The Pipes of War: The Pipes of James Richardson, VC
As seen on display in the legislative building in Victoria B.C.
Inscription on the drawing reads:
The Canadian Scottish Regiment 100 years of Valour
Piper Richardson’s name is set between The 16th Battalion Cap Badge of WWI and the modern Cap Badge of The Canadian Scottish Regiment. With VC Citation.
James (Jimmy) Cleland Richardson VC (25 November 1895 – 8/9 October 1916) was a Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
During the Battle of the Ancre Heights on October 8, 1916, at Regina Trench, Somme, France, the 16th Battalion was held up by very strong wire and came under intense fire. Piper Richardson, who had obtained permission to play the company 'over the top' strode up and down outside the wire playing his pipes, which so inspired the company that the wire was rushed and the position captured. Later the piper was detailed to take back a wounded comrade and some prisoners, but after proceeding some distance he insisted on turning back to recover his pipes which he had left behind. He was never seen again.
Richardson's bagpipes were believed to have been lost in the mud of the Somme for almost 90 years until it was discovered that Ardvreck preparatory school in Scotland had possession of a set of bagpipes with the unique Lennox tartan on them, the same tartan used by the pipers of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion. A British Army Chaplain, Major Edward Yeld Bate, had found the pipes in 1917 and brought them back home after the war to a school in Scotland where he was a teacher. The pipes were unidentified for several decades, and served as a broken, mud-caked, and blood-stained reminder of an unknown piper from the Great War.
Andrew Winstanley of The Canadian Club and Pipe Major Roger McGuire were largely responsible for the investigative work into identifying Richardson's pipes. Their collective effort led to conclusive evidence that identified the pipes as those played by Piper Richardson on that fateful day in 1916. On November 8, 2006, the bagpipes were officially repatriated when troops from The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) placed them at the British Columbia Legislature as a reminder of a generation's valour. They are currently on public display.