Military Monday – Percival Richardson. Royal Engineers Part I

Military Monday – Percival Richardson. Royal Engineers Part II

I’ve recently added my 2xGreat Uncle Percival Richardson to Lives of the First World War.

I’ve already posted a few posts about Percy, but hadn’t got round to adding his details to the site. Luckily Percy’s service records are extant unlike many others so I have been able to find out much more about his time as a sapper with the Royal Engineers.

Percy enlisted in Nottingham on the 9th January 1915 and was assigned to the Royal Engineers. During his initial training at Hallfield Camp in Chatham, Kent he was AWOL twice, once for three days and then for five days. He was fined and confined to barracks for both offences.

On the 11th September 1915 he landed in France with 97 Field Company, which made up part of the 21st Division. There isn’t anything else noted on his record until the 6th February 1916, but it is possible to follow his route.

Once the Division had gathered, they endured lengthy forced marches to Loos, for ‘The Big Push’ where they saw action on the 26th September, losing around 3,800 men. Further reading about the battle can be found here.

The next entry in Percy’s service record finds him in a military hospital back home in Newark, suffering from an inguinal hernia and septic sore throat. He remained in Newark from the 21st of February to the 26th of June 1916. During this time he overstayed his leave three times, again resulting in fines and confinement to barracks. On the 24th of June ‘when on active service disobeying in such manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority, a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office.’  That found him confined to barracks for fourteen days.

In July 1916 Percy rejoined his Unit where, fortunately for him, he had missed the Battle of Albert (part of the Somme offensive) and the Battle of Bazentine Ridge.

Between July 1916 and the next entry in Percy’s records in June 1917 he would have been involved in various battles in the Somme area. Firstly the Battle of Flers-Courcelette which saw the first use of tanks on the battlefield, Morval 25th to 28th September, and Le Transloy 1st to the 18th October 1916.


Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 21st September 1916.

Link to Part II
Link to Part III
Link to Part IV

Picture Credit:

As it’s Remembrance Sunday today, I thought I’d post about the Richardson’s experience of World War One. Four of the five Richardson brothers, the sons of Robert Richardson, were in the forces during the war.

Harold, the elder brother, born in 1881,was already in the Army by the time of the 1911 Census.  He can be seen serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers & based at Census time at Hillsborough Barracks in Sheffield.  By the outbreak of war, he was an acting sergeant with the Fusiliers, No. 8434.

Harold was killed on the second day of the Somme, the 3rd July 1916.  He has no known grave, but his name is on the Thiepval Memorial.  His medal card shows he was awarded the Victory and British medals and also the 1915 Star for service in France & Flanders in 1915.

Robert Frederick (known as Fred), born in 1884, didn’t as far as I can find, join the forces, but put his mechanical skills to good use on the first bombers at Hendon Airfield.

I have done some research on William, the third brother, born in 1885.  I have yet to check these facts, but it appears he joined the Lincolnshire Regiment, Private No. 6359.  He disembarked on the 21st September 1914 and was killed on the 17th October near Lille in Belgium during a bayonet charge. He is mentioned on Le Touret memorial.  His medal card also shows the Victory & British medals as well as the 1914 Star and Clasp, awarded for coming under fire in France & Flanders between the 5th August 1914 and the 22nd November 1914.  William left a wife, Florrie and two small daughters, Florence & Edna.

Ernest, my great-great grandfather, born in 1887, enlisted in the Royal
Engineers No. 311905 and was seconded to the Inland Waterways Division, due to his trade of stonemasonry. I’ve been unable yet to find out much about what he did, but the lack of a medal card suggests that he served in the UK.

The youngest son, Percival, also served with the Royal Engineers, he was a sapper, No. 633466.  He also won the Victory & British medals and the 1915 Star for service in France & Flanders between the 23rd November and the 31st December 1915.  His qualifying date was the 11th September 1915 in Western France.

So this family lost two out of five sons in the war, it’s unimaginable today, so wear your Poppy!

Robert Richardson 1855–1934

Robert Richardson 1855-1934

My great-great grandfather, Robert Richardson was born in 1855 in Staithes, North Yorkshire.  The youngest of four illegitimate children of Hannah Richardson; his father was possibly John Harrison, an ostler, with whom Hannah as lived as a housekeeper between c1846 and 1857.

Staithes 2005

Hannah died on the 10th February 1857 in Staithes; she had been suffering from tuberculosis for eight years, an illness probably exacerbated by living in a coastal fishing port.  Staithes is a great place for a visit, full of quaint cottages tumbling down a steep hill towards the sea, but at time of Hannah’s death it was much less picturesque. Staithes late 19th C
Robert & his elder brother John were admitted to the workhouse in Guisborough on July 8th 1858, charged to the parish of Liverton.  In August they were taken out by their father, but unfortunately, are back in the workhouse in October 1858 this time with their elder sister Mary. They are described in the workhouse admissions register as ‘very dirty’.  Mary is removed by her father in the November & both boys are removed the following June, but are readmitted in July.

In the 1861 Census returns, Robert and John, aged nine and five respectively,  are still workhouse inmates and are now described as orphans.  Mary is living with her grandfather, John Richardson, in Liverton.  Unfortunately, the workhouse records for 1859 to 1866 are missing, so it’s impossible to discover what happened to them during these years, but by 1871 Robert is apprenticed to Thomas Armstrong, a joiner on Westgate in Guisborough.

Sarah Percival 1857-1897

Robert Richardson married Sarah Farnsworth (nee Percival) the widow of Frederick Farnsworth, in Harpurhay, Manchester in May 1880.   
The family story is that Robert worked his way down the country, finally settling in Nottingham, and by 1881 he and Sarah were living in Radford, Nottingham with their newborn son, Harold.  Also staying with them are John Richardson’s wife, Dorothy, and their two daughters, Mary and Ethel.
Robert and Sarah were still in Radford in the 1891 Census with their five sons; Harold, Robert F, William, Ernest and Percival.   Sadly, Sarah died in August 1897 also of tuberculosis.  Robert remarried the following year, to Emily Bell, described by my grandfather (Pop) as, “a simple soul.”  They had a son, Edward, known as Ted in 1906.
Three of Robert’s six sons Harold, Robert F and Percival followed him into the joinery trade.  William became a bricklayer and Ernest a stonemason.  Robert had his own joinery business throughout his years in Nottingham; he had business premises in Hyson Green and traded as “Richardson & Son” between 1912 and 1922.
The son he was in business with was possibly either Robert F or Percival.  His eldest son Harold was serving in the Northumberland Fusiliers by 1911.
I am still researching, but I believe Harold and William were both killed in action during World War One; Harold at the Somme on 3rd July 1917, and William at Herlies on 17th October 1914.
 Robert Richardson died aged 79 in 1934. 
I think he did good for a “workhouse kid.”  Despite his shaky start he was literate, had a trade and ran his own business; looking very smart and well-to-do, if the photo is anything to go by.   I wish I had asked my Pop about Robert, I would love to know more about him; was he strict, did he have an accent, did he talk about his childhood, his siblings, his apprenticeship,  etc etc.  So ASK your relatives while you still can!