RICHARDSON, William James 
(Service number 4/1539)

First Rank Sapper Last Rank Lance Corporal


Date 24 April 1886 Place of Birth Green Island, Dunedin

Enlistment Information

Date 9 October 1915 Age 30 years
Address at Enlistment Waiuta, Greymouth
Occupation Dredgeman; carrier. Miner (Conciliation Coy)
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Married. Five children.
Next of Kin Mrs Caroline RICHARDSON (mother), care of D. RICHARDSON, Queen's Hotel, Timaru
Religion Presbyterian
Medical Information Height 5 feet 9 inches. Weight 161 lbs. Chest measurement 36-38 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes brown. Hair fair. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing good. Colour vision normal. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth - artificial upper plate. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No illnesses, slight defects or fits. 'Fit for Field Service.'

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Tunnelling Company
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Headquarters
Date 18 December 1915
Transport Ruapehu
Embarked From Auckland Destination Plymouth, England
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Engineers, Tunnelling Company

Military Awards

Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal.
Military Awards Military Medal (MM)

Award Circumstances and Date

For bravery in the field. London Gazette Supplement. 27 October 1916, p 10489

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

25 September 1916 admitted to Coy. Hospital in France. 8 February 1917 seriously wounded in action and evacuated to the 37th Field Ambulance, where he died of his wounds.

Post-war Occupations


Date 9 February 1917 Age 30 yrs
Place of Death In 37th Field Ambulance, in the Field, France.
Cause Died of wounds
Memorial or Cemetery Habarcq Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas-de-Calais, France
Memorial Reference VIII. A. 9.
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William James Richardson was born on 24 April 1884 at Green Island near Dunedin, the son of David and Caroline (née Borthwick) Richardson, who had come to New Zealand from Scotland in the mid 1870s. He started his schooling at Green Island, before the family moved south in 1893. William married Margaret McDonald on 27 July 1907 at Alexandra, Central Otago. By 1910 the young family was living in Timaru. William and Margaret were to have five children - David Alexander Richardson, born 19 January 1908 at Alexandra; John Richardson, born 14 September 1910 at Timaru; William Thomas Richardson, born 7 June 1912 at Timaru; Leonard James Richardson, born 2 August 1913 at Timaru; and Margaret Mary Richardson, born 23 August 1914 at Timaru. These children attended Sacred Heart School in Timaru, and Margaret for a year at Timaru Main.

William worked as a dredgeman at Alexandra. When he enlisted on 9 October 1915, he was a miner working for a company at Waiuta, Greymouth, where he had probably gone for work. He named as his next-of-kin his mother – Mrs C. Richardson, C/o D. Richardson, Queens Hotel, Timaru. D. Richardson was his brother David who lived in Timaru for some years until his death in 1921. Their father David died in 1900. William’s wife, Mrs M. Richardson, of 140 North Street, Timaru, was also nominated.

Sapper William James Richardson embarked on the “Ruapehu” from Auckland on 18 December 1915, attached to Headquarters of the Tunnelling Company (as fitting his occupation) and destined for Plymouth, England. He was a well-built man, standing at 5 feet 9 inches and weighing 161 pounds, “Fit for Field Force”. On 1 June 1916 he was appointed lance-corporal and on 13 June assigned to carry out Police and Security duties. After just three weeks he was on his way to France.

After being admitted to the Company Hospital in France on 25 September he was able to rejoin his unit on 5 October 1916. On 27 October 1916 in France, 4/1539 Lance Corporal W. J. Richardson, of the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Corps, was awarded the Military Medal “for acts of gallantry in the field”. (London Gazette, 27 October 1916) All too soon after - on 8 February 1917 - William was seriously wounded. He was evacuated and admitted to 37th Field Ambulance. The name of William James Richardson appeared in Casualty List No. 516 – he had died of his wounds on 9 February 1917, in the ambulance in the field. He was buried in Habarcq Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas-de-Calais, France, one of just two New Zealanders buried here before the cemetery extension was closed in March 1917.

On 29 October 1915 his wife, Margaret, applied for the shilling per day separation allowance granted to the wives of members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Less than 16 months later she would need all the assistance she could get, a widow with five young children. A Military Medal is splendid recognition of gallantry, but nothing replaces a husband and father, a son and brother. William inserted his eldest son's name - Master D. Richardson, of 140 North Street, Timaru, into a short form of will, dated 29 August 1916, but there are no other details and no signature or witness thereof. His medals, including the Military Medal, British War Medal and Victory Medal, plaque and scroll were sent to his widow at 140 North Street, Timaru. In January 1917, when notification of the awarding of the Military Medal to William was received, his mother and eldest sister were living in Riccarton. Widow Margaret Richardson died in 1951 and is buried in the Timaru Cemetery.

David Alexander Richardson, the eldest son of William and Margaret, also saw service in World War Two.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 September 2013]; N Z Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5550 0097711) [29 August 2014]; CWGC [21 September 2013]; ancestry (family information) [27 October 2013]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [2013]; School Admission records (Dunedin Branch NZSG & South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [2013; 14 August 2017]; NZ Electoral Rolls (; New Zealand Herald, 8 January 1917, Evening Post, 10 January 1917, 19 February 1917, Press, 27 January 1917, Auckland Star, 17 February 1917, Evening Star, 17 February 1917, Timaru Herald, 19 February 1917, Temuka Leader, 20 February 1917 (Papers Past) [06 September 2014; 14 August 2017]; Timaru Cemetery records (Timaru District Council)

External Links

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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