(Service number 24/1792)
|First Rank||Rifleman||Last Rank||Lance Corporal|
|Date||24 December 1895||Place of Birth||Timaru|
|Date||18 October 1915||Age||19 years 9 months|
|Address at Enlistment||Salisbury, Timaru|
|Previous Military Experience||8th Mounted Rifles (Canterbury) – still serving|
|Next of Kin||William. RICHARDS Senr (father), Salisbury, Timaru|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 9 inches. Weight 154 lbs. Chest measurement 34½-37 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight & hearing both good. Colour vision correct. Limbs & chest well formed. Full & perfect movement of all joints. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth – upper partly …?, lower fair. No illnesses. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. No fits. No congenital peculiarities or previous disease.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Rifle Brigade|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||3rd Reinforcements, 2nd Battalion, F Company|
|Date||8 January 1916|
|Transport||Tahiti or Warrimoo|
|Embarked From||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With|
|Campaigns||Egyptian; Egyptian Expeditionary Force; Western European|
|Military Awards||Military Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
For Act of Gallantry in the Field. 15 September 1918
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||6 June 1919||Reason||On termination of period of engagement.|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
28 May 1916 shell wound to left knee; 30 May admitted to No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital; 8 June embarked for England. 15 June 1916 admitted to 1st Scotland General Hospital (Aberdeen); 22 August 1916 transferred to Walton. 26 August transferred from Walton to NZ Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch. 23 November 1916 admitted to No. 3 NZ General Hospital at Codford – severe septic throat. 2 March 1917 left Codford for Sling Camp. 21 May 1917 admitted to Military Hospital Endell St London – pneumonia. 25 June 1917 transferred to NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst – pleurisy. 21 August 1917 transferred to Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch, leaving on 19 September on leave to report at Codford. 10 October 1918 admitted to hospital – sick, scabies.
|Date||26 October 1989||Age||93 years|
|Place of Death|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Cremated; ashes interred Waimate Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||Beam 34, Plot 3127A,|
|New Zealand Memorials|
William Richards was born on 24 December 1895 at Timaru, the youngest son of William and Mary (née Hazlitt) Richards. He was probably the third generation William Richards to live in the Beaconsfield-Salisbury district, and the first born in New Zealand, his father and grandfather hailing from Cornwall. Young William was educated at Kingsdown School and at Salisbury School where his father served on the school committee for several years in the early 1900s. He gained Proficiency in 1907, one of the 185 successful South Canterbury pupils out of 376 entrants, and left for Timaru High School just before his twelfth birthday. In September 1914, W. Richards, junior, contributed 5 shillings to the Home Relief Fund, per the Otipua List. W. Richards, possibly his father, offered a £1 bid towards the flag sale for the Red Cross Fund, which was held at a concert in the Otipua Hall in August 1915. W. Richards also contributed 2 shillings six pence towards leather waistcoats for the trenches.
William was only 19 years 10 months old when he enlisted on 18 October 1915, although he did give a birth date a year older. Single and Methodist, he was residing at home and farming with his father, whom he named as next-of-kin – William Richards, senior, Salisbury, Timaru. He was serving with the 8th Canterbury Mounted Rifles and had registered for compulsory military training at Timaru. He was 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 154 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 34½-37 inches. He had a fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all good, though his teeth were only fair; his limbs and chest well formed; and his heart and lungs normal. He was in good bodily and mental health, free of diseases and defects, and vaccinated. The Otipua Hall was packed with residents of Otipua and district to “do honour to five of their young men” who were about to leave for Trentham, one of them being W. Richards. Dancing and musical items filled the evening and at supper time the five soldiers were presented with wristlet watches and wished good luck and a safe and speedy return. “These young men will be greatly missed in so small a district.
