Captain MERVYN STRONGE RICHARDSON ( MJ on memorial )
Mentioned in Despatches
1st Bn., Royal Welsh Fusiliers
who died age 21
on 19 March 1916
Youngest son of Capt. Arthur Percy Richardson and Ethel Mary Richardson, of Purton House, Purton, Wiltshire. Captain of the Boats, Radley College, Leander Club. Previously wounded April, 1915.
Remembered with honour
POINT 110 NEW MILITARY CEMETERY, FRICOURT
Second Lieutenant Mervyn Stronge Richardson has a personal file at PRO which can be read by the researcher. The number is WO 339 22618. His birth certificate states that he was born 21 June 1894 at Killynether Castle, Newtownard, Co Down. His father was an ‘Irish gentleman’ with eight years service as a Militia Captain in 5 Royal Irish Rifles. A great-grandfather was a Major in the Buffs who fought in the Peninsular War at Albuhera and the Nivelle. Richardson was educated at Bilton Grange, Rugby and at Radley College where he was an efficient member of the OTC. A Master’s reference on his file describes him as having an excellent character and distinctly above average in trustworthiness and leadership. He was a Prefect and was made Captain of Boats and rowed at 6 in the successful VIII of 1912. He attended the RMC and was commissioned 15 August 1914, just after the outbreak of war. This young officer was a very early arrival with the unit, reaching them on 25 September 1914 and replacing Lieutenant Lloyd as OC IV Platoon in A Company. He contributed posthumously [by quotations from his correspondence] to TWTIK and RRRWF. Mervyn Richardson was soon in the thick of it. Promoted Lieutenant 31 October 1914, his letters home from the trenches complained of ‘feeling fearfully tired, being in the most awful state of filth, no wash for ten days and no other officer within 250 yards’. Nevertheless, he endured and did his duty, surviving to provide a most interesting account of the Christmas Truce near Armentières with A Company [the letter was filed by the War Office with the Battalion WD]. ‘The situation was so absurd, that another officer of ours’ [Captain Stockwell, his martinet of a company commander] ‘and myself went out and met seven of their [German] officers’. Private Frank Richards wrote of him that he was ‘popular with all of us and we were sorry to lose him from 2RWF’ when he was wounded on 10 April 1915. Richardson was admitted on 13 April to 3 General Hospital Tréport with a gunshot wound in the back. His subsequent service is not completely recorded, but he appears to have been wounded by an enemy grenade in September, was briefly hospitalised and embarked from England 30 September 1915 to go [or return] to 1RWF and arrived with them 7 October. He became OC A Company [Temporary Captain 7 October 1915] of that battalion, earning the admiration of Robert Graves who wrote ‘best company I ever served with’. The unit was on the Somme well before the offensive of that year and he was officially mortally wounded by a gunshot wound to the chest on 19 March 1916, although Robert Graves has it as heart failure following being blown by a shell into a shell hole full of water. Stockwell, by now his battalion commander, wrote to Richardson senior ‘I do not think he suffered though the shell gave him a number of superficial wounds. He died of shock …..’. Stockwell also went beyond the conventional sympathetic phrases ‘He was a splendid soldier and my most able and trusted company Commander. Always cheerful, sound, and hard working, an excellent disciplinarian and a real leader of men’. The telegram notifying his death did not specify any battalion and his father, clinging to hope, asked for clarification, which confirmed the dreadful news. The battalion Padre, Milner-White, wrote of his funeral ‘All the officers were present, and many men. The moon came out in the middle, and shone on the grey steel helmets of the group, and made the Union Jack that lay on the body gleam ……’ The burial was in fact a triple one, and included Second Lieutenants David Thomas and David Pritchard. Sassoon and Graves were both there: Sassoon wrote ‘Robert Graves, beside me, with his white whimsical face twisted and grieving’ [SD]. On 7 April 1916, Captain [Retired] Arthur Percy Richardson of Purton House, Purton, Wiltshire wrote to ask for his son’s effects. He added that his son had been recommended for an honour by GOC 7 Division and indeed the London Gazette of 15 May 1916 mentioned Mervyn in Despatches for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field, quoting a despatch by Haig dated 30 April 1916. Mervyn Stronge Richardson died a bachelor, intestate, and left £306..11..3. He was buried near Maple Redoubt at Point 110 New Military Cemetery and his headstone makes reference to his Captaincy of the Boats: ‘I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. Leander’. His photograph, in uniform, was printed in ‘The Great War’, one of the popular periodicals which covered the progress of the conflict. His mother Ethel wrote Twenty One Years, and Remembrance Wakes as a form of memorial to him.