Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

Monday Monuments and Memorials – James C Richardson, VC, Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, France

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James Cleland Richardson was early to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, signing up at Valcartier in September 1914, aged 18. He fit the typical profile: a young man who had emigrated from the UK (in his case, Scotland) to Canada with his family. In his adopted home of Vancouver, he joined the Seaforth Cadets and distinguished himself as a piper.

In an August 1915 letter to his mother, Richardson wrote:

I haven’t heard of a piper playing in a charge yet and if the truth be known I don’t think there ever will be such an occurrence. Just picture a man standing full height playing the pipes, facing machine guns, rifles, bombs, shrapnel etc. How long would he last? The tighter you hug the ground in a charge the better for yourself and the worst for the enemy. This is not a war at all it is “scientific slaughter.” What chances have men against guns.

Piper Richardson met his end on 8 or 9 October 1916, in the long Battle of the Somme. Two years later, he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Richardson’s Victoria Cross was published in the London Gazette on 22 October 1918:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding Officer to play his company “over the top.”

As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralised the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.

Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners.

After proceeding about 200 yards Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly owing to lapse of time.

Remarkably, Richardson’s bagpipes were found and donated to Ardvreck Preparatory School in Scotland. They were identified as his and returned to Canada in 2006, where they are now on display in the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria.

A long-departed British monarch still lends her birthday to a holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer, and her name to the highest military honour awarded for valour in the face of the enemy. Victoria Day weekend – a good time to remember Richardson and other VCs.

Author: greatwar100reads

Canadian crusader for equality and justice. Connoisseur and creator of the written word. Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books and monuments. Read more at

One thought on “Monday Monuments and Memorials – James C Richardson, VC, Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, France

  1. Pingback: Monday Monuments and Memorials – Victoria Cross | Great War 100 Reads

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