Topic: Leo Clyde Richardson

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Leo Clyde Richardson (Service no. 7/1581) was a First World War soldier with links to Wharenui School and Riccarton

Leo was born in Hawera on 15 February 1898 the second of three children. His father Charles Andrew Richardson, a carpenter by trade, and mother Alice (nee Jones) married on 12 March 1894 and had two other sons; an older brother Ralph Gordon (b. 23 August 1896) who also served in the war, and a younger brother Sydney M (b. 1901) was too young to serve. A sister Elfreda May was born on 24 January 1895 but died in Akaroa in September that year. The family had moved to Christchurch by the early 1900's and settled in at 141 Clarence Road, Riccarton. In those days the property was large enough to support a few cattle which the family sometimes advertised for sale.

Leo first attended school at  West Christchurch School (known now as Hagley College) on 27 July 1903 but with the newly established school opening in the Wharenui settlement in 1907 his father enrolled him there on 30 January 1907 (he was the 86th student to enroll, the day after his brother Ralph). Starting there at standard one he attained a solid education through to standard six by the end of 1911 when he sat the Junior National Scholarship exam and gained a free place at a high school of his own choice for one year. Leo chose to attend Christchurch Boy's High School in 1912.

After completing his year at Christchurch Boy's High in 1912, Leo gained employment as an apprentice blacksmith at Brabner & Son Carriage Builders, East Belt (142 - 146 Fitzgerald Avenue) in 1913. Leo enlisted in June 1915 but being under age he stated his birthdate as 15 February 1895. A Star report reveals that a number of former Wharenui School boys (all of whom appear on the school Roll of Honour board) had followed the lead of the school head master Mr F. J. Alley's eldest son Eric in volunterring to serve (Eric Alley was among the earliest to join up and was at  Gallipoli with the Otago Mounted Rifles). On his medical dated 25 May 1915 it states that he weighed 156 lbs, had a 'sallow' complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He was assigned to the 'Trentham Infantry battalion' but the rigourous training at Trentham may have proved more than the under age Leo could stand and he was discharged on 17 June 1915 as 'medically unfit'.  

He enlisted again on 24 August claiming he had served in the Territorials, specifically the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry, although this unit had long since been reconstituted as the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, now serving in Gallipoli. This time he made it through the training and was assigned to C squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles in the 7th Reinforcements as number 7/1581. His medical dated 23 July 1915 reveals he was 5' 8" and 141lbs while his "little finger of left hand has scar down front causing contraction". Perhaps because of his high school education Leo was posted a temporary Lance Corporal.The Navua nosebag : the unofficial organ of the 7th Reinforcements, N.Z.Mounted Rifles.

On completion of training at Trentham the 7th Reinforcements embarked at Wellington on 9 October 1915. After disembarking at Suez on 18 November 1915 the 7th reinfocements went into the New Zealand training camp at Zeitoun where on 21 December 1915 Leo was reverted back to Trooper. On 1 January 1916 he was again promoted to temporary Lance Corporal. During training he fell from his horse suffering a 'contused leg' and was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital at Pont de Koubbeh in Cairo on 13 January 1916 where he was again posted back to Trooper. It was while in hospital that he contracted scarlett fever and ultimately had to be sent to Cypress to convalesce for several weeks.

After Cypress Leo was returned to the ANZAC rest camp at Port Said on 7 August 1916 but while there he complained of "weakness, dizziness and poor appetite". So on 28 August 1916 he was admitted to the 27th General Hospital, Abbassia and then to the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Heliopolis in October 1916 where a medical examination described his condition thus; "dizziness, palpitation and weariness on slight exertion and of post-nasal catarrh - heart not enlarged but is stomic". This examination also notes that in July 1916, owing to a further injury of his left little finger, this was amputated. The examining doctor recommended 'return to NZ'. However, somehow he managed to be discharged on 17 October 1916 and posted to the Mounted Training Regiment, presumably for refresher training! On 22 October he was assigned to 'B duties' with NZ Army Service Corps as a driver attached to 4 Company, NZ Mounted Field Ambulance. This would have been an arduous role collecting and transporting wounded men over long distances in the extreme desert envirnoment. Most likely as a result of these harsh conditions, he was admitted to the hospital at Mosaid with enteritis on 20 January 1917.

In his 'casualty form - active service' record it is not stated when he was discharged from Mosaid but his 'statement of services' shows he was again in Egypt as an ambulance driver by July 1917. He would serve in this role for the duration of the war except for a short posting to the Auckland Mounted Rifles from 22 February to 23 March 1918. His last admission to hospital was 19 September 1918 with 'PUO NYD' (Pyrexia - fever- Unknown Origin, Not Yet Diagnosed) but on 21 October 1918 he was discharged back to duty. He would be admitted to hospital again on 1 December 1918 until finally being discharged back to duty on 29 December 1918. He boarded the troopship 'Kaikoura' on 20 April 1919 to return to New Zealand, arriving home on 18 May 1919, the day he was discharged as no longer fit for duty due to debilitating illness contracted on active duty.

His personnel file records that he intended to return to his father's address in Clarence Street after he was discharged. Whether or not he did or how long he remained there is not known, however the 1925 Electoral roll lists him residing in the Awarua electorate in Bluff and his occupation 'farmer'. In 1929 he married Katherine Annie Wooffindin and in 1931 Katherine gave birth to their son Sidney Donald and later another child (name unknown). Leo's younger brother Sydney had passed away in 1930 at the young age of 29 so his first born son was likely named after his brother. By 1935 Leo and Katherine were living near the railway station in Palmerston North where Leo worked for the New Zealand Railways. In 1938 the family moved to Hastings, Leo still employed with New Zealand Railways. 

Some years after this Leo and Katherine separated. On 23 July 1942 Leo enlisted for military service writing 'separated' as his legal status on his attestation form. His medical showed he was in satisfactory health but stated that he "looks older than stated age" (he again mis-stated his date of birth as 15 February 1901 - this time to make himself just young enough to be eligible!) so was rejected for service. By 1946 he was resident in Palmerston North again and in the same year he married his second wife Annie Lavinia Kelling (aged 48). Leo continued working for New Zealand Railways for the rest of his working life. He passed away on 9 August 1976 and his ashes interred at the Kelvin Grove Cemetery in Palmerston North where his father Charles was buried in 1942. Sadly Leo was predeceased by his son Sidney who passed away in 1973.

 

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Leo Clyde Richardson


First Names:Leo Clyde
Last Name:Richardson
Place of Birth:Hawera, New Zealand