Julian David Eaton Richards of South Luffenham was one of more than at dozen vicars' sons from Rutland to be killed in the First World War. Julian was the third son of the Reverend John Francis Richards and Laura Eaton-Richards and was born on 13 May 1886. He entered Sherborne School, Dorset, with a scholarship in 1899, and in 1905 won an open classical scholarship at Wadham College, Oxford. He was a nephew of the then Sub-Warden and he was following in the footsteps of two brothers who were at Wadham before him. Julian was prominent in the Literary and Debating societies (approving of women's suffrage), played hockey and joined the Volunteers. He did well in the Indian Civil Service exam, passing tenth, but instead took up a post as a surveyor in the Post Office, serving in the south-west district of Scotland. When the war began he obtained a Commission in the Royal Engineers (Postal Section) and went to the Western Front on 11 September 1914. But being behind the lines did not suit him. He wrote in his diary on 6 November: "I cannot shake off an illogical feeling of repugnance whenever I turn my back upon the neighbourhood of the fighting, to return to the peace and serenity of rail head (my post of duty after all) or Corps headquarters. It feels too much like running away." On the 15 November he wrote briefly: '"Wrote to colonel about a transfer to the line." In the new year he joined the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. He described his experiences in the trenches in letters home, transcribed below. Julian fought in the Battle of Richebourg-Festubert on 9 May when the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment and 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment were in the lead. George Phillips wrote: "The ground between the armies was littered with their bodies as a result of the withering fire of German machine guns." Julian survived that encounter but died at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915. His Colonel wrote to his parents to say he was "killed while gallantly leading the machine gunners of whom he was in charge. He will be greatly missed by us all, both professionally and socially. He was very keen at his work, whilst his personality and sense of humour had endeared him to us all." The colonel also described Julian's "gallantry" in the operations on 9 May both during the action and in going out for the wounded. Another officer wrote: "We were all so fond of him, and admired him so much for his pluck, bravery, and many good qualities. We miss him much, and his short but brilliant service with the regiment will long be remembered by those who knew him." He was buried at Le Rutoire Farm, Vermelles but his grave was later lost. One of his sisters, probably Mary, went out to Loos sometime between 1922 and 1924 to try to find out more about his death and where he had been buried. She concluded that Julian may lie in St Mary's A.D.S. Cemetery, Haisnes, where there are a number of unidentified men from the Royal Sussex Regiment (for more information see contribution posted below) but there is no proof his grave is actually there. Julian is remembered on panel 69 of the Loos Memorial and at home on the war memorial in South Luffenham. There is also a brass memorial plaque inside the church erected by "his sorrowing colleagues and friends." Another plaque in St Mary the Virgin Church was put up by his father, and he is remembered on his parent's grave in South Luffenham cemetery. Julian's name is also on the new French memorial at Notre Dame De Lorette in Northern France. The photograph below shows Julian with his family: Julian is on the left next to his sister Katherine, then the Reverend John Richards, his wife Laura Eaton-Richards with Mary, Francis and Kingsley. The photograph was taken in 1914 shortly before he left to serve abroad.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has Julian's name as Eaton-Richards, Eaton being his mother's maiden name.
Additional information and photographs courtesy of Mark Waik and Wadham College Archives.
Our thanks to Julian's great-nephew, John Richards, for the photographs of Julian in uniform (above) and with his family (below) as well as the letters from Julian sent from the front and from his sister while searching for his grave. They are reproduced in full below.
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