b. 25/11/1895 Bellshill, Scotland. d. 8/9/10/1916 Regina Trench, The Somme
James Cleland Richardson (1895-1916) was born on 25th November 1895 at the Police Station, Bellshill, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. His father, David Richardson, was apprenticed at the hardware firm of W&R Moffat for six years. He joined the Lanarkshire Police in 1886. He was a Sergeant by 1901, and rose to the rank of Police Inspector and Fire Chief for the Rutherglen District. He married James’ mother, Mary Dall nee Prosser, a mill worker, on 14th August 1891 in Peebles. The family emigrated to Canada in 1913 and lived in Chilliwack, British Columbia, where David was appointed Chief of Police until retiring from the Force in 1920. James had seven siblings, all born in Scotland before the emigrating to Canada.
James was educated at Bellshill Academy in Glasgow, Auchinwraith Public School at Blantyre and John Street School, Bridgeton, Glasgow. He was also a member of the Boy Scouts in Rutherglen. He learned to play the bagpipes and won several prizes.
He worked as an apprentice electrician in a False Creek factory at Vancouver, British Columbia. While working there in 1914 the alarm was raised about a boy drowing in the creek. He ran to the spot, dived under the water and brought up the boy, but was too late to save him. He served for 6 months in the Cadet Corps of 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders), joining the pipe band.
At the outbreak of the war he volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was taken on strength on 23rd September 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec. He was assigned to 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), as a piper. The Battalion sailed for Britain on 3rd October 1914, went to France on 9th February 1915 and was involved in stemming the German offensive at St Julien, Belgium in April. On 22nd April, the Battalion advanced through Kitcheners Wood in a night counterattack. After moving forward 30 yards, a party of 50 men started to dig in, but James continued and reached a farmhouse, around which a group of Germans were sheltering from the heavy fire. He was spotted by a German officer who waved his men forward. James shot him and ran back. He was able to tell the Sergeant Major that the farmhouse was occupied and the artillery was used.
During the Battle of the Ancre Heights on October 8th, 1916 at Regina Trench, Somme, France, the company was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire. Piper Richardson, who had obtained permission to play the company 'over the top' strode up and down outside the wire playing his pipes, which so inspired the company that the wire was rushed and the position captured. Later the piper was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and some prisoners, but after proceeding some distance he insisted on turning back to recover his pipes which he had left behind. He was never seen again.
His body was not recovered until found by a farmer in 1920. He was buried in Adanac Military Cemetery, near Albert, The Somme. The recommendation for the VC was made by Major Cyrus Peck (later a VC himself), but in a letter to James’ father in January 1917 he believed it had not gone through due to a technicality. James’ VC was not gazetted until late in 1918. The reason for the delay is unknown.
In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. As he never married, the VC was presented to his father by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Sir Francis Stillman Barnard, at the Ritz Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia on 3rd April 1919. It is held in the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: ADANAC MILITARY CEMETERY, MIRAUMONT, FRANCE.
James Cleland Richardson's medals including VC on the Canadian War Museum website.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT III, ROW F, GRAVE 36
His bagpipes at the British Columbia Legislature
Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada
Bellshill (courtesy of Lainey McDougall)