Photographs and additional information courtesy of Margaret.
Born: 19th September 1885, Maidstone, Kent.
Died: 24th May 1916; age 30; KiA at about 08:30hrs, by a shell landing on the Mess during breakfast, at Souchez, France.
Residence: 1, Ainslie Road, Ipswich.
Occupation: a Carpenter & Cabinet Maker.
Enlisted in the volunteer force 1903, at Ipswich. On the outbreak of war joined the Royal Field Artillery – 1914.
Date of Entry Therein: 17th March 1915 – France.
Rank: Wheeler Sergeant; Service Number: 1077
Regiment: Royal Field Artillery, 6th London Brigade, ‘C’ Battery, 236th Brigade.
Medals Awarded: Victory, British War & 1915 Star.
Originally buried in Carency with two other sergeants killed on the same day – Cecil William Thompson and William Henry Hyrons. In 1923, the three were exhumed and re-interred. Although all the bodies were re-interred together, the three men all have separate headstones.
Pas de Calais,
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Joseph Alfred & Kate Richards, of Maidstone, Kent; Husband of Ellen Kate Richards, of 1, Ainslie Road, Ipswich.
Alfred’s original cross at Carency
Alfred (seated) with his parents Joseph & Kate, brother Walter & sister Rosa.
Family Note: Alfred’s parents were very good to my Granny after Alfred’s demise and my mother loved her Granny dearly. (Except when she darned her pants with very rough thread!)
1891 45, Union Street, Maidstone, Kent.
Alfred was 7 years old and living with his parents, siblings and maternal aunts & uncles.
Joseph Alfred Richards, 34, a Lithographic Printer, born London.
Kate Richards (nee Powell), 33, born Tottenham, Middlesex.
Walter Alfred Richards, 10, born Maidstone.
Rosa Kate Richards, 8, born Maidstone.
Frank Powell, 21, a Labourer, born Maidstone.
Eleanor Powell, 16, born Maidstone.
Alice Powell, 14, born Maidstone.
Archie Powell, 19, a Sugar Boiler, born Maidstone.
1901 Durban Villas, Gwendolen Road, Leicester, Leicestershire.
Alfred was 17 years old, a Carpenter. He was living with his parents & siblings.
Joseph, 44, a Litho Printer Foreman.
Walter, 20, a Litho Printer machine Minder.
Rosa, 19, a Shop Assistant – Draper.
Alfred as a young man.
1911 84, Berners Street, Ipswich.
Alfred was 27 years old, a Carpenter – Builder. He was living with his parents & brother.
Joseph, 54, a Litho Printer.
1 general domestic servant.
Alfred attended Holy Trinity School, Maidstone.
On the 28th September 1911, at St. Matthew’s Church, Ipswich. Alfred married Ellen Kate Fisher, born 1882, Ipswich.
They had 1 daughter:
Margaret Joan Richards, born November 1912, Ipswich.
A family note:
Here is the picture of my Granny, Mrs Ellen Kate Richards, (nee Fisher,) and my mother, (Margaret Joan,) aged about three and a half we think. The ‘helicopter’ bow was obviously all the rage at the time!
Once Alfred went off to the war, my granny moved back from London with my mother and went to live with her widowed father who lived at
I Ainslie Road, Ipswich, on the corner with Bulwer Road.
Probate to Ellen Kate Richards – widow.
Soldiers’ Effects to Ellen Kate Richards – widow.
Alfred is also remembered on the war memorial at St. Matthew’s Church.
Alfred is second from the left – photograph taken in England, before Alfred went to France in March 1915
Alfred with his brother Walter, (seated). Walter survived the war but was so traumatised he never said a word about it.
Alfred’s fellow sergeants, of ‘C’ Battery, 236th Brigade, killed on the same day and laid to rest together were both living in Brixton when they enlisted on the 27th March 1911, at Holland Road, in the town.
William Henry Hyrons, service number 821, born 1893, Camberwell, Surrey.
Cecil William Thompson, service number 815, born 1889, Shepherd’s Bush, Middlesex.
A forth sergeant of the ‘C’ Battery, 236th Brigade, Robert George Dubrey (born 1894, Brixton), service number 781 (later 956518) was severely injured by the large shell landing on the Mess tent on the 24th May. Robert’s right leg was amputated, and he was invalided home to England – first to the Reading War Hospital. Then from February 1917, Robert became a patient at the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Convalesent Hospital, at Roehampton, southwest London, established as a place of rehabilitation for service men who had lost limbs during the war. During the time Robert was admitted, the hospital was receiving new patients at a rate of 100 a week. On the 12th March 1917, Robert was discharged from the Army, and awarded the Silver War Badge on the 31st March 1917. In May 1917, he was discharged from the King George Hospital, at Stamford Street, London, into the care of his wife, Edith, at 6, Thornhall Road, Islington. Robert was eventually able to return to work as a Clerk at Ihlee & Sankey, of 38, Wilson Street, Finsbury Square, London – Paper Merchants, where he had been employed for 8 years before the outbreak of war.
