Richard Henry Harper

Date of birth: 3rd December 1883
Place of birth: Knaresborough, Yorkshire
Regiment: King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Battalion: 11th
Rank / Service No: Serjeant, R/1695
Died: 17th September 1916, aged 32 years
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, France


It has been virtually impossible to track down Richard’s parents or siblings.

It is known that his father was also Richard, a house painter, who was born in London in 1861.


Richard Henry probably had at least one brother, called Edward.


Richard Henry married Bessie Taylor in Branksome on 27 October 1906, and the couple had 5 children.


Bessie provides one of the rare tie-ups with Southampton, because she was born in the city in 1887.



Richard William   b. 27 May 1907 Parkstone   d. 2000 Nottingham

Florence Rosie   b. 1908 Parkstone   d. 1930 Kent

Violet May   b. 1910 Parkstone   d. 1976 Glamorgan   Married Ernest C. Curtis in Poole in 1948.

Gertrude A.   b. 1912 Parkstone   d. 1922 Southampton

Thomas Henry   b. 1916 Parkstone   d. 1991 Southampton   Married Eleanor J. O’Brien in Southampton in 1939.


Richard Henry, also a house painter, did not start his military career with flying colours.

He firstly attested on 20 October 1899, stating that he was 18 years and 1 month old. He was then discharged for lying about his age, with official documents stating that he was born on 3 December 1883.


He then attested once again, on 20 January 1902, in Bradford.


Once again, however, he ran into trouble. Whilst based in Aldershot with his battalion, Richard “deserted” on 1 July 1906 !

There was a Court of Inquiry hearing into his desertion and loss of kit on 23 July 1906….unfortunately, it has not been possible to decipher the verdict.


Richard obviously eventually made it to the Western Front with his battalion. He probably perished during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15 – 22 September 1916).


This battle was part of the Somme offensive, and was the third and last such offensive mounted by the British in the campaign.

The battle was an attempt to punch a hole in the German lines by using massed artillery and infantry attacks; this would then be exploited by with the use of cavalry.


More than 50,000 Commonwealth servicemen perished in the Somme sector between 1 July and 18 November 1916.



Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 6th September 2016


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