2nd Lieutenant Roland Herbert Wyndham BRINSLEY-RICHARDS
No. 8 Platoon, B Company, 10th (Service) Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment

Date of birth: 18th January 1887
Date of death: 30th July 1916

Killed in action aged 29
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Panels 6A and 6B
He was born in Austria on the 18th of January 1887 the second son of James Brinsley-Richards, writer and correspondent for the Times newspaper in Berlin, and Blanche (nee Caldecott-Smith) of “Quarry Gate”, 11 Quarry Street in Guildford.

He was educated at the Junior King’s School from May 1894 and at the King’s School Canterbury from 1899 to July 1906. He won a Junior Scholarship and a Senior Scholarship in July 1903. Also in 1903 he was appointed a monitor and in 1905/6 he was Captain of School. He was editor of The Cantuarian in 1903 and President of the Debating Society in 1905. He was awarded his school colours in 1904/6. He went on the Queen's College Oxford on an Open Classical Scholarship (1st Place) in 1906 where he obtained first classes in Classical Moderations in April 1908. Later in 1908 he moved to Hertford College where he achieved Literae Humanitors in July 1910. He was a prominent speaker at the Union Society at Oxford, serving on its committee from 1908 and was Assistant Treasurer in 1909. He was a member of the college Hare and Hounds A Team. He achieved a MA in June 1913.

In 1910 he worked as a journalist for the Times newspaper for six months before taking up an appointment as a First Class clerk in the Finance Department at the India Office, Whitehall on the 10th of April 1911 having passed 38th in the civil service examinations. He transferred to the Judicial and Public Department in October 1911 and to the Public Works Department in December 1911. He was appointed as Resident Clerk at the India Office in December 1912 and was appointed as private secretary to the Permanent Undersecretary for State in April 1914.

In early 1915 he received permission to undertake military service and on the 7th of June 1915 he enlisted at 10 Stone Buildings, Lincolns Inn as Private 4016 in the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps. At a medical examination, which was held on the same day, it was recorded that he was five feet six and a half inches tall. He was posted to Berkhamsted from where he applied for a commission on the 23rd of August 1915. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment on the 10th of September 1915 and embarked for France on the 24th of May 1916.

On the night of the 28th/29th of July 1916 the 10th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was involved in a night raid on the German trenches opposite. The objective was to capture the German Trench known as Munster Alley and also part of Gloucester Alley. One company was detailed to attack each trench with the other two companies held in reserve. The attack began at 10pm and in the Munster Alley attack one platoon bombed its way along the trench while the other three platoons of the company went over the top. These three platoons lost all their officers, the Company Sergeant Major and all their non commissioned officers to machine gun fire and the survivors fell back. Meanwhile the Gloucester Alley attack was more successful, with a post established 25 yards short of the objective giving good views of the village of Martinpuich. During this attack 2 officers and 31 other ranks were reported as killed in action with 5 officers and 144 other ranks wounded. One officer and 44 other ranks were reported missing. Roland Brinsley-Richards was the missing officer.

His mother received the following telegram dated the 2nd of August 1916: -

"Regret to inform you that 2nd Lt. R.H.W. Brinsley-Richards West Riding Regt. was reported missing July 30th. This does not necessarily mean that he is killed or wounded. Will report any further news."

A series of interviews were undertaken and statements gathered in order to establish what had happened that night.

Statement of Private 13653 D. Swales 4 Platoon, A Company 10th Battalion West Riding Regiment taken at No. 11 Stationary Hospital, Rouen on the 15th of August 1916: -

“There was a Mr. Richards in the 10th Batt. Who was 2nd in command of B Coy. We went out from out trenches near Albert on the night of the 30th July to make an attack on Contalmaison. It was just before midnight when we went over the top and while we were approaching the village, Mr. Richards was killed by M.G. fire. We afterwards held that ground, and though I never heard myself of his body being brought in, I think he must have been buried by our own men. I understood that in private life he was a novelist. He had a slightly deformed shoulder and stood 5 ft. 7 or 8.”

Statement of Private 14574 A.L. Norris B Company, 10th Battalion West Riding Regiment taken at L.M.G. School, Le Touquet on the 22nd of August 1916: -

“Lt Richards was my officer. He was killed at what is now Munster Alley, Contalmaison, at the end of August (sic). He got through the Friday all right, but got “knocked” on the Saturday. He was killed outright by a bomb. His body was badly smashed I saw him go down. This occurred out near the German parapet. I don’t know if his body was brought in. The 8th Yorks, Durhams and Northumberland Fusiliers, relieved us at this point. We were driven back from the ground where Mr, Richards fell, but it was recaptured afterwards.”

