooldays but aged 16 he was ‘sent off’ to a training ship with a view to a Merchant Navy career. His parents were by this time living in London. He spent some years at sea sailing “seven times to Australia” (quoted from Desert Island Discs – see below) before switching to the Royal Navy just before the outbreak of war. His motivation for joining the RN was to fly and he trained as an observer with the Fleet Air Arm, initially serving on the aircraft-carrier HMS Glorious in the Indian Ocean. Back in the UK he was  deployed on mine-laying in Fairey Swordfishes flying from a base in Lincolnshire. In 1940 his pilot flew the plane into the sea and he spent many hours in a dinghy before being picked up by the Germans. The rest of his war was spent as a POW, mostly in Stalag Luft III, famous for two escape plans which were the basis of films, The Wooden Horse and The Great Escape. He was involved in preparatory work for 'The Great Escape' but said that it was only after the war that he realised what was going on with fellow prisoners vaulting all over the place.  Davies  tried to escape several times, each unsuccessful. One positive outcome of his incarceration was involvement in the camp’s theatrical endeavours. This gave him the taste for an actor’s life which he vigorously pursued after the war.

His first appearance on BBC TV was in 1946 and he acted in repertory for many years. He came to national prominence in the early 1960’s having secured the role of Inspector Maigret in BBC’s drama series based on the works of Georges Simenon which was to run to 53 episodes between 1960-63. His other TV work included many of the top drama shows of the day including The Champions, Flying Doctor, Armchair Theatre and Man In A Suitcase. He played Count Rostov in BBC’s prestigious adaptation of War and Peace and memorably provided the voice of Professor Ian ‘Mac’ McClaine in Joe 90.  He appeared in over 30 films including a star vampire-killing priest in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave [1968] and blockbusters such as Waterloo [1970] and Zeppelin [1971].  

Rupert Davies died aged 60 on 22nd November 1976 in London. He, and later his wife Jessica, were buried in a small churchyard at Pistyll on the Llŷn Penninsula where they had had a holiday home. (There is a delightful short video of the churchyard showing their grave available on YouTube).

189 Walton Road L4

In 1916 this was the London & Provincial Bank, the Davies family home at the time of Rupert's birth.

The grave of Rupert Davies and his wife Jessica at Pistyll.


The IMDB entry gives a comprehensive list of his TV and film roles. There is a good clip of Davies' appearance in 1961 on Desert Island Discs in 1961 on YouTube.