Sunday 3rd July 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the death of my Great-Great Uncle Harold Richardson.
Born in Nottingham in 1881, Harold was the eldest son of Robert Richardson & his wife Sarah (nee Percival). He had joined the army prior to the war, in 1911 he was serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers and based at the Hillsborough Barracks in Sheffield. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was an acting sergeant with the Fusiliers, number 8434.
Most of the following information was kindly supplied by Mel Siddons following a Trent to Trenches event in Nottingham.
The 12th (Service) Battalion The Northumberland Fusiliers was formed at Newcastle in September 1914 as part Kitchener’s Third New Army and joined 62th Brigade, 21st Division. The Division concentrated in the Tring area, training at Halton Park before winter necessitated a move into local billets in Tring, Aylesbury, Leighton Buzzard, High Wycombe and Maidenhead. The artillery was at High Wycombe and Berkhamsted, RE at Chesham, and ASC at Dunstable.
In May 1915 the infantry moved to huts at Halton Park, whilst the artillery moved to Aston Clinton with one brigade staying at Berkhamsted and the RE to Wendover. On the 9th of August they moved to Witley Camp. They proceeded to France during the first week of September and marched across France their first experience of action being in the British assault at Loos on 26th September 1915, suffering heavy casualties, around 3,800, just a few days after arriving in France.
In 1916 they were in action in the Battles of The Somme, including The Battle of Morval in which the Division captured Geudecourt. On the 1st July 1916 the 12th Battalion were fighting in Shelter Wood.
At dawn on the 2nd of July our troops advanced to the storm of Fricourt Wood, the Contalmaison Road, Shelter Wood, and as much of the bootshaped plateau as they could take. As they advanced, the massed machine guns in all the trenches and strongholds opened upon them. They got across the field of this fire into Fricourt Wood to an indescribable day which will never be known about nor imagined. They climbed over fallen trees and were caught in branches, and were shot when caught. It took them all day to clear that jungle; but they did clear it, and by dark they were almost out at the northern end, where Railway Alley lay in front of them on the roll of the hill. Further to the north, on the top of the leg of the boot, our men stormed the Shelter Wood and fought in that 200 yards of copse for four bloody and awful hours, with bomb and bayonet, body to body, till the wood was heaped with corpses, but in our hands.*
It is most likely that Harold died in the fighting in Shelter Wood, either in action or later, of his wounds. His body has never been recovered and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
* ‘The Battle of the Somme’ by John Masefield
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