3022 PTE. R. BRADLEY. AIF.
[My thanks to Lesley Eller, a family member in Australia, for filling in the details of the Australian connections.]
Richard Bradley was born in the last quarter of 1891 in Lostock Hall. His father, John (b. 1843 in Preston) worked on the railways as a porter and labourer; his mother, Mary (b. 1848 in Cuerden) had worked in the mill. Richard was the youngest of 6 children, 5 of whom were still alive in 1911: Mary (b. 1877), Thomas (b. 1879), John (b. 1881), Lucy Ann (b. 1883), and Elizabeth (b. 1887).
In 1911, John and Mary were retired, and Elizabeth and Mary were both still living at home, as was Richard. The women were weavers in the mill and Richard (then aged 19) was a music teacher. The family lived at 7 Moss Street, Lostock Hall.
I think Richard emigrated to Australia in 1914 and the following year he married Mary Monica Eller. Monica was born in Preston in 1890. Her father Michael Eller was an overlooker in a cotton mill. Michael and his wife Ann and most of their 8 children emigrated to Australia in 1912 (Michael was 60). I don’t know if Richard and Monica knew each other before they emigrated, but they married in Mosman, New South Wales, in 1915. Richard enlisted with 4Bn Australian Infantry on 9 August 1915. On his enlistment papers, he first gives his next of kin as his father back in England, but this is crossed out and replaced with his wife’s name. He gives his occupation as music teacher.
Richard was posted to 4th Battalion Australian Infantry. He left Sydney in January 1916. His wife was pregnant, though they couldn’t have known this yet. Their son, Richard, was born on 22 September 1916.
In January 1916, 4Bn Australian Infantry were at Tel-el-Kebir, in Egypt and Richard arrived with a contingent on 19 February 1916. Tel-el-Kebir had been a training base for Australian troops ahead of Gallipoli, although by now the disastrous Gallipoli campaign was over, and troops withdrawn from Gallipoli were being retrained for other destinations. 4Bn would be fighting in France.
On 23 March 1916 the Bn embarked at Alexandria aboard HMTS Simla for Marseilles, arriving on 29 March, then entrained for Steenbeke then marched to Staple then on to Cassel, arriving on 8 April. They then moved on to Outtersteene, the Battalion strength being 30 officers and 958 other ranks. On the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, 25 April, they suffered their first fatality, Pte Gibb, killed by a rifle bullet whilst on fatigue duty, at Petillon. There were several threats of gas attacks as the Bn prepared to go into the trenches. In their first month in the trenches, 19 April - 16 May, casualties were 6 killed and 12 wounded including 2 officers. The weather was poor, mild and wet, and much time was spent building trenches and reinforcing parapets. They were relieved on 21 May and moved to training camps at Sailly. The weather improved towards the end of the month.
On 10 June they relieved 8 Bttn AIF at Fleurbaix. On 13th they made a successful raid on German trenches. There were several gas alarms during the rest of month but no actual attacks. On 26th 4 Btn was occupying a length of trench 1500 yds, closest point to enemy 175 yds, most distant 320 yds. The War Diarist describes the fighting conditions: “In this line there are in all 139 firing bays capable of accommodating from 6-20 rifle men. There are 15 emplacements for Vickers machine guns. We also have 6 Lewis machine guns, plus a number of trench mortars. This area is also covered by fire of the 6th and 23rd Batteries AFA and by some heavy guns and howitzers further back. Patrols of 12 men each go out from 100-200 yards in front of each company nightly to lie in wait for enemy patrols and to act as cover to nightly wiring parties. Now decided by Brigade that there will be a discharge of gas against enemy from our trenches and our raid will be altered to reconnaissance to ascertain success of gas attack. Hence party must move in gas helmets and strength is cut down so Lt Macarthy and 10 others enter trenches. Lt Matthews and 10 cover in No Man's Land and 2nd Lt McKeown and 10 will support in our trenches. June 28th: last night and early this morning a party of R.E. NCOs and men under Lt Madgin installed in our trenches 189 cylinders of gas (referred to in orders as ROGERS). These were placed 20 in each of 10 bays and 9 in a 10th bay of Well Farm Salient. All troops south of the River Laies are therefore now observing gas "alert". More ROGERS were delivered the following night. The cylinders are 3'9" long, internal diameter 3" and weigh 150-180 lbs. Arrangements also made to use smoke bombs, these to be thrown by Bomb Platoon. June 30th. Best direction of wind for success of operation tonight is 13 deg N of W to 30 deg W of N. Due West would also probably suit. At 2330 direction of wind was southwest and as it had been blowing steadily from this quarter all evening the operation was postponed.” In fact, the wind remained unfavourable and the Rogers were postponed altogether for the Brigade and they were relieved in the trenches on July 6th. Since coming into the trenches on 24 June they had had 3 men killed and 13 wounded.
In July they were first billeted in Sailly then moved to Outtersteene for training then to Allonvolle, then Warloy and finally to La Boiselle to prepare for an attack on Pozières on the night of July 22/23. This is the second phase of the Battle of the Somme see map.
During the attack on 23rd they had 13 men killed and 67 wounded. The attack proceeded further on 25th, the Brigade lost a further 2 killed and 6 wounded but they killed 60 Germans and captured over 100 plus mortars and machine guns. However the following day they reported more heavy losses and many men buried and suffering from shell shock. 4th Battn was relieved the following day. The final casualties for the fighting of 22-27 July were officers killed 2 wounded 10, other ranks killed 82, wounded 322, missing 18, total casualties 434.
The Bn continued at rest or in training at Hérissart. On 12 August they received 101 reinforcements. These included some old men from Gallipoli and Egypt as well as some wounded in France. Battalion strength is now 26 officers and 688 other ranks. They returned to the trenches at Pozières on 16 August, where they identified a gap of about 500 yards in the defences. This is a very vulnerable point and an enemy advance on a wide front would walk through unmolested to Pozières. Richard Bradley was killed in action on August 15 (aged 24) alongside 97 other AIF men killed that day. The Bn remained in the trenches until 19 August fighting to defend the ground won. They suffered a further 59 officers and men killed and 248 wounded or missing, total 307.
By the end of the Battle of the Somme the Battalion had advanced a further 3 miles or so, and in November was withdrawn to Flesselles.
Richard’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, near Amiens on the River Somme.
Service No: 3022
Date of Death: 15/08/1916
Regiment/Service: Australian Infantry, A.I.F., 4th Bn.
Memorial: VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MEMORIAL