Richard lived all his life in the Marple area until he joined the army, probably as a conscript in 1917 when he became 18. He was born in Marple Bridge, the son of Henry and Charity and was the youngest of their five children recorded on the 1901 Census. At the time, the family was living at Hollins Lane, Ludworth, later moving to 5 Matthew Street, Marple.
When Richard first went overseas, it was as a member of the Manchester Regiment (service number 59750) but he was soon transferred to the North Staffordshires. On 9 April 1918, the Germans launched the second phase of their spring offensive in what would become known to the British as the Battle of the Lys. As with the first phase in March, the attack was delivered with overwhelming strength and the Tommies were quickly pushed into making a fighting retreat. It was a desperate time.
The advances continued over the coming days and British battalion after British battalion was thrown into the defences. On the 14th, Richard and his comrades marched from Reninghelst in Belgium to Locre and then at 12.30am on the 15th moved to near the French town of Bailleul where they relieved another Battalion.
At 2pm, the Staffordshires’ positions came under a heavy artillery barrage and the German infantry then attacked in force. The first wave was driven off by determined counter attack by two platoons led by Captain Paxton. The bombardment increased still further and then a more widespread attack was made along the whole sector forcing the Battalion into withdrawing. Colonel Porter immediately reorganised the men and a counterattack retook the position in spite of heavy shell and machine gun fire.
The Germans managed to break through the British line to left of the Staffordshires and then started to work their way behind them. There was now no alternative but to again withdraw. A line was taken up on the nearby railway embankment but this soon came under heavy machine gun fire from the flanks causing very heavy casualties and the remainder of the Battalion again withdrew. A new position at La Bourse Farm was taken up where, again, casualties were suffered from machine gun fire.
When the roll was taken, the Battalion had suffered 383 casualties – dead, wounded or missing. Only 13 men were known at that time to have died. 115 were wounded. But 255 men were still missing and unaccounted for, including Richard. Some these would report in later. Many others were taken prisoner. But, in due course, it was realised that 39 of them had also been killed.
Further information about Richard, including a photograph, can be found in the book “Remembered” by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.