1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

John "Jack" E. Richardson

Contributed by: Paul Holloway, on 2008-11-05

John "Jack" E. Richardson
First Name John "Jack" E.
Surname Richardson
Year of Birth 1893
Year of Death 1915
Regiment Royal Fusiliers
Place of Wartime Residence Forest Gate, Greater London

John "Jack" E.'s Story

In 1913 John 'Jack' Richardson was the 20 year-old son of the headmaster of Shaftesbury Road Elementary School in Forest Gate, East London. Jack was a lover of the countryside, a talented artist and a linguistics scholar; he adored Beowulf, and quoted Robert Louis Stevenson and Omar Khayyam. May Larby, 18 (my grandmother), was the daughter of a local police constable; she was a sharp-minded mathematician with a great thirst for all knowledge, cultural as well as abstract. After a chance meeting on an underground train these two brilliant young people began a doomed love affair. Jack was one of the many millions of young men who were soon to die, victims of the insane slaughter of the First World War. Before his death Jack wrote letters to May from his training camp, from his French billets and ultimately from the trenches. Many letters are mundane, but reveal the slow development of Jack and May's relationship, and include fascinating historical details of everyday life at that time. Some later letters are beautifully descriptive of Jack's surroundings, as you might expect from a linguistics scholar, others are painfully poignant when read with the hindsight that Jack did not survive the war to live into old age with his lover as they hoped and expected:

"There are no flowers here..."

"And the streets here are ghostly enough at night. There are no civilians allowed out of their houses after 8 o'clock and no lights are allowed either in the streets or windows. Everything is closed down. You go down old-fashioned cobbled streets, and tonight they were white in the moonlight, with only a sentry here and there with fixed bayonet and sometimes a transport limber passing. Here and there is a house with great holes in the walls or roof, where a German shell has landed; and the Town Hall clock looks down on you with half its face blown away. It is, at night, absolutely a town of the dead - a city of dreadful night and the guns boom all the time."

Other memories

Love from all the family we will remember you., Bristol 2008-11-14

In Loving Memory of Brothers James

Complain about this post

bbc.co.uk navigation


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.