Name: Private Thomas William Richards
1881 - 12th March 1915
Place of Birth: Luton
Division: 2nd Battalion
Regiment: 6684, Bedfordshire Regiment
Commemorated: Le Touret Memorial in Pas de Calais, France
Thomas Richards was born in 1881 in Luton, Bedfordshire. He was the son of Charles and Sarah Richards. Thomas had 5 sisters and 4 brothers and the family lived at 94 Albert Road, Luton (1881/1891 census), before moving to 147 Hitchin Rd, Luton sometime before the 1911 census was taken. On 4th October 1913 Thomas married Emma Worsley at St Matthews Church in Luton, the ceremony was conducted by the Rev. H Coate. Emma was employed as a domestic servant in Luton, but was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. In late 1914 Thomas and Emma were blessed with a son, who they called Stanley Charles Thomas Richards. The family lived at 178 Park Street, Luton.
Thomas enlisted for the army in Bedford and entered the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire regiment. The battalion formed part of the “Immortal” 7th division of the British Army. They were engaged in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. The war diary of the 2nd Battalion gives details of this battle:
10 Mar 1915 [The Battle of Neuve Chapelle] - near Neuve-Chapelle 2.30 A.M., Marched off for position of assembly. 5 A.M., reached position of assembly and got into trenches, about Square .21.b.N.E., During the operations the Bn. was in Bde. Reserve on the right and in rear of the 2nd Bn. Rl.Scots Fusiliers. 10.30 A.M., Left the position of assembly and advanced to second position lining road in M.28.d. Companies came under shellfire and there were some casualties. Remained in this position till 4.20 P.M. 4.30 P.M., Advanced through old British & German trenches in support of 2/R.S.F., on right flank. Subjected to shell and rifle fire. The Bn. reached a position about M.36.a.N.W. and M.29.d.S.E. and entrenched during the night. Lieut.H.O.D.WILKINS led a strong patrol to the high trees about road junction near M.36.a.N.W. and was severely wounded. 1 man was killed. It was reported that the enemy were not very strong but this was not confirmed. Line held by 2nd Battn Bedf. R. as handed over to 7th Rgt. Canadian Div: 2 March 1915. Lieut.W.B.Carslake [William Bampfield CARSLAKE] and Lieut.R.S.St.G.Mayne [Robert Sedborough St. George MAYNE], wounded, Other Ranks, 7 killed 41 wounded, 9 missing.
11 Mar 1915 The Battalion remained in this position all day. Some casualties occurred from high explosive shrapnel from S. also rifle fire from E., S. & W. No.9390 Pte A Hearne [Arthur HEARN] did very good work carrying messages back to Bde. H.Q., on several occasions. He was at last wounded near Bn. H.Q. trench, he had to pass through belts of shrapnel fire also heavy rifle fire. The Northamptons attempted to assault the houses to their front but were met with a very heavy rifle & machine gun fire & had to desist. It was this that kept the Bn. held to the ground. Lieut.F.G.C.Ashmead-Bartlett [Francis George Coningsby ASHMEAD-BARTLETT] wounded, 6 O.Ranks killed, 23 wounded, 2 missing.
12 Mar 1915 During the night 11/12, C & D Coys. dug trenches at right angles to the original ones i.e. facing S., D Coy. closed up. The salient opposite the high trees was occupied by a Company of the R.S.F., who had been brought from the right on the line being readjusted. The salient was rushed by the Germans early in the morning of 12th March. The morning till about noon was decidedly misty. 7 A.M. Major W.H.Denne [William Henry DENNE, DSO] prepared to make a counter attack on the captured trench with part of A.Coy. Major Denne [William Henry DENNE, DSO] was severely wounded. Captain C.B.Cumberlege [Cleland Bulstrode CUMBERLEDGE] & Captain J.H.G.Baird [James Hozier Gardiner BAIRD, MC] commenced a counter attack but the whole party was killed or wounded. Captain Baird [James Hozier Gardiner BAIRD, MC] and 4 men reached the trench one man was killed and the other 3 wounded*. Report of this operation was received at Bn. H.Q., at 7.35 A.M. At about the same time it was noticed that the R.S.F., were suffering severely from our own shellfire. The Adjt. was sent to report this to Bde. H.Q. The Brigadier directed that the trench should be re-taken. Captain C.C.Foss D.S.O. [Charles Calverley FOSS, VC, DSO], with 8 men of Bedfordshire Grenade Section advanced along A.Coy. trench, behind the Northampton Trench, followed by a Platoon of H Coy. to make good the trench and attacked the Germans. These, after one or two grenades had been thrown, held up their hands and were captured, 1 Officer & 48 Germans surrendered of whom 14 were wounded. A.Coy. was sent forward to consolidate the position won. Part of a Platoon of B.Coy. escorted the prisoners back. Names of Grenade Section: - No.9078 Pte W.EADE. No.6215 Pte S.Scrivener [wounded, then killed later] No.9822 Sgt W.Peggs No.7270 Pte P.Cogan [Killed later] No.6477 Pte W.Smith No.9878 Pte G.Freshwater No.5803 Pte J.Lovett No.9797 Pte H.Barnett No.16441 Pte F.Brown. Two machine guns were put in position in captured salient after dark. Casualties: - Major W.H.Denne [William Henry DENNE, DSO] wounded Captain C.B.Cumberlege [Cleland Bulstrode CUMBERLEDGE] wounded Captain J.H.G.Baird [James Hozier Gardiner BAIRD, MC] wounded Lieut.C.A.S.Morris [Charles Alan Smith MORRIS] wounded Other ranks: - 15 killed, 66 wounded, 5 missing.
* Further information shows that Pte Richards 6684 was one of these 4 men that originally made it into the enemy trenches: “At about 7.00am Major Denne (Bedfords’ second in command) was organizing a counter attack to regain the lost trench when he was wounded and had to be removed from the line completely, dying as a result some two years later. Captains Cumberledge and Baird took charge and led A Company in the attack, which was disastrous. Every last Officer and man was hit during the 150 yard charge, with many of them falling as they left the trenches and the regimental history remarks that those who made it into no man's land lay in a straight line where they fell as a German machine gun took them in enfilade. Only a handful of Bedfords actually made it into the German trenches, being Captain Baird (wounded), Sgt 9238 Woods (wounded), Pte 7072 Wareham (wounded), Pte 9446 Coxall (wounded), Pte 9957 Day (killed), Pte 8006 Hodson (wounded), Pte 6684 Richards (killed)”.
By the time of Remembrance Sunday 2014, the name T. Richards had not been fully researched, so the Arlesey Remembers You project placed a cross on the Arlesey War Memorial in grateful thanks for the sacrifice this man had made for his country. We now know Private Thomas Richards is remembered with honour at the Le Touret Memorial in Pas de Calais, France after dying in battle on 12th March 1915. The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who died in this region of the Western Front from October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in September 1915, and who have no grave.
Sadly, only 2 weeks after Thomas’ death, the Luton Times & Advertiser reports the death, at the age of 6 months, of his baby son, Stanley. At the moment it is unclear what the link is with Pte Richards and Arlesey, other than a small piece in the local paper reporting the deaths of three Arlesey soldiers at Neuve Chapelle: Pte Bert Breached, Pte Tom Richards and Pte James Brown.