Roland Oxford Davies was born in Stourport, Worcestershire, on 22 July 1910, and studied at Ipswich School of Art. He worked for a lithographic printing firm designing cinema posters, drew cartoons and illustrations for Motor Cycle and Autocar magazines, and started illustrating for boys' story papers like Chums, Modern Boy and The Champion, specialising in fast-moving motorised transport.
In 1932 he created the weekly strip Come on Steve, about a cartoon carthorse, in the Sunday Express, which ran until 1941 when it transferred to the Sunday Dispatch, where it continued until 1949. Steve also featured in a series of twelve colour picture books, two annuals, and a series of six animated films. He also drew several strips for the Daily Express "Children's Own" supplement, including "Larry Leopard" (1933-34), "Percy the Policeman", and a weekly sports strip. He also drew a strip called Bessie in the News Chronicle Sunday magazine.
He worked for DC Thomson, drawing two strips in the opening lineup of The Beano in 1938: "Contrary Mary the Moke" and "Whoopee Hank, the Slapdash Sheriff". He also drew "Boney the Brave, he Lives in a Cave" for the same title in 1939, and "Tough Nellie Duff" in The Magic Beano Book for 1941. In The Magic Comic he drew "Bandy Legs" in 1940. He also worked for their rivals the Amalgamated Press, drawing "Gummy" and "Charlie Chasem" for Knock-Out. During the Second World War he worked as a political cartoonist for the Sunday Dispatch, designed propaganda posters, and illustrated picture books. After the war he took over drawing Teddy Tail in the Daily Mail.
In 1949, following the end of Come on Steve, he returned to the Amalgamated Press, drawing "Old Phibber", a tall-tale-teller in the Wild West, for Knock-Out, and "Sparks and Flash", a strip about a cartoon racing car, for Sun. He was well-enough known that Sun announced the arrival of "the famous cartoonist Roland Davies" on the front cover. Editor Leonard Matthews persuaded him to branch out from humour into adventure strips, and he drew "Sexton Blake" from 1949 to 1952 in serials featuring fast-moving cars, trains, motorbikes, motorboats and fighter planes. He also drew "Ambush", an adaptation of the Robert Taylor western film. He had the rare privilege of being allowed to sign his strips.
From 1950 to 1959 he drew "Jill Crusoe" for School Friend. In 1952 he moved to Polystyle's TV Comic, where he drew "Norman and Henry Bones", "Jack and His Baby Jet", "Snowfire", "Dixon of Dock Green" and "Red Ray, Space Ranger". He also worked for Swift, where he drew "Wyatt Earp" as well as humour strips "The Topple Twins" and "Roddy the Road Scout". He drew three strips for the 1956 Riders of the Range annual, and also drew for Roy Rogers Adventures, a one-off annual-style hardback, in 1957. In 1962 he drew "What's Cooking?" for Girl, and began a strip for young children called Pedro in Woman's Realm. He also worked for Robin and Princess.
In 1971 he was reunited with Leonard Matthews on Disneyland, where he drew "Peter Pan", "Winnie the Pooh" and "The Jungle Book" strips. He also worked for The Victor in the early 70s. His last known comic strip work was a two panel Come On Steve strip to promote Denis Gifford's Comics 101 event in 1976. He continued to paint landscapes until his death on 10 December 1993.
- Alan Clarke, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, pp. 48-49
- Norman Wright and David Ashford, Masters of Fun and Thrills: The British Comic Artists Vol 1, Norman Wright (pub.), 2008, pp. 23-36
- Steve Holland, Roland Davies, Bear Alley, 10 December 2006
- Gordon Howsden, Lesser known art of Roland Davies, Bear Alley, 14 April 2009