Statement of Private 18052 J. Popplewell. B Company, 10th Battalion West Riding Regiment taken at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital, Boulogne on the 5th of September 1916: -

“Informant says “Lt. Brinsley-Richards went up with a bombing party out of our Munster trench. I was with a machine gun section close by and saw him start. I didn’t see him hit but word was passed down the line. It was in no man’s land near the German trench. The other machine gun section behind him must have passed him as they went on and took the German trench, and that bit we have never given up since.”

Statement of Private 18408 F. Woodall A Company, 10th Battalion West Riding Regiment taken at No. 8 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne on the 13th of September 1916: -

“Very fair clean shaven very young, about 6 ft. informant thinks home North Shields. About 3am A. Coy, which was informants Company relieved B. Coy, who had been on a bombing raid in charge of Lt. Richards. When informant got to the sap of the trench, he saw the Lt.’s body lying dead. He does not know where the Lt. was buried.”

Statement of Private 18066 B. Scott, B Company, 10th Battalion West Riding Regiment taken at Etaples on the 23rd of September 1916: -

“He belonged to VIII Pl. B. Co. he took part in a bombing raid on 29th July and was killed by a bomb or piece of shell while he was going across. My friend, L/Cpl E. Smith, VIII Pl. B. Co. was with him when he was killed. The officer was waving his revolver and calling the men to come on when he was struck. Part of his head was blown away. Our S/B’s went to try and bring him in the following night but the fire was too heavy for them to reach him. He was a great favourite, the pride of the regiment. He was the bravest man I have ever known.”

Statement of Private 18320 A. Dean taken at No. 10 General Hospital, Rouen on the 5th of September 1916: -

“I was with the machine gun at Horse Shoe Trench near Contalmaison. Mr. Richards led the Co. over the parapet and on the top of the German parapet he was shot by M.G. fire. I saw him shot. We were about 200 yards behind, and when I got in the trench I saw his body.”

Statement of Lance Corporal 19293 T. Garbutt taken at No. 8 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne on the 3rd of October 1916: -

“Very small, rather dark, clean shaven about 27. On Saturday night, July 29th, the Regiment on the right of Contalmaison. 5, 7. 8 and 9 platoons of A Company went over on a bombing raid under Lt. Brinsley-Richards and Lt. Hart. Enemy trenches about 100 yards off. Last seen of Lt. Brinsley-Richards was right up by enemy trench. He was seen to jump in and was fighting hand to hand with enemy. Party had to leave him and return. The other Lt., Lt. Hart was wounded but got in all right.”

Statement of Sergeant R. Farrer A Company, 10th Battalion West Riding Regiment taken on the 9th of October 1916: -

“He was killed by shrapnel in our line called Munster Alley during the night of July 30th. I was present and saw this. His body was buried at first in our trenches and I do not know if it was ever recovered. The grave was marked. The spot is about 1 ½ miles on the right from Contalmaison.”

A letter written on behalf of the Secretary of State at the India Office was reproduced in the Canturian:-

"Mr Chamberlain heard that your son had been reported missing with the keenest regret and concern. He is well aware that his services here were most highly and deservedly valued, and your son's determination to leave his secure position for active service was a very fine example of gallantry and high spirit, commanding his deep respect. It is Mr Chamberlain's earnest desire that a public career of so great promise may be resumed to the great advantage of this office and the future tasks which will fall on the Indian administration."

The Cantuarian wrote:-

"He was popular; a boy of many nicknames. In the "Parrots" he was "Ranjitsinji". He was a probationer, junior and senior scholar of no mean excellence, yet his boyhood's hero was a cricketer. It was a familiar sight to see him in the corner of the playground practicing strokes after manner of the greatest batsmen of the day and muttering "Well played Ranji!" He came to the school in 1894, broke a record by staying twelve years and a term, and worked his way from the bottom form in the Junior to be Captain of the Senior School. In his first term as Captain he amazed us by fitting us all into the right studies with just the friends we liked. That was typical of the firm and gentle hand with which he ruled, making his subjects love him. Brilliant as was his Oxford career, greater yet was the kindly charm he showed at meetings of the Oxford O.K.S. In the India Office he would have risen to the top of the tree, but he left honour and wealth to fight for his country. I once found him signing cheques on the Bank of India; "I envy you your life as a schoolmaster" he said "you deal with people and not with things." When in training as an officer he wrote-"I have not had such a good time since Oxford days." Kitchener's Army gave him the two things he loved--comradeship and a chance to play the man. On July 29th 1916, he led his men in a night attack on a German trench. The attack failed but he won a hero's death. A friend said of him-"Whatever may have befallen him will have found him ready and unafraid."

George Heale OKS wrote:-

"Knowing of his brilliant school career I was not surprised at the wonderful way he undertook soldiering, or his power of grasping situations, and adapting himself to them. He was as brave as a lion, and during his short time with us he gained the liking and admiration of all."

He is commemorated on the war memorial at Guildford in Surrey.