Eric Richardson was born in West Didsbury, Manchester on October 12, 1890 to Thomas and Ellen Richardson (née Cowell). His father was a successful cotton yarn agent and Eric grew up with two older half-brothers and a half-sister, from his father’s former marriage, his younger sister and two domestic servants.
Eric was educated at Manchester Grammar School (1900-04) and Moreland’s School, Sheringham (1904-07) and two years after leaving school he was employed as a Bank Clerk. On September 21, 1909, he enlisted as a private, (Service No 1149), in the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment. By 1911 he was living with his parents, younger sister and two domestic servants at Mellor Lodge in Marple and was assisting in the family business, his half-brothers and sister having left the family home. On July 20, 1910 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force and on December 7, 1911 he was promoted to Lieutenant.
Egypt & Gallipoli
At the outbreak of war, the battalion was mobilised and on August 20, 1914 they marched into Chesham Fold Camp, Bury. On Wednesday September 9 the battalion entrained to Southampton and at midnight the following day sailed for Egypt. In Egypt the men were drilled, trained and worked hard to build fitness and endurance and during this time he was promoted to Captain, on February 9, 1915. He landed with the Battalion in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915. He is not mentioned in any of the official war diaries except that on October 16, 1915 he was appointed Staff Captain to the 126th Brigade. But a few weeks later, on December 2, 1915 he reported sick to hospital and was subsequently invalided to the UK and struck off the strength of the battalion.
After he recovered, he remained on home service serving with the 8th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regiment in Southport. At Southport he was promoted to Assistant Provost Marshall and served in Barrow and Brocton. Towards the end of the war, starting on September 9, 1918 he served as Adjutant with the Volunteer Force in Bury until January 17, 1919 when he was demobilised. During this time, he married Dora de Maria, in London, on November 6, 1918 and they had a son, Geoffrey Thomas Richardson, in early 1920. He again served briefly as Staff Captain in 1921 with the East Lancs Brigade in the short-lived Defence Force.
Inter War Years
In his civilian life his marriage did not last and in December 1925 he married Hilda Mary Parkinson and they had a son, Eric John Richardson in January 1927 followed by another son, David Clifford Richardson, in November 1928. His daughter Ann Richardson was born in July 1932. In September of 1938 he submitted his Application for Registration in the Officer’s Emergency Reserve for Appointment to a Temporary Commission in His Majesty’s land forces on Mobilization. By the following year they were living in Bournemouth and he was working as a civil servant for the Ministry of Labour and serving as a special constable and registered on the Army Officer Emergency Reserve.
World War 2
In December 1939 he was mobilized as a Second Lieutenant, (acting Captain), with the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (AMPC) and given the service number 107441. He was sent to the No 1 Centre, AMPC and RE (Stevedore) Centre, Folkestone arriving on December 3rd and remained at the Centre when they moved to Westcliff and later to Pwllheli, assigned to No 504 Company, AMPC. In November 1940 he was transferred to No 90 Company, AMPC and then to No 4 Centre for Middle East in preparation for deployment overseas. During this brief period of transition, he relinquished his rank of temporary Captain but was regranted his rank when he embarked for overseas service in North Africa on January 5, 1941.
He arrived in Egypt on January 21st where he was promoted to Officer Commanding 1503 (Mauritius) Company, Pioneer Corps. In Mauritius, 1503 Company started to be formed in mid-January 1941 and ultimately consisted of 343 men under the command of Lt. M.A. Mayer and 2/Lt. A. E. Sauzier. They embarked HMT Talamba at Port Louis on April 3, 1941 for Egypt, Captain (Temp) Richardson joining them on April 21, 1941. After filling the role of C.O. for several months, he was promoted to Acting Major in the Pioneer Corps, 3 months later being made Temporary Major.
1503 Company was deployed to the Western Desert theatre of Operations, which included Libya and Egypt. Just over a year later, General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps decisively defeated the British Eighth Army in a series of engagements known as the Gazala battles, capturing the port of Tobruk on June 21, 1942 and driving the British out of Libya and retreating into Egypt. If Rommel had been able to continue East, he could have captured Alexandria and the Suez Canal, which would of course have been disastrous to the British position in the Middle East and beyond. His advance was only stopped the following month at an obscure railhead in Egypt called El Alamein.
The following excerpt is from page 152 of A War History of the Royal Pioneer Corps, 1939-1945, Edward Harold Rhodes-Wood. Gale & Polden, 1960:
66 Group and its companies, with one exception, had been evacuated from Tobruk to Sollum on June 15. 1503 Mauritian Company (Major E. Richardson), experts in dock operations, was the sole remaining Pioneer unit in Tobruk on June 21 when the fortress surrendered. Vast stores of petrol and supplies fell into German hands in addition to the 33,000 men captured, amongst the latter being the entire personnel of 1503 Company. After being held as a prisoner of war in Italy for nearly a year Major Richardson was repatriated to England under an exchange of sick and wounded prisoners.
Major (Temporary Lieut.-Col.) Eric Richardson was reported Missing believed Prisoner of War, on casualty list 880, on June 20, 1942. On September 25 he was confirmed as a Prisoner of War on casualty list 938. On January 4, 1943 his status was changed to Wounded and Prisoner of War on casualty list 1032 and officially struck off the strength of 1503 Company.
In 1943, due in part to the rising numbers of captured German Prisoners of War by the Allied Forces, there began to be sufficient basis for the mutual repatriation of seriously wounded and seriously ill prisoners. Major Richardson, due to his age and severity of his wounds, easily qualified for inclusion and on May 4, 1943 he was repatriated to the UK, as reported on casualty list 1125. After arriving in the U.K. he was most likely admitted to the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, (otherwise known as Netley Hospital), where his status was subsequently reported as Dangerously ill, on casualty list 1127. On June 5, 1943 he died and this was reported on casualty list 1157.
He is buried at South Stoneham Cemetery, Southampton along with 65 other military casualties from both world wars. Major Eric Richardson was 52 years old and died in the service of his country.