Rifleman William Richards embarked with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade of the 3rd Reinforcements on 8 January 1916 on board the “Tahiti”, destined for Suez, Egypt, where he disembarked on 8 February. On 10 March at Alexandria he was posted to the Canterbury Infantry Regiment; on 7 April he was on his way to France, and on 8 April he was appointed lance corporal. Suffering a shell wound to his left knee on 28 May 1916 at Armentieres, Richards was admitted to the No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital on 30 May before embarking for England on SS Cambria on 8 June. He was admitted to the 1st Scotland General Hospital at Aberdeen on 15 June and it was 22 August when he was transferred to Walton and from there to the New Zealand Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch. On 23 November 1916, William Richards was re-admitted to hospital – to No. 3 New Zealand General Hospital at Codford, suffering from a severe septic throat. He was attached to Strength on 28 November and early in the following March he marched out to Sling Camp. Before long, he was admitted to hospital – on 21 May 1917 to the Military Hospital, Endell St London, ill with pneumonia, but reported as a not severe case; on 25 June 1917 he was transferred to NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst, with pleurisy, and on 21 August 1917 transferred to the Convalescent Depot at Hornchurch, leaving on 19 September on leave to report at Codford. It was January 1918 when he marched into Sling from Codford and on 14 February 1918 when he proceeded overseas to France.
There in France he made his mark. On 23 March 1918 he was transferred to the Entrenching Battalion for two weeks before joining the Canterbury Infantry Regiment. William Richards, 24/1792, was awarded the Military Medal on 15 September 1918 for an Act of Gallantry in the Field. Notification was cabled on 4 October. But admitted to hospital on 10 October, sick and with scabies, he was transferred to duty only after twelve days had elapsed. On 8 January 1919, Richards went to the UK on leave and was detained there on 24 January. He had taken part in the last great battle. After the Armistice he marched into Germany, and entered Cologne. After three weeks there his draft was sent back to England and demobilised.
Lance-corporal W. Richards (M.M.), 24/1792, of Timaru, returned to New Zealand per the “Kia Ora”, embarking at Liverpool in March 1919, the draft being due at Lyttelton on 7 May 1919. He was in the contingent of South Canterbury soldiers who came from Christchurch by a special train and were welcomed home on 9 May 1919. A great crowd gathered at the station and cheered loudly when they arrived. The soldiers expressed their appreciation to the ladies who gave them fruit and cigarettes. The Mayor congratulated the soldiers on their heroic achievements abroad, thanked them on behalf of the whole community and expressed the hope that they would soon regain their health, before calling for three hearty cheers for them. Mr Craigie, M.P., said that all were proud of what they had done in the struggle for liberty and freedom, and expressed the hope that “they would have many happy years in this prosperous land”.
“A very pleasant evening was spent in the Salisbury schoolroom last Wednesday to welcome home Private W. Richards, M.M., and present him with a gold medal as a slight mark of appreciation of his services for his country.” [Timaru Herald, 20 May 1919]. The chairman of the Social Committee, congratulated him on his safe return and thanked him for his services. The medal was pinned on, to the accompaniment of musical honours and cheers. Great pleasure was expressed in seeing Private Richards home again, looking so fit and bringing honour to his family and country. William thanked all for their kind sentiments and handsome present, “modestly disclaiming the idea that he had done any more than his comrades”. There were more cheers, followed by supper, dancing, music and songs. Richards was discharged on 6 June 1919, on the termination of his term of engagement, having given three years and 232 days of service, all but 110 days overseas in Egypt and France. He resumed farming, now at Hook, Makikihi.
A ceremony was held in the Timaru Drill Shed on the evening of 25 November 1919 to present medals won at the war to the successful soldiers or next-of-kin. After a ceremonial parade of the local military group, the Mayor welcomed the large crowd, Colonel R. Young, military dignitaries and Captain Chaplain Jacob. “His Worship also took the opportunity of congratulating the officers and men present that evening who were to receive decorations. It was unfortunate, however, that some of their gallant boys were not there that evening – they were numbered amongst the unreturning brave. Their next-of-kin, however, would receive their decorations, and he was sure it would be a source of deep gratification to them to possess such tangible marks of the King’s appreciation of their services as those decorations symbolised. (Applause.)” The medals were presented by Colonel R. Young, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., N.Z. S.C., Officer Commanding the Canterbury district. “The friends and relations of those men who were to receive decorations that evening had every reason to be proud that those men had been selected as most worthy of those honours,” said Colonel Young. As the next-of-kin or the soldier concerned came for the medal, the gazette notice of each award was read, and each was heartily applauded. The list of the honours presented included 24/1792 Private Richards, W., M.M.
