54973 Acting Bombardier John Caleb Richards, 44th Company, Royal Garrison Artillery died 18 September 1915 and is buried at Pembroke Dock Military Cemetery, Wales[1]  He is commemorated on the Etherley and Evenwood War Memorials and the Etherley Roll of Honour, St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley.  He was 25 years old, the son of John and Mary Richards.

Family Details

John was born c.1890 at Leasingthorne (in the Parish of Middlestone) County Durham to John and Mary Richards.  There were 5 children to this marriage:

  • George born c.1889
  • John Caleb born c.1890
  • Sarah J. born c.1893
  • Mary born c.1895
  • Frederick born c.1899 [2]

The 1891 census details indicate that John senior was born at St. Martins, Salop (Shropshire) and Mary was from Wales.  They lived at Long Row, Leasingthorne and he worked as a coal miner.  They had 2 children, 2 year old George (born at St. Martins, Salop) and 1 year old John Caleb born at Leasingthorne, Co. Durham.    In 1901, the family lived at Risehouse, West Row, Middridge near Shildon where father John worked as a coal miner (hewer) and his eldest son George (aged 13) worked on the screens.  It is most probable that they worked at Middridge Colliery, owned by the Weardale Iron & Coal Co., either at the Eden Pit or the Charles Pit.  In the 1890’s, a total of 420 men and boys worked at these pits but the colliery closed after the end of WW1.  In 1901, John junior was still at school, as were his 2 sisters, Sarah and Mary.  There was another son, Frederick aged 2 years.

By 1911, the family lived at Calf Close, Morley in the Parish of Evenwood and Barony.  It appears that John had remarried, his wife of 5 years being Sarah (born Toft Hill).  Frederick, now 12 years old and his 4 year-old half-brother Mathew Ernest, and half-sisters 3 year-old Violet and 2 year-old Mary Ann lived with them.  John senior worked as a coal miner (hewer). There were many coal workings in the rural area around Evenwood, Lands and Toft Hill, known locally as Reilly Fell, which were worked mainly by H. Stobart & Co. and there were numerous drift mines.  In 1911, John Caleb was 21 years old and he did not live in the family home.  He boarded with William and Martha Robinson and their family Frank (aged 22), John (aged 21) and Eveline (aged 10) in the village of Toft Hill, a couple of miles to the east of Morley.  John and the Robinson men all worked as coal miners (hewers). [3]

Service Details

The service records for Acting Bombardier John Richards have not been researched but it is likely that he volunteered for service at the outbreak of war, served with the Royal Garrison Artillery and was posted to Pembrokeshire where there were fortifications protecting Milford Haven and the Royal Naval Dockyard at Pembroke Dock.

The Milford Royal Dockyard was founded in 1794 then moved to Pembroke Dock in 1814.  There were 2 large building slips and one dry dock measuring 404ft. x 75ft.  In 1918, there were about 2,500 employees.  The dockyard built the C-type light cruisers:

  • HMS Cordelis, launched 23 February 1914
  • HMS Cambrian launched 3 March 1916
  • HMS Curaroa launched 5 May 1917

and submarines:

  • 2 launched 4 December 1915
  • 4 launched 2 February 1916
  • 51 launched 15 November 1918
  • 52 launched 31 March 1919

These various activities kept the dockyard fairly busy for as long as the war lasted, indeed the work force rose to its highest ever to about 4,000. After the war programme only one more ship was launched, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary oil tanker “Oleander” in 1922. In addition, the light cruiser HMS Capetown having been launched elsewhere was towed to Pembroke for completion.   After the war, the workforce was soon reduced by more than 50% and the dockyard finally closed in 1926.

Fortifications to protect Milford Haven were mostly completed by 1870 and included:

  • A fort to cover the possible landing beach to the south at Tenby (St. Catherine’s Island),
  • Innermost defences, the Defensible Barracks on the hill above the Dockyard and a Martello Tower at each end of the Dockyard Wall, with embrasures aligned along the wall.
  • For defence against ships eight forts or batteries at West Blockhouse Point, Pater, Stack Rock, Dale Point, Thorn Island, Hubberston Point, Popton Point, Chapel Bay (plus the two Martello Towers above)

There was a Dockyard Battalion consisting of the dockyard officers and workmen. Service in this was a condition of employment in the Yard – in 1904, a new volunteer company, known as C Company, the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Welsh Regiment was formed in Pembroke Dock.  Presumably, sometime later when there was the threat of war with Germany, the fortifications were manned by detachments from the Royal Garrison Artillery.  Hubberston Fort was built between 1860 and 1865 and housed about 250 men in D-shaped, bomb proof barracks.  This fort was abandoned shortly after WW1.  Llanion Barracks was built for the local garrison at the turn of the 20th century to complement a hutted encampment which had existed since the Crimean War.  The Officers’ Mess is dated 1904.  Sussex Row, Kent Row and Dorset Row, also built in 1904, housed 2 storey barrack blocks with a capacity of a battalion and a half.  Properties in Shropshire Road and Canterbury Road provided married accommodation.  Administration buildings were at Essex Road.  Ancillary buildings including a chapel gymnasium and a gun store were located in Stockwell Road.   It is presumed that Acting Bombardier John Richards would have been billeted here and served at Hubberston Fort.  [4]

Acting Bombardier John Richards died 18 September 1915.  The cause of his death is unknown.  He should have been awarded the British War and Victory medals but to date the medal roll has not been traced.


Acting Bombardier John Richards is buried in Pembroke Dock Military Cemetery.  There are 40, 1914-1918 war burials in this cemetery.  Acting Bombardier John Caleb Richards has a family headstone rather than a CWGC memorial. [5]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1891 & 1901 census

[3] 1911 census


There is a short but well detailed account in a pamphlet The Fortifications of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock by M.J. Wheeler, published by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Committee.

[5] Commonwealth War Graves Commission




RICHARDS J.C.  Headstone


One thought on “RICHARDS J.C.

  1. Pingback: ETHERLEY | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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