Victoria Cross & Inspiration


Piper Richardson. A Source of Inspiration

“Suddenly the whole scene changed. Young Richardson took in the situation. Danger seemed to stimulate and accentuate the Scotch intellect. For some reason he hadn’t been allowed to play up to this point. Turning to the sergeant-major in the shellhole beside him, he said, ‘Will I gie ‘em wind?’ ‘Aye mon, gie ‘em wind,’ was the laconic reply. Good God! Look at that! There was a young, smooth-faced boy coolly playing up and down the wire in that hail storm of lead.”

From “Piper Richardson V.C., An Untold Tale of Heroism and Sacrifice,” Colonel C.W. Peck, V.C., D.S.O. and Bar, M.L.A. Chilliwack Progress, Thursday January 5, 1928, p. 1

Colonel Cyrus Wesley Peck commanded the 16th Battalion C.E.F. after Piper Richardson’s death. Peck was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action at Cagnicourt, France

September 2, 1918

The sound of bagpipes across a war torn battlefield has a profound effect on troops. Its distinctive sound passes over the terrifying noise and carnage of war and lifts and inspires the hearts of those in attendance. 

On October 8, 1916, in Regina Trench of the Somme, France, James Richardson’s company went “over the top” and were held up by concentrations of barbed wire and subjected to intense enemy fire.  Richardson took up his pipes and played while walking outside the wire without regard for his personal safety.  His heroic action and ‘call’ inspired his company to successfully rush and capture the position.

Later, that same day, Richardson assisted both with a wounded comrade and escorting enemy prisoners when he realized he had left his pipes behind.  While attempting to retrieve the pipes he was lost in action and was buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, France.  James Richardson was 20 years old and was the son of David and Mary Prosser Richardson of Chilliwack.

Victoria Cross 

Piper Richardson's deed was inspiring to both his fellow soldiers and many others and resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross.  Piper Richardson is one of four members of the 16th Battalion CEF to receive the Victoria Cross during the First World War and is one of only three pipers who have ever received the award.

Recipients of the Victoria Cross are held in high esteem and substantially commemorated.  Piper Richardson himself has received significant attention and is memorialized in books, verse, and song.  

The Chilliwack Progress newspaper published several stories relating to the Piper during the First World War, with headlines including “Piper Richardson in Gallant Action”, “Recommended for Victoria Cross”, “Victoria Cross for Piper Richardson” and more.

Notable Commemorations

With the end of the First World War, the deeds of Piper Richardson did not fade.

  • 1921 – “The Pipes of War,” published as a record of WWI pipers and featured Piper Richardson as the frontispiece.
  • April 9, 1923 – Chilliwack War Memorial, at Cooke’s Presbyterian Church, Wellington Avenue, records Richardson’s name on the First World War Honour Roll of the parish.
  • 1926 - 1984 – Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire operated the Piper Richardson Chapter in the City of Chilliwack.
  • 1928 – former commanding officer, Colonel Cyrus Wesley Peck V.C., D.S.O. and Bar wrote of the young piper in “An Untold Tale of Heroism and Service.”
  • 1940 –Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire chapter meetings at Defence Headquarters in Ottawa repeatedly recounted Richardson’s deeds.
  • September 4, 1965 – Richardson’s valour was featured in the youth British comic book, “The Victor.”
  • April 2002 – Piper Richardson’s name and 14 other recipients of the Lanarkshire County Victoria Cross recorded at Scotland Memorial gate (sponsored by the Hamilton Advertiser newspaper).
  • Rutherglen, Scotland Old Parish Church records name of James Richardson, and other members of the parish who fell during the First World War on a brass memorial plaque.
  • Richardson recorded on the Rutherglen War Memorial, Glasgow Road, Rutherglen, Scotland.
  • Victoria, British Columbia a series of framed images of provincially related Victoria Cross recipients including Richardson are exhibited at the Parliament Buildings.
  • Broadway Avenue, Branch 4, Royal Canadian Legion operates the Piper Richardsoncommemorative housing project.

When Chilliwack born, MLA Barry Penner read the brief caption on the Victoria Cross framed images commemorating Piper Richardson in the Parliament Buildings, he personally became inspired by the young soldier’s accomplishments and sacrifice. Speaking in the House of the piper’s deeds, Barry Penner raised considerable interest in Richardson and the then commemorative project in Chilliwack.