Post war William was very active with the Hook Miniature Rifle Club, and frequently among the leading scorers. In 1925 he finished in fourth place of the highest scorers off the rifle in the club’s shoot. The following year he gained the second highest score for Hook in a friendly match fired between Waimate and Hook, and the highest score in a match between Studholme and Hook. At that time he won the club’s gold button. In August 1927 he won the challenge button after a shoot off. And in September 1928 he was in the prize money at the Miniature Rifles championship held at Waimate. He was awarded the Club trophy for runner-up and two other trophies at the Hook Miniature Rifle Club’s annual ball and presentation of trophies held in November 1927. The following years he was elcted honorary secretary of the club. William may have been a football player. W. Richards and J. Richards (brother John or James?) played for the “Single” team against the “Married” in a match at St Andrews Domain in September 1922, when a collection was taken up on behalf of a widow and her family. W. Richards was picked for an ex-players team for a football match against present players in August 1927 at St Andrews. The secretaries (Miss McDowell and Mr W. Richards) led the grand march at the dance arranged by the Hook bachelors and spinsters in early august 1924. It was considered one of the most successful dances ever held in the district. William also joined in other local activities, receiving one of the men’s prizes at the St Andrews School Committee’s weekly euchre party in July 1927. He was a bridegroom’s attendant at a wedding at Waimate’s Knox Church in August 1928; and on 16 August 1928 he was present at the benedicts’ ball in the Hook Soldiers’ Memorial Hall.
William Richards also saw service in World War II (312236), with Home Defence with the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry. This time his mother, Mary Richards (care of Mr E. J. Cook, Gammack Street, Temuka), was his next-of-kin. William was still single and farming at Hook. He was discharged on 29 June 1943 and granted the War Medal, 1939-45, and the N.Z. War Service Medal.
William never married and continued to farm at Hook until he retired to Waimate, where he died on 26 October 1989, aged 93 years. His grave stone in Waimate Cemetery where his ashes are interred reads: “In loving memory of William Richards M.M. 24/1792 1st N.Z.E.F. 1895-1989”. William’s brother, Thomas Henry Richards, was listed on the Reserve Roll and was called up for service. His father, who had given 10 shillings to the Prisoners of War Fund in 1918, died in 1933 and his mother died in 1944; they were buried in the Timaru Cemetery.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [21 June 2020]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5922 0097556) [27 June 2020]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [21 June 2020]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [21 June 2020]; Waimate Cemetery headstone image & burial record (Waimate District Council) [21 June 2020]; Timaru Herald, 24 April 1901, 20 December 1907, 21 September 1914, 11 August 1915, 20 September 1915, 5 October 1915, 9 December 1916, 11 & 16 August 1918, 9 November 1918, 20 May 1919, 26 November 1919, 28 September 1922, 11 August 1924, 21 September 1925, 1, 16 & 27 July 1926, 3 & 24 September 1926, 1 & 25 October 1926, 5, 18 & 26 May 1927, 6 June 1927, 7 & 15 July 1927, 4, 12, 14, 19, 23 & 24 August 1927, 22 September 1927, 8 November 1927, 19 April 1928, 18 & 31 May 1928, 7 & 15 June 1928, July, August & September 1928, New Zealand Times, 7 December 1916, 2 June 1917, 26 April 1919, Dominion, 4 November 1918 (Papers Past) [21 & 27 June 2020]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [23 June 2020]
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG
Currently Assigned to
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
Tell us more
Do you have information that could be added to this story? Or related images that you are happy to share? Submit them here!