Photograph taken in England, before Alfred went to France in March 1915. Family Note: He must have learned to ride with the TF – he would not have had those opportunities when young.
Transcript of original letters written in pencil
|Territorial Force 1st Line
|47th Division from pre-war.
VI London Brigade May 1916.
|Batteries from Brixton.
Major Percy James Clifton – with kind permission of the Governors of Dulwich College – https://www.dulwich.org.uk/senior-school
Letter dated 11th June 1916 from Major Percy Clifton
Dear Mrs Richards,
I suppose by now you have heard the bad news about your husband and I am writing to tell you the few details there are to tell and to ask you to accept the deepest sympathy of myself and the other officers in your great affliction.
The Battery was shelled from about half past seven to half past eight on the morning of the 24th May and was again shelled from 9 nine o’clock on. The sergeants had gone to breakfast in the interval when the first shell of the second lot burst on their mess, smashing in the roof on them. Sergeant Dubery, whom you may know as a friend of your husband’s, was the only one saved: he was wounded; we went in to see to the others at once but they had died instantly and clearly without any pain. They were buried in the military cemetery some way behind on the same night. The general and colonel were to have attended the funeral but, as things were still a little upset, they had to send officers both who had known the battery and known your husband and the others, and I, and those NCOs who could be spared, went to pay our last respects.
Your husband’s effects have been sent to the Base and should reach you promptly. The grave has had a cross put up with the names on and we are going to send over some flowers. A few letters have arrived since addressed to your husband. I propose to destroy these if you agree.
I can only tell you a little in this letter of how very great the loss has been to us and ask you to feel how deeply our sympathy goes out to you. It may be a consolation to you, as it was a relief to me , to know certainly that death was immediate and painless and we who saw them buried were able give evidence that their spirits went away without stain and blemish to another life.
Your husband was one of the very best in the battery who helped make it a good fighting unit as it is and I am proud to have had such men under my command. Whether it was mending a gun or building a battery position or any of the other manifold duties entrusted to him he worked keenly and energetically and always successfully. I do not know where his equal for his job could be found.
He was liked and admired by all the men and could be trusted to command them as well as do his own technical work. At the time I was short of officers and he had almost charge of the Battery when I was observing.
How can I do anything for you more than the sympathy which I hope you will accept as from a friend if so, let me know to C236 Battery 236 Brigade RFA BEF France.
One or two letters have come since, addressed to him and unless you object I propose to destroy them
Percy J Clifton, Major
NB I understand that my Granny received this letter, it arrived before any official announcement of the death of my grandfather had been sent to her from official sources. This was strictly not allowed.
Major Percy James Clifton was born in November 1888, at Dulwich, Surrey, the youngest son of William Clifton, a solicitor. Percy was educated at Dulwich College 1901 – 1904, before moving on to the University of London, as an external student, whilst working for his father. He qualified as a solicitor in 1910.
In 1909, as a reservist, Percy received his first commission in the 6th London Brigade, of the Royal Field Artillery. He was called up on the outbreak of the war, and went to France in March 1915. In 1916, Percy was promoted to Major. On the first day of 1917, Percy was awarded the D.S.O. On the 26th August 1918, at Fricourt, near Amiens, a German shell struck the bivouac that Percy and three other officers were resting under. He was taken to a Casualty Clearing Station, where he insisted that the other wounded men were treated first. Percy died from his wounds at 6pm that evening, and was laid to rest at Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France, he was 29 years old.
Letter from Sergeant Dubery (Robert George Dubery)
Reading War Hospital – 28th June 1916
Dear Mrs Richards,
Many thanks for your letter containing kind wishes for my speedy recovery.
Everything happened so suddenly that it is hard for me too, to realise what really has happened. I am afraid I can tell you very little more than Major Clifton did.
We had been firing hard for about 48 hours straight off and of course our rest had been broken a good deal during that time what with the firing and the replenishment of ammunition. I had been up all night and your husband was up very early attending to the ammunition when it came up. We had just about finished our work and had gone into the mess and had started breakfast. From there I have a very hazy notion of events, but a large shell must have come through our roof with disastrous results. I was unconscious for some little time and when I came too I found I could not move because I was pinned down by some part of the roof. My three companions must have been killed instantly. I have a faint recollection of being carried out and taken to hospital. I am more sorry than I can express in this letter. Your husband and I had been sharing a dug out and living together for quite a long time and a more cheerful, helpful or practical chum would be hard to find. He had worked hard on our gun position with the result that our Gun Pits were among the strongest in the whole of France. We were in action in front of a place called Carency and south of Ablain and Souchez. I have written (to) the Battery for full particulars of what happened and when I get the reply will write to you again. It is hard to put one’s thoughts on paper but I sympathise deeply with you all in your loss and in this I know I am joined by all who knew him.
I will write again when I hear from France.
Family Note: Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, taken on May 24th 2016, when I visited to lay flowers on the centenary of his death. It is a beautifully designed cemetery – the repeat planting works so well.