Chilliwack’s heroic young piper is being memorialized on both sides of the Atlantic this weekend.
The hometown of Piper Richardson was North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Town officials are holding a commemorative event and unveiling a permanent memorial stone for Richardson on the same day as Chilliwack holds its centennial celebration for the piper.
Piper James Cleland Richardson VC spent his childhood in North Lanarkshire, and sailed to Canada a couple of years before the First World War started in 1914.
He sacrificed his life for the morale of his fellow troops at the Battle of Ancre Heights during the Somme offensive in 1916. Piper Richardson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his unwavering courage.
Despite heavy casualties on the battlefield, Richardson ventured out to the edge of the wire time and time again to inspire the troops.
Later he was transporting wounded comrade when he left his pipes in no-man’s land. Despite being urged not to, he went back out after his beloved pipes to be tragically hit by enemy fire, and never seen again.
A memorial paving stone will be unveiled at a ceremony Bellshill War Memorial in North Lanarkshire, with members of the public and servicemen in attendance, on the same day as the event in Chilliwack, Saturday, Oct. 8.
“The paving stone ceremony for James Richardson is a fitting tribute to his exceptional courage in the face of adversity, and his tireless work in keeping up the energy of his fellow soldiers,” said Communities Minister Lord Bourne
“Britain’s First World War heroes are as inspirational now as they were a century ago, and I hope this ceremony can bring the community together to remember their hero—on both sides of the Atlantic.
Richardson was educated in Blantyre and Glasgow before moving to Canada with his parents.
He began playing in the 72nd Regiment (Seaforth Highlanders), a Vancouver-based unit which had a famous pipe band. When the war began he volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force as was taken on as a private and piper with the 16th Infantry Battalion.
The Scottish-Canadian connection lived on through Richardson’s pipes.
The bagpipes were presumed lost for almost 90 years until 2002 when the Pipe Major of the Canadian Scottish Regiment discovered that the pipes had been recovered from the battlefield by a chaplain and taken back to an elementary school in Scotland. Unidentified, and mistakenly thought to be of Scottish origin for almost seven decades, they were eventually purchased for repatriation to Canada, once it was acknowledged that the red and green Lennox tartan was not known to be a Scottish tartan.
The battle pipes are now part of the permanent collection in the Rotunda of the B.C. Legislature. Currently they are on display for the centennial at Chilliwack Museum, and possibly for Remembrance Day.