Piper James Richardson

 “Wull I gie them wund [Will I give them wind]?” 

PiperIt’s not uncommon for histories of the First World War to focus on the big picture and skim over individual stories. Often, though, these individual stories can mean more to someone than retellings of statistics and comparisons of battles. Local archives hold hundreds of records that can connect us with the individuals behind all the numbers.

Some pieces in the collection serve to connect researchers with the stories of local heroes, such as that of Piper James Richardson, VC. His birth certificate and a December 1915 letter home are housed in the archives.

On 8 October 1916, Richard was detailed for duty in the Quartermaster’s stores, but upon learning that his company was to attack Regina Trench (a German trench on the Somme battlefield), he earnestly pleaded with his commanding officer to take part in the attack. During the attack, Richardson waited for an order from Major George David Lynch to begin playing the pipes, but the order never came: Lynch had been killed in the advance.

Richardson asked Company Sergeant Major William D. Mackie if he should play his pipes, “Wull I gie them wund [Will I give them wind]?” Mackie answered in the affirmative and Richardson began to patrol the front line playing his pipes, inspiring his company to the attack.

Mackie gathered some men together, fought through the wire, and entered Regina Trench. Richardson joined in the trench fighting, running along the parapet bombing the trenches and attending the wounded. He escorted two prisoners to the rear, bringing with him a severely wounded Sergeant Major MacKay. He realized he’d left his pipes in Regina Trench once he reached safety and went back to get them. He never returned.

For his actions, Piper James Richardson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

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Source: Canadian History Magazine: http://canadashistory.ca/Community/In-the-Archives/Articles/Piper-James-Richardson

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