the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy
that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
He was educated at Bellshill Academy, Auchinwraith Public School in Blantyre, and John Street School in Bridgeton, Glasgow. His family emigrated to Canada around 1911/12 when James would have been 16yrs old. Later he joined the Canadian Military forces in August 1914 at Vancouver BC serving in WW1 in Belgium & France.
He won his VC on 8-9 October 1916 when aged 20yrs at the Battle of the Ancre Heights, Somme, France
The following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.....
During the Battle of the Ancre Heights on 8 October 1916 at Regina Trench, Somme, France, the company was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire. Piper Richardson, who had obtained permission to play the company 'over the top' strode up and down outside the wire playing his pipes, which so inspired the company that the wire was rushed and the position captured. Later the piper was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and some prisoners, but after proceeding some distance he insisted on turning back to recover his pipes which he had left behind. He was never seen again.
“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when, prior to attack, he obtained permission from his Commanding Officer to play his company ‘over the top.’ As the company approached the objective, it was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire, which caused heavy casualties and demoralised the formation for the moment. Realising the situation, Piper Richardson strode up and down outside the wire, playing his pipes with the greatest coolness. The effect was instantaneous. Inspired by his splendid example, the company rushed the wire with such fury and determination that the obstacle was overcome and the position captured.
Later, after participating in bombing operations, he was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and prisoners.
After proceeding about 200 yards Piper Richardson remembered that he had left his pipes behind. Although strongly urged not to do so, he insisted on returning to recover his pipes. He has never been seen since, and death has been presumed accordingly owing to lapse of time.” (London Gazette, no.30967, 22 October 1918)
His bagpipes were believed to have been lost in the mud of the Somme for almost 90 years until 2002, when the Pipe Major of The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) responded to an Internet posting. He discovered that Ardvreck preparatory school in Scotland had possession of a set of bagpipes with the unique Lennox tartan on them, the same tartan used by the pipers of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion. A British Army Chaplain, Major Edward Yeld Bate, had found the pipes in 1917 and brought them back home after the war to a school in Scotland where he was a teacher. The pipes were unidentified for several decades, and served as a broken, mud-caked, and blood-stained reminder of an unknown piper from the Great War.
Andrew Winstanley of The Canadian Club and Pipe Major Roger McGuire were largely responsible for the investigative work into identifying Richardson's pipes. With the support of The Canadian Club and a group of patriotic citizens, Pipe Major McGuire travelled to Scotland in January 2003 to help identify the pipes that had been displayed at Ardvreck School in Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, for over seven decades. Tomas Christie, a parent of students there and also a piper, initiated the search for the origin of the pipes.
Their collective effort led to conclusive evidence that identified the pipes as those played by Piper Richardson on that fateful day in 1916. An anonymous donor facilitated the purchase of the pipes on behalf of the citizens of Canada. In October 2006, a party of dignitaries visited Scotland and received the pipes from the Headmaster of Ardvreck School for repatriation to Canada.
On 8 November 2006, the bagpipes were officially repatriated when troops from The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) placed them at the British Columbia Legislature as a reminder of a generation's valour. They are currently on public display.
There is a statue of him on display at the museum in Chilliwack, BC.
.DIED 8-9 October 1916 Aged 20
Scotland Old Parish Church records the name of James Richardson, and
other members of the parish who fell during the First World War on a
brass memorial plaque.