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Joseph Richardson

Joseph RichardsonSaddler Joseph Richardson, 240666, Royal Artillery (Royal Horse Artillery & Royal Field Artillery), 102nd Division.

Joseph Richardson’s photograph was one of several discovered in Ossett Library’s WW1 archive. His photograph was the only evidence of his service in WW1 although it was known that he survived the conflict. Sufficient information has now emerged to enable his WW1 biography to be written.

Joseph Richardson was born in Ossett on 11th June 1896 and was baptised at Ossett Green Congregational Church on 12th July 1896. Joseph was the eldest child of Joe Richardson, then a mill hand of Storrs Hill, and Clara (nee Radley) of Townend, who married at the same church on 29th June 1895. In 1901 Joe and Clara were living with their son, Joseph, and daughter, Mary, born 1900, on Horbury Road, Ossett. Joe was an overlooker in a woollen mill. By 1911 Joe and Clara, now with a second son Harold, born 1902, were living at 22 South Terrace, Horbury Road, Ossett. Joseph was 14 years of age and working in a cloth mill as a piecener. Sadly the couple had also lost a child, George Herbert, who was born in summer 1901 but died, aged 1, the following summer.

Joseph Richardson, aged 19 years and 5 months and was living at the same South Terrace address and working as a woollen fettler when he volunteered for army service on 15th November 1915. He was allotted to the Royal Field Artillery with service number 140664 and posted to Army Reserve. After a period of training, including at Woolwich, he was mobilised on 25th April 1916 and posted the following day.

On the 1st August 1916 he joined the Royal Artillery 11th Reserve Battery and was appointed, at the rank of, Saddler. Unusual though it may sound, The Royal Artillery had several ranks that more fully described its "other ranks" such as Privates. For example, the rank of Gunner and Driver were very common, but the rank of Saddler less so. Nonetheless, this is what Joseph Richardson was, and he served at this rank for the remainder of his service overseas in France (1916/17) and in Italy (1917/18). He was demobilised in late 1919 and, as was the practice, transferred to Class Z reserve at Woolwich on 5th December 1919.

Saddler Joseph Richardson, 5’ 7¾” tall, was marked medically A1, fit for service, and he embarked from Southampton for Le Havre, France on the 5th November 1916. He was almost immediately hospitalised for a short period on the 7th November 1916, the record revealing only that he was "sick". It was November and he had sailed to France and this may have contributed to his sickness. During his subsequent service in France he was again admitted to hospital on the 23rd March 1917 with a septic wound to his head caused by a kick from a mule. The Army record makes clear that the wound was of a moderate nature, occurred whilst on duty and that Joseph was not to blame. Shortly afterwards he moved to Italy on the 23rd November 1917 where he served until 29th April 1919 leaving the country on only one occasion when he was given leave to Blighty on the 22 March 1918 returning to his unit in Italy on the 6th April 1918.

Sayer's Saddlers, Ossett Green 1910

Above: The Green, Ossett in 1910, showing a one time saddler’s shop outside of which stand a number of children and adults. This shop was only a very short distance from the South Terrace home of Joseph Richardson. Was this an influence in the life of a young man who was employed as a mill worker, a piecener, shortly before the War? Joseph was 14 years old when this photograph was taken. Perhaps he is among the crowd of youngsters?

Even though the War had been over for almost 6 months, Joseph remained in the army and he embarked from Taranto, Italy for Alexandria, Egypt on the 29th April 1919 arriving there on the 6th May 1919. He served in Egypt until the 23 October 1919 when he embarked for home aboard the former passenger Liverpool - New York steamship, "Teutonic", which, in 1914, had become a merchant cruiser and latterly a convoy escort and troop transport ship. Joseph Richardson arrived home at 22 South Terrace, Horbury Road, Ossett shortly after on the 5th November 1919, almost 12 months following the signing of the Armistice.

Joseph’s Royal Artillery (Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery) Battery was part of the 102nd Brigade, which was originally comprised of A, B, C and D Batteries RFA and the Brigade Ammunition Column. It was placed under command of the 23rd Division. The batteries were all armed with four 18-pounder field guns. The brigade then remained with the division throughout the war.

The 23rd Division was established in September 1914 as part of Army Order 388 authorising Kitchener’s Third New Army, K3. The units of the Division began to assemble at Bullswater (68th Brigade) and Frensham (69th and 70th Brigades and RE) in Hampshire in September 1914. The King, Queen and Princess Mary visited the fledgling Division on the 29 September. The artillery formed at Mytchett Camp from November onwards.

In early December 1914, as the weather worsened, the Division moved into Aldershot, with 102 (CII) and 103 (CIII) Brigades of the artillery going to Ewshott. More moves were made to Shorncliffe in Kent at the end of February 1915 and to Bordon in Hampshire at the end of May. In April and May 1915, some of the infantry was engaged on building defences to the south of London. Between the 21st and 26th August 1915, the Division landed in Boulogne and proceeded to the concentrate near Tilques. Joseph Richardson's Royal Artillery unit joined up with the 102nd Division in the 23rd Division about a year later in early November 1916. The 102nd Division RFA saw action in the several Battles of the Somme, but Joseph was not with them at that time.

Joseph will, however, have seen heavy action at the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium in 1917 between the 31st July and the 6th November 1917. The Third Battle of Ypres comprised intense action at Messines, Menin Road, Polygon Wood and at 1st and 2nd Passchendaele. The last of these actions concluded on the 12th October 1917, by which time the troops who had battled manfully since July were exhausted as German reserves released from the Eastern Front were poured into the ridge. To aid in their defence, the Germans made full use of mustard gas (as opposed to chlorine gas in The Second Battle of Ypres), which resulted in chemical burns.

Unwilling to concede the failure of the breakthrough, Douglas Haig pressed on with a further three assaults on the ridge in late October. The eventual capture of Passchendaele village by British and Canadian forces on the 6th November finally gave Haig an excuse to call off the offensive claiming success. The Third Battle of Ypres was, like its predecessors, a costly exercise. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) incurred some 310,000 casualties, with a similar, lower, number of German casualties: 260,000. The salient had been re-widened by several kilometres.

The 23rd Division had served on the Western Front from August 1915 until late November 1917 when, not surprisingly, it was moved to Italy. Joseph will have been involved in fighting on the Asiago Plateau on the 15th and 16th June 1918, and later in October and early November at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, including the passage of the Piave on 26th - 28th October and the Monicano on the 29th October 1918.

On the 2nd November the Division came out onto XIV Corps Reserve and when the Armistice took effect in Italy at 3pm on the 4 November, units were halted midway between the Rivers Livenza and Meduna, east of Sacile. The Divisional units moved to a billeting area west of Treviso on the 11 November. Demobilisation took place largely in January and February 1919. By March the Division had been reduced to cadre strength. It was at this time that, it is assumed, Joseph chose to remain in the army and the record shows that he remained in Italy and was posted to D/102 Brigade (possibly Depot) in February/March of 1919 just as many of his colleagues headed for home and demobilisation.

During the war the Division lost 23574 men killed, wounded and missing. Saddler Joseph Richardson, 140666, was finally demobilised at Ripon Dispersal Centre on the 7th November 1919 and was subsequently awarded the British and Victory medals for his service overseas in a theatre of war during WW1.

Sources:

1. Ossett Library.

2. Long, Long Trail - The British Army in The Great War 1914-1918

3. Joseph Richardson, WW1 Army Service and Medal Award records.