Cadet Arthur Richardson was an English-born accountant working in St Louis, Missouri when he enlisted into the newly formed Royal Air Force in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 11 April 1918.
He was born on 7 October 1890, the youngest of the five children of William Summerbell and Dorothy (née Burn) Richardson. The family lived at 1 Albert Drive in Low Fell, Gateshead; his father was a cashier with the United Alkali Co. in the town. Arthur entered the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1902. After leaving school in 1906, he became an articled clerk for a firm of chartered accountants in the city. Having qualified as an accountant, in September 1913 he travelled to the United States onboard the RMS Adriatic. He arrived in New York on 3 October, and travelled onward to St Louis where he began work as an accountant for Price Waterhouse.
During his stay in St Louis he boarded with two families north of Forest Park before, in 1917, moving into the home of the Hopkins family on Waterman Avenue. Mary C. Hopkins, a widow, lived there with her daughter, and only child, Innis. Innis was a little older than Arthur and worked as a music teacher.
Arthur Richardson registered for the draft and soon after the outbreak of war he took up a position as the chief accountant at Camp Gaillard, the home of 12th Engineers (Light Railway), a regiment destined to come under British command in France. He remained in that appointment until he decided to enlist into the Imperial Forces and train as a pilot. He travelled to Canada on 18 March 1918 and enlisted into the Royal Air Force. After his ground training in aeronautics, he was appointed as a Flight Cadet, Pilot on 21 August and was posted to one of the training squadrons in 42nd Wing at Camp Mohawk, on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Deseronto, Ontario.
He died during his training in early October 1918. His death is something of a mystery. In his study of the Royal Flying Corps in Canada, C W Hunt records that he died in an undefined accident on 1 October. The physician who certified his death, Dr Elgin D. Vandervoort, indicated that he died from a fractured skull as a consequence of a ‘fall with aeroplane’ on 3 October. That date was also recorded in a short notice in a St Louis newspaper. His RAF casualty card indicates, however, that he drowned as a result of ‘falling into pit ’ on 4 October. His death is recorded officially as occurring on 4 October 1918.
Soon after his death the question arose as to where he should be buried. His remains could have been interred in Deseronto, alongside others who had died during training there, but it is evident that the family with whom he lived in St Louis were contacted on the matter. Mary Hopkins was in Texas in early October and was asked, presumably by telegram from her daughter, if Richardson could be buried in the Lake family plot. Her reply by telegram from San Marcos on 8 October said: ‘Of course have him buried in our lot.’
A funeral service was conducted at Camp Mohawk on 5 October and his remains were then sent by train to St Louis. On 12 October 1918, Arthur Richardson was buried in the Lake family plot in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St Louis. The grave is marked by a private memorial.
Cadet Arthur Richardson is commemorated on the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne memorial roll and on the school’s memorial organ. The organ was presented to the school by Sir Arthur Sutherland, a ship-owner, philanthropist and former Lord Mayor of Newcastle, and unveiled by Major General B L Montgomery DSO on 1 June 1923.
He is also commemorated on the war memorial in St Helen’s Church, Belle Vue Bank, Low Fell in Gateshead; the memorial comprises two brass plaques either side of a stained glass window. He is commemorated on page 592 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 22 December.
He was not entitled to any war medals.
Michele Thomas, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St Louis for information about the Lake/Hopkins family and for the photographs of the graves of Arthur Richardson and the Hopkins family.
Royal Grammar School, Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the photographs of the school’s memorial organ.
1. (Back) The Royal Air Force had been formed on 1 April 1918 from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Service.
2. (Back) William Summerbell Richardson (1855-24 March 1934) married Dorothy Burn (1852-NK) on 20 February 1882; Leslie Summerbell (1883-1 October 1955); Jane Ann (July 1884-June 1968); Dora (1886-NK); and William Burn (1888-12 September 1963).
3. (Back) Mary Clarissa Lake married in 1885 Innis Hopkins, who died in April 1915; she died in February 1938, aged 75. Her daughter, Innis Russell Hopkins, was born in 1886; she died, unmarried, in October 1968.
4. (Back) ‘Arthur Richardson’. (1918). Registrations of Deaths, 1869-1938. Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
5. (Back) ‘Deaths’. (5 October 1918). St. Louis Post–Dispatch. p 6.
6. (Back) Richardson, A. Royal Air Force Museum. Casualty card.
7. (Back) Hunt, C W. (2009). Dancing in the Sky: The Royal Flying Corps in Canada. p 317. Toronto: Dundurn.
8. (Back) Block 73, plot 501. Also buried there are Innis Hopkins, her mother and father, and members of the Lake family.