Born 9 June 1897 Brioude, France Died of the Effects of Gas 26 August 1918
Corporal S/14862 1/5th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders
Buried at Ligny St Flochel British Cemetery, Averdoingt
Henry Cecil Rickard, known as Cecil, was the youngest child of John Henry Rickard and Mary Annie Mitchell. The couple had married in 1886 at the Wesleyan Chapel at Bolingey.
John Rickard's job as a mining engineer took him to France, where all of the couple's six children were born. Sadly, two of the children died in infancy. Cecil, along with his brothers, was sent back to Cornwall to be educated. He attended Truro School and later obtained a first class certificate at the School of Metalliferous Mining in Camborne. His brothers, Thomas and Rene, also took up careers in mining.
Cecil enlisted on 5 July 1916. With his mining background, he might have been expected to become a sapper; instead, he became a gas instructor with the Seaforth Highlanders at the Cromarty Naval Base. In April 1918 Cecil was transferred to the 5th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders and was sent to the Western Front. Despite his training, he was gassed on 27 May 1918 and spent some time recovering at Le Treport Hospital. He wasn't alone; the Battalion diary records that 52 men were wounded or gassed around this time.
By 8 August he was well enough to rejoin his regiment, but his time back in the trenches was short. Once again, he was gassed, this time whilst holding the line at Arras. The War Diary for the 5th Seaforth Highlanders records for August 1918:
"On the 2Ist, the battalion again advanced and
captured another system of trenches. During this
period, our lines were heavily bombarded, principally
with gas shells, and gas casualties were severe, but
the advance continued steadily, and in six days'
fighting the Chemical Works, Roeux, Plouvain, and
Greenland Hill, a slightly rising piece of ground north-
east of the Chemical Works, were once again in British
Cecil died at the 7th Casualty Clearing Station on 26 August 1918. Around 117 other men were gassed during this period.
Cecil's Commanding Officer wrote to Cecil's parents:
"I can't express my sorrow at the death of your son, one of the best NCOs of my company".
Cecil's brother Rene, shown right, also served in the army, happily returning from the war.
Mr and Mrs Rickard had bought a home in Newquay before the war - Mrs Rickard and her daughter Florence were recorded in Colchester Villas, Edgcumbe Avenue, on the 1911 Census - and continued to live there after the war. Hopefully, they took some consolation in seeing Cecil's name on the new war memorial - the family have kindly shared these photographs of the ceremony dedicating the war memorial in 1921.
As well as being remembered on the town's war memorial, Cecil's name is included on the Truro School memorial. I've noticed that he is not mentioned by the Camborne School of Mines, so I shall get in touch with them. The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser carried a story on 19 Feburary 1920 about a service at the town's Wesleyan Church. The "impressive" service was occasioned by the unveiling of a brass plaque paid for by Mr and Mrs Rickard in memory of Cecil. In addition to Cecil's name, H A Bray, R H Clemo, C A Colmer, J H Ennor, C R Ennor, F Jewell, E Julian, T Luke, R Rawle, R Rowlatt, R and A Trebilcock were included on the plaque. A collection of £7 was collected, which was donated to the Cottage Hospital fund.
Mr Rickard died in 1941 and Mrs Rickard died 10 years later. Their address at the time of their deaths was 5 Edgcumbe Avenue, Newquay.
All the photographs in this blog have been kindly shared by Cecil's family and are used with their permission. I am very grateful to them for their assistance and kindness.