James Cleland Richardson

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James Cleland Richardson
James C Richardson.jpg
Piper James C. Richardson, VC, circa. 1914-15
Nickname(s) Jimmy
Born 25 November 1895
Bellshill, Scotland
Died 8/9 October 1916
Somme, France
Buried at Adanac Military Cemetery
Allegiance Canadian Red Ensign 1868-1921.svg Canada
Service/branch Canadian Expeditionary Force
Years of service 1914 - 1916
Rank Piper
Unit 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion, CEF
Battles/wars First World War 
Awards Victoria Cross
Piper James Richardson VC at Regina Trench, by James P Beadle

James (Jimmy) Cleland Richardson VC (25 November 1895 – 8/9 October 1916) was a Canadian recipient of 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.

Richardson was born in Bellshill, Scotland and a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and then Chilliwack, BC. He was a Piper in the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and he proceeded overseas as part of the large Seaforth contingent of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, during the First World War when the following deed took place when was 20 years old 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.

Richardson's remains were found in 1920 and he is buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, located 6 miles north-east of Albert, France (plot III, row F, grave 36).

Richardson's bagpipes

Richardson's Bagpipes[edit]

Richardson's 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.[1]

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.

The statue ceremony in 2003
Richardson's tombstone


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