With Olympics fever upon us, I was prompted to look through the Memorial’s collection to see what material we held on Olympians. One collection in the Private Records area caught my eye. It was created by Lieutenant Thomas James Richards, MC who won a gold medal for rugby at the 1908 London Olympics. Before joining the Army, Richards played rugby first in Queensland, then in South Africa and England.
He enlisted in the AIF in August 1914 at the age of 31 and was with the 1st Field Ambulance at the Gallipoli landing, where he served as a stretcher-bearer. In 1916 he was sent to the Western Front and was awarded a Military Cross for his actions near Bullecourt in May 1917. The citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was in charge of a bombing party, and despite strenuous opposition, succeeded in extending the line 250 yards and holding a strong post. He set a splendid example throughout.” (recommendation for the award)
Amongst all this action, Richards found time to record his experiences. The diaries in the Memorial's Private Records Collection (2DRL/0786) consist of four bound volumes, originally kept as 23 individual diaries. They are very detailed and extensive and cover the period from 1914 through to 1916. In total they measure 21 cm in thickness – a massive read which is made a little easier by the inclusion of corresponding typescripts.
Thomas James Richards is just one of the Memorial’s fascinating characters with an interesting story to tell.
Further reading on Tom Richards
Gold, mud 'n' guts: the incredible Tom Richards, footballer, war hero, Olympian by Greg Growden (2001)