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Military Monday - Percival Richardson. Royal Engineers Part I

I've recently added my 2x Great Uncle Percival Richardson to Lives of the First World War . I've already posted a few posts abo...

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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A few more people from Great-Aunt Joy's photo albums. I'd be very grateful for any information on the people in these photos as I am only able to identify a few of them myself.

Eric ? East Africa 1943
Frank ? Cairo 1942
George ? 1943

George ? and Frank ? Cyprus 1944

Leslie ? Nov. 1940
Mr. Grice. Royal Observer Corps

Freda ? 1948
Maidie J Bucknall & Pam ? 1942

Mr. Rench's wedding. St. Swithun's Church, Bournemouth. 19th July 1939

I believe this is the wedding of Basil A. Rench (born 30th November 1913) and Patricia E. Slade. I found Basil in the 1939 Register on Find My Past. On that particular night (29th September) he was on duty with the Poole AFS (Auxiliary Fire Service) on Bournemouth Road. His usual occupation was an estate agent. I've been unable to find Patricia on the register.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Places in Great-Aunt Joy's photo albums, dating from around 1938-1943.

Castle Mill, Linby, Nottinghamshire c1940

Milton Abbey & Durley Chine, Dorset  1938

Round the Isle of Wight
Ryde, Cowes, Southsea c1938

Portland Ships c1938

Monday, 15 August 2016

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

Following Armistice in November 1918, Uncle Percy continued with his Unit. I haven't been able to find much detail of this period but they were working in camps at Longpre, Oissy and Dreuil les Amiens.

At the end of April 97th Field Company returned to England via Havre and Percy was given fourteen days leave. Following this he rejoined his unit and was promoted to Acting Corporal and then to Acting Sergeant.

On the 27th October 1919 Percy was transfered to the 14 SAT Company RE and then to the 219 Field Company RE Rhine Army on the 28th November. So Uncle Percy was part of the British Army of the Rhine - set up to occupy the Rhineland as part of the Armistice deal.

Royal Engineers manning a searchlight on the Rhine 1919

The British were based in and around Cologne and remained there until 1929. Percy wasn't there for that long though; in January 1920 he was discovered to have a hernia and was demobbed back to the family home at 605 Berridge Road, Nottingham on the 3rd January 1920.

Percival Richardson 1889 - 27 August 1965

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Another handful of photos from Great Aunt Joy's albums. These date from around 1938-1939.

Baby Joy & Chummy

Derek (aged 6) & Margaret (aged 4)

Bubbles at Lulworth Cove 1939
Two Joys at Lulworth
Little Moira Holland aged 2

Margaret & Mrs Tatham
Monday, 4 July 2016

Some time ago I heard about a project to research and preserve the WW1 Roll of Honour at St Stephen's church in Hyson Green, Nottingham. As my Great-great Uncle Harold Richardson is mentioned on it I contacted the church and was invited to the first meeting.

St Stephen's Bobbers Mill Road

I was able to provide some information about Harold and was keen to return a few weeks later to the final presentaion of the project. It was lovely to see so many members of the community of different ages & backgrounds taking an interest in their local history.

Roll of Honour

Harold - top left-hand side

At the time the church was being built in 1901, Harold lived directly opposite at 29 Bobbers Mill Road. It's sad to think that fifteen years later he would be commemorated, along with many others from this area, on the church wall.

Picture Credit:
Sunday, 3 July 2016

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.

Hillsborough Barracks

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

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Part I
Part II
Part III

Following on from my last post I wanted to see if I could find out exactly what Uncle Percy had been doing when he was wounded on the 22nd of April 1918. His service record didn't help with this & neither did my attempts at tracking the movements of 97th Field Company RE using online resources.

The National Archives have now digitised their entire collection of WW1 war diaries and they are a mine of information, full of day-to-day activities. They are easily searchable by Unit and cost a mere £3.50 to download. I found the relevant diary quite easily and was able to track Percy's movements in more detail.

Following the retreat from Messines the Company were responsible for mining and destroying bridges over the Comines Canal to delay the German advance. The Diary of Thomas Fredrick Littler of the Royal Engineers notes this on the 12th April:

I saw a furious battle in the air this morning, 4 German planes engaging three British, 2 German planes and two British came down and fell in our lines, 1 German plane caught fire and fell in his own lines, the other one made his escape, and the remaining British plane hovered above and then made off. In the afternoon we had to go and re-mine a bridge crossing the Ypres Canal, placing 70 lbs of guncotton under it, and connected with both electric and instantaneous fuse, finished at midnight.

Strange to think that Uncle Percy would most likely also have witnessed this.

On the 16th of April 1918 the Company had marched to Ouderdom where they were joined by eighty-nine reinforcements. Over the next couple of days they were working on a line to G.H.Q. and at Brigade Head Quarters erecting shelters. The 18th of April saw them working on the defences in the area; erecting wire around Voormezeele along with breastwork* and knife rests** at the Brasserie (stores) dump in anticipation of a German offensive. A day later work also begins on machine gun emplacements in Voormezeele.

The Village of Voormezeele

On the 22nd, the day Percy was wounded, the Company had beguin work on the Voormezeele - Kruisstraat switch.*** The unit diary notes:

 22nd April 1918 Nos 1, 2 and 4 and 1st Lincs continued work. No3 and 12/B NF commenced work on VOORMEZEELE - KRUISSTRAATHOER switch.
Lt GG McLean, 1 sapper and 3 attached infantry (1st Lincs) wounded.

The wounded sapper mentioned is Uncle Percy, but it gives no detail as to how the men were wounded.  It is possible that the men were wounded by enemy snipers, known to be active at the time.

After Percy was taken to hospital in Boulogne, the Company continued working on defences such as breastworks across the roads, as the Germans began heavy shelling on the area. Voormezeele fell into German hands at the end of April and was retaken the following September.

No. 13 General Hospital Boulogne

So, back to Uncle Percy and what he did next....

*Breastworks were above ground trenches, like a defensive wall & usually used on boggy ground.
**Knife rests were wooden supports for barbed wire.
***A switch trench connected two trenches that ran parallel to the front line. They were used in areas where there was a risk of the enemy overcoming the main trench and exposing it to attack from the sides. The switch line would protect the flanks by becoming a front line trench.

Picture Credit:
Picture Credit: