Herbert George Richardson is one of the more than 100 New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915; most have no known grave and are commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial.1 Two other Collegians died that day, Alan Dawson and Frederick Stuckey, while Robert Frater died a few days later from the wounds he received during the landing.
Known as Bert, Herbert Richardson was the eldest of George and Margaret Richardson’s five children and their only son.2 His family owned the Richardson Piano Agency in central Auckland, which sold and repaired pianos.3 Born in September 1891, Richardson attended Auckland Grammar School (AGS) from 1905 to 1908.4
Like many boys of his generation, Richardson was a member of his school’s cadet corps. In 1907, the Auckland Grammar Cadet Corps comprised 97 boys in two companies.5 In 1908, Richardson’s final year at Grammar, the school’s headmaster, James Tibbs, whipped up enough enthusiasm for a third company allowing the school to form its own battalion.6 That year the unit received new uniforms and Lee Enfield carbines resulting in ‘the spectacle of small boys wrestling enthusiastically with rifles almost as big as themselves’.7 Richardson, a lieutenant in the unit, was a particularly good shot and represented the school in several shooting competitions.8 After leaving school he was a member of the Victoria Rifles and later held a commission in the Coast Defence Detachment.9
Richardson attended Auckland University College (AUC) briefly as an undergraduate from 1910.10 On leaving AUC he was employed by Mr Percy Spencer, solicitor and then by his father.11 He enlisted in October 1914 and left New Zealand with the 2nd Reinforcements in December, joining the rest of the Auckland Infantry Battalion in Egypt in January 1915.12
‘We are only about 40 miles from the seat of trouble, so the sight-seeing part of our tour is coming to an end. Good job, too!’
An extract from Richardson’s diary covering the days before the landing at Gallipoli was published in the AGS Chronicle in mid-1915. It begins with Richardson’s journey from Cairo to Alexandria on 14 April 1915 and describes his joy of seeing the sea after ‘months of sun, sand and desert’.13 At Alexandria the Auckland Battalion embarked for the Greek Island of Lemnos aboard the troopship Lutzow.14
At Lemnos, they found Mudros harbour ‘almost jammed with shipping’ awaiting the invasion and Richardson noted ‘We are only about 40 miles from the seat of trouble, so the sight-seeing part of our tour is coming to an end. Good job, too!’15
On the evening of 23 April, in preparation for the landing, the Lutzow made its way to the mouth of the harbour. As they steamed along, Richardson describes how the ship’s band switched tunes as they passed each anchored vessel; the Marseillaise as they passed a French ship and the Russian National Anthem for the crew of the Russian cruiser Askold. The rousing music was met with cheers and excitement; it was ‘a stirring half hour’.16
In his final entry, written on 24 April, Richardson mentions that he will be landing with the 15th North Auckland Company rather than the 3rd Auckland Company of the Battalion, replacing an officer selected for General Godley’s bodyguard. ‘It’s a pretty hot place we are going to land in’ he writes ‘so there’ll be some work’. Optimistically, he also notes that he has his camera with him, ‘so if I can send some snapshots home they will be interesting’.17
From Lemnos, the Lutzow transported the Battalion to the landing zone offshore from the Gallipoli Peninsula. Here they were transferred into longboats which were towed inshore by steamboats, then rowed to the beach.18
The 1st Australian Division were the first to land, coming ashore before dawn on the morning of Sunday 25 April. However, they missed their intended landing place and came ashore further north in a narrow bay surrounded by steep hills now known as Anzac Cove.19
Richardson’s unit landed about 11am, joining the Australians in the ‘desperate and confused fighting on the hills and ridgelines above’.20 There, late in the day, at the top of Shrapnel Valley near what would be known as Quinn’s Post, as the Turks counter-attacked ‘resolute to drive the invaders back into the sea’, Richardson was shot while assisting a wounded comrade.21 He did not die instantly but was moved from the firing line by Bugler Charles Chegwidden. Past help, Richardson died during the night.22
Dearly beloved only son
It took over a week for detailed reports of the Allied landings to appear in New Zealand newspapers. On Monday, 3 May 1915, the Auckland Star published a cable received by the Prime Minister on 1 May from the High Commissioner in London applauding the spirit and determination of the Australian and New Zealand troops. 23 The same issue contained the first details of those killed, including Richardson’s fellow Collegian Lieutenant Frater.24 Two days later Richardson’s parents posted a death notice for their ‘dearly beloved only son’.25
The mixture of pride and sorrow that reports of the landing generated in New Zealand is summed up by Auckland businessman Sir George Fowlds when he wrote to a friend in late May:
‘The glorious achievements of our boys at the Dardanelles has given satisfaction but … has given rise to no tumultuous jubilation such as we had at the relief of Mafeking, Ladysmith or Kimberley.
‘We know our boys would do anything they were asked to do, which human beings could accomplish, and our joy in this achievement is tempered with sorrow and sympathy. Our casualty list of killed and wounded is very heavy. Much of my time has been occupied in writing letters to friends whose homes have been stricken with losses.’26
These letters included one to Richardson’s parents to whom Fowlds tendered his sympathy on the loss of their ‘brave boy ’.27
Katherine Pawley, Special Collections
- 'Fatalities', available online at NZHistory, updated 4 September 2014, accessed 19 March 2015.
- Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of Internal Affairs.
- The Kiwi: Official Organ of the Auckland University College, 11, 1916, p.27; Auckland Star, 23 December 1916, p.8, accessed via Papers Past.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle, III, 1, 1915, p.10.
- K.A. Trembath, Ad Augusta: a centennial history of Auckland Grammar School, 1869-1969, Auckland, 1969, p.151.
- K.A. Trembath, p.152.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle, p.10.
- The Kiwi , p.27.
- Calendar, Auckland University College, University of New Zealand, Auckland, 1911, p.11; ‘Richardson, Herbert George’, A.U.C. roll of honour, 1914 - 1920. MSS & Archives E-2, Special Collections, University of Auckland (UoA) Libraries and Learning Services.
- The Kiwi , p.27.
- ‘Richardson, Herbert George - WW1 12/1492 – Army, R20805715’, Archives New Zealand, Wellington.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle, p.23.
- ibid.; O.E. Burton, The Auckland Regiment: being an account of the doings on active service of the First, Second and Third Battalions of the Auckland Regiment, Auckland, 1922, p.21.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle, p.24.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle, p.25.
- 'Invasion', available online at NZHistory, updated 30 July 2014, accessed 19 March 2015.
- O.E. Burton, pp.27-28.
- Auckland Grammar School Chronicle, p.10.
- Auckland Star, 3 May 1915, p.5, accessed via Papers Past.
- New Zealand Herald, 5 May 1915, p.1, accessed via Papers Past.
- Sir George Fowlds papers. MSS & Archives A-17, item 1/73, p.365. Special Collections, University of Auckland (UoA) Libraries and Learning Services.
- Sir George Fowlds papers. MSS & Archives A-17, item 1/73, p.295, UoA.