Richard was born on 16th August 1895 in the small Essex village of Copford just a few miles west of Colchester. He was one of 16 children born to parents Isaac and Elizabeth - the eldest children born in either West Bergholt or Nayland (just over the border in Suffolk), the rest born in Copford and Richard was baptised a few weeks later, on 6th October 1895 in St Michael’s and All Angels Church.
He was recorded on the 1901 census aged 5, one of 8 children who lived at home, 7 of them aged 15 years old or under. His brother John and father worked as Agricultural labourers. 10 years later in the 1911 census the family still had 5 children at home; Richard was then aged 15, but had no occupation recorded, although he did venture into farm work also soon after - his older brothers and father still worked outside, on the land, either as Horsemen/Woodman on a farm.
Whether it was a desire to join a King’s force or follow in his older brother’s footstep, Richard joined the Royal Navy on 5th September 1913, as a Stoker 2nd Class. He stood just 5’2” tall, had dark brown hair, grey eyes and a large scar on his left cheek. He had training at HMS PEMBROKE II until 31st March 1914 before he joined his only ship, the dreadnought HMS VANGUARD. He rose to Stoker 1st Class on 1st April 1914 and helped power the ship during her participation in the Battle of Jutland.
Of course having a son fight in war would have been totally worrisome for the parents and siblings - but Isaac and Elizabeth had to endure 11 of their children serving in either the Navy or Army either before or during the Great War. One of Richard’s brothers, Herbert, also joined the Navy in 1906 - he served on the ill fated BULWARK three years before its explosion, but he lost his life on 15th October 1914 when the ship he was serving on, HMS HAWKE, was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine, killing 524 crew.
Another older brother, Bernard, was luckier and survived serving in the Navy, although he left the ship he was serving on, the HMS ABOUKIR, a few months before its sinking also, also in 1914.
Robert Clark, just a year older than Richard had joined the Army, but was killed in 1918. His youngest brother, Cecil, also served in the Navy, and finished the war unscathed.
Because of the huge sacrifice and service given to King and Country even before the end of the war, Elizabeth and Isaac received a letter from the Keeper of the Privy Purse at Buckingham Palace, thanking them on behalf of the King for their service.
Richard was remembered on a wooden panel within the church he was baptised in, along with his brothers.
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England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 - FreeBMD
England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1918 Essex Record Office; Chelmsford, Essex, England; Essex Church of England Parish Registers
1901 & 1911 England Census
Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services; Class: ADM 188; Piece: 908
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; Piece: Piece 007; Piece Description: Piece 007 (1914 - 1919)
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Service Registers and Registers of Deaths and Injuries. Registers of Reports of Deaths
Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 TNA Series: ADM 242/7; Scan Number: 0775
WWI Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923 Western Front Association; London, England; Pension Record Cards; Reference: 047/0184/CLA-CLA
Photos courtesy of Malcolm Nice/Wendy Sadler