21-year-old Private Alfred Richardson of Shirley, Solihull, was killed in action on 4th September 1917, serving with the 2nd/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Parents, George (a bricklayer’s labourer) and Elizabeth (née Stevens) had married at St Martin’s Church, Birmingham in 1877 and went on to have eight children, of whom three had died by 1911. Alfred was the fifth of the known six sons that the couple had – Robert (born 1881), Frank (1884-1965), Arthur (born 1886), Frederick (1890-1891) and George (born 1898). They are also known to have had a daughter – Mabel Elizabeth, who was born and died in 1879.
The family lived at Holly Cottage, Union Road, Shirley from at least 1891 until at least the 1920s. By 1911, 14-year-old Alfred was working as a florist and nursery assistant.
We don’t know when Alfred enlisted, but he doesn’t appear to have seen overseas service before 1916. His brother, Frank, who was a builder’s labourer previously employed by Mr C. Lane of Yardley, was working in London when war broke out. As a reservist, Frank was immediately called on, and went out to France on 12th August 1914 with the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. He fought in the historic retreat from Mons, on the Marne and the Aisne, and at Ypres, seeing many of his friends. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Cuinchy in February 1915, and was presented with it at Windsor Castle in September. This was the same action in which Lance-Corporal Michael O’Leary Irish Guards, was awarded the first Victoria Cross on the Western Front. Having won a competition in bomb-throwing during the time the Coldstream Guards were resting in the rear after their hard work at the Battle of Ypres, Private Richardson was assigned to the company of bomb-throwers, and at Cuinchy was charged with bombing the Germans out of a culvert in which they had taken refuge. When they emerged, Lance-Corporal O’Leary was one of the soldiers who shot and killed them. Frank had several narrow escapes, but survived the war.
His younger brother, Alfred, was less lucky, and was killed in action on 4th September 1917. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, as well as locally at Shirley.
If you have any further information, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977