richardson-family-plot-kirklevington-cemeteryLocated in a quiet corner of the picturesque St Martin's Churchyard at Kirklevington in Cleveland is the Richardson family plot. The plot contains a number of memorials, including that of Arthur Douglas Richardson, fourth son of the late Sir Thomas and Lady Anna Constance Richardson, of Kirklevington Grange. The memorial simply reads: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God'. There is nothing here to suggest a military connection, but further investigation reveals that Arthur Douglas Richardson was a 2nd Lieutenant serving with the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment at the time of his death in January 1915 aged 28 years. He died at home after contracting enteric fever and pneumonia during training, and what follows is a brief account of his short-lived career and life.

Born on 1 August 1886, Arthur Douglas Richardson was one of nine siblings. Thomas (IV) was the eldest, followed by Alice Constance, John Stanley, Ernest Benbow, (Arthur Douglas), Leonard Faber, Rowland Charles, Evelyn Gladys, and Raymond de Dibon. It was a privileged upbringing by any standard. After attending Rossall School in Lancashire, where he served with distinction in the Cadet Corps, Richardson went on to take the Army Entrance Exam at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich before accepting a place at London University to study Engineering in 1905. He graduated in 1908 to complete a further three-year apprenticeship at Messrs Richardsons Westgarth and Co, the family firm specialising in marine engineering in and around the port cities of Hartlepool, Sunderland, and Middlesbrough in the north east of England. When war broke out in August 1914, Arthur Douglas Richardson was a qualified Electrical and Mechanical Engineer with three years practical and managerial experience. On 3 September 1914, aged 28 years and 1 month, he enlisted in the 19th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, which was recruiting at Westminster.

Surviving records held in The National Archives (TNA) at Kew show that Richardson had joined the army with the rank of Private. He was issued the number 3568 and sent to Epsom to begin his training with ‘A' Company of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. His service papers prove revealing in other ways and offer some insight into the real person and man. Standing at 5 feet 9.5 inches, and weighing just over 11 stone, Richardson is described as having a ‘ruddy' complexion, and with a chest measuring almost 40 inches when fully expanded; his development was clearly enhanced by a good diet and nutrition. His background and education also ensured that he was not to stay in the ranks for long, and six days after enlisting Richardson was recommended for a Temporary Commission. Stating a preference for the West Yorkshire Regiment, Richardson was subsequently interviewed and passed fit for military service at York, and discharged to commission two months later. He had served a total of 57 days with the Royal Fusiliers, and he joined the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment at Wareham in Dorset as a Temporary Second Lieutenant on 29 October 1914.

Unfortunately, the war diaries for this period do not exist. However, it is possible to piece together Richardson's brief time with the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment through the use of local newspapers and other surviving documents, including the period when the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment was in training at Wareham. One of the narratives which features strongly throughout this period is that of the weather. The material comforts of those who served is another, and one of the most pressing and immediate problems in the first few months of training was how to accommodate almost a thousand-strong battalion who had been literally left out to dry. Many of the men were still awaiting the completion of their huts months later, and with more units arriving daily the demand for more rigid accommodation was becoming increasingly apparent as the winter months were rapidly approaching. It was not uncommon to find groups of soldiers gathering bundles of gorse which they then threw around their tents in an attempt to prevent their ‘homes' being swamped when raining. This gorse would absorb the moisture from the marshland on which they were tented. As one soldier remarked on returning from a short leave in York: ‘I was glad to be back on dry land for a few days.' The officers fared somewhat better and were often billeted with local families or housed with officers of other units.

Rank may well have had its privileges but it was not without responsibility. As a junior officer it was expected that 2nd Lieutenant Richardson would lead by example. Strength and endurance were also sought, not only in terms of stamina, but also as a measure of character, and with the day starting at 6.00 am there was much to test the men in the rigorous schedule that was set. The march to ‘Woodbury Hill' is but one example: ‘They left about half-past eight and returned to camp about two...through Poole-road to Lytchett Minster, turning to the left at Baker's Arms to Woodbury Hill, and thence from Bere Regis back to Wareham.' The battalion was also taken out to the moors three nights a week for mock attacks on the ‘enemy', or the defence works which had been recently built just north of the town by the Royal Engineers. However, most of their time was spent at rifle practice, bayonet practice, parade, and physical drill. The weather appeared equally monotonous and as the privations of army life continued, it became increasingly apparent that training was beginning to take its toll on many.

It was under these conditions that 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Douglas Richardson succumbed to pneumonia, and after a short stay at the nearby hospital on the bleak Worget Road, Richardson was sent home to recover at Kirklevington Grange. It was at this time that he decided to marry. The banns were published over the following three weeks in preparation. Unfortunately, Richardson's condition deteriorated and he died on 12 January 1915. What was meant to be a happy and joyous occasion had now turned to one of sorrow, and with the brothers away at war, it was left to sister Alice Constance to arrange the funeral. The responsibilities must have weighed heavily. Richardson had also contracted enteric fever (typhoid) while in training. This was a highly infectious disease, and rather than risk the spread of further contagion, alternative measures were sought to minimize any threat to the local population. It is believed that a lead-lined coffin was used, and that Alice Constance had to deal with this too. It was a remarkable achievement, and despite her grief, Alice Constance had ensured that all the necessary arrangements had been made to give her brother a most fitting funeral. The burial of 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Douglas Richardson took place two days later on 14 January 1915. The service was conducted by the Reverend AD Waldy of Yarm, in the same church where Richardson was due to have been married.

Sadly, the story does not end here. Some five family members died serving in uniform between 1912 and 1919. Leonard Faber (RN) was killed when Submarine A3 collided with a French Frigate in the River Solent during trials in 1912, and in an ironic twist of fate, Captain John Stanley and 2nd Lieutenant Ernest Benbow Richardson were both killed exactly a year apart to the day. The two brothers lost their lives in October 1914 and 1915 respectively. Both were serving with the Royal Engineers. Further tragedy also struck in 1919 when the youngest of the seven sons, Lieutenant Raymond de Dibon Richardson (RN), died of 'spotted fever' (meningitis) while serving aboard HMS President. He was 21 years of age. The family was survived by Thomas, Rowland Charles, and Alice Constance; Evelyn Gladys having died of dropsy in 1912 aged 19 years. Arthur Douglas lies beside his younger brother Raymond in the family plot. Their mother rests nearby: Lady Anna Constance died in 1918.

2nd Lieutenant Arthur Douglas Richardson was one of thirty six officers to lose their lives serving with the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment during the Great War, and although not a battlefield casualty, his death serves as no less a reminder of the many who did die for King and Country.

Remembered with Pride.

 

Sources

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

Kirklevington Parish Magazine. January 1915

Kirklevington Parish Records. Register of Marriage Banns. PR/KRV/25/7 (Teesside Archive Department)

Kirklevington Research Group

Officers Died in the Great War (ODGW)

The Southern Times (Dorset) (November 1914 to January 1915)

TNA: WO 339/94 (Service Papers. 2nd Lt AD Richardson)

 

Contributed by: David Stowe and Kevin Galloway.

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