Having enjoyed his schooldays at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Rycharde did not hesitate in signing up to join the East Kent Regiment ‘The Buffs’.
Letters home portrayed a very different picture to the horrors being faced by the soldiers who were being slaughtered in their thousands.
Letters from home were very gratefully received and Rycharde wrote several to his parents:
13 May “I had my first close shell while we were waiting to go up and it certainly gave me a funny sort of feeling! But by the end of the day I wasn’t turning a hair! Somehow it all seemed to be quite natural.”
14 May “We are still waiting in readiness in case we are wanted suddenly but unfortunately the weather has changed and as we are bivouacking in a wood it has been a bit cold and damp…are cakes very heavy? Because if not, an occasional cake would be nice as rations are nothing wonderful”
20 May “…we have been rejoicing over the prospect of baths tomorrow but the two companies who were having theirs today have just returned having been shelled out!! The Germans are dirty brutes knowing the British like baths when they can get them they persistently shell the only place…they didn’t hit anybody as everyone fled ignominiously – I take it in a shortage of apparel!”
21 May “My dear father, very many happy returns of the day! I am sorry I haven’t taken anything from the Germans yet to give to you but I will see what I can do later on…we are going back to the trenches tomorrow evening…it has rained the last three days and the mud as you can imagine has been dreadful”
22 May “Thank you very much for the letters and the parcel which arrived just as we were starting off for the trenches so I brought the cake up with us…the worst of the trench work is that it doesn’t allow you much time for sleep…the Germans don’t shell much in the morning so we can work but in the afternoons the guns on both sides keep things pretty lively and it is best to sit tight…
I got my bath quite safely yesterday morning and you can imagine how I enjoyed it!
PS Has mother taken on the hospital work? I do hope that it is not too much”.
It was just two days later that his luck ran out:
24 May “My dearest mother and father, you will only get this if anything happens, even if you do, I may very likely only be wounded so don’t worry.
At 2.30 this morning the Germans started a terrific attack bombardment using their vile gas. Our lads were splendid and stuck it. At 5.30 we got a message to reinforce the firing line…unfortunately there was very bad communication. I went out to try and find out what was happening and worked my way up to the front line about 1,000 yards ahead…the shrapnel was terrific but our luck was in and we reached a ruined house just behind the firing line and found there a good many wounded, poor beggars. I got a stretcher party together and we pulled in several badly wounded…but unfortunately they sniped at us the brutes and two of our poor chaps were hit…we have done what we can to make them comfortable…we can do so little for them until dark and even then it isn’t safe…all we can do is keep boiling water, it is not safe to drink otherwise and give them sips of tea and Bovril…it is just that fiendish gas…keeps up a horrible choking feeling which prevents one working as hard as one wants.
What will happen to us I don’t know I think we are advancing now…if the Germans get through we can only surrender on account of our wounded. If we fought, as God knows we would like to, they would only murder the wounded.
Well cheerio if anything happens I am glad I can tell you I haven’t been in the least frightened and I think I have done a little to get these wounded into some sort of safety. Thank God I have managed to do my bit like all the other brave fellows.
I know you won’t mind as long as I have tried my best.”
Did Rycharde have a premonition that his life was coming to an end or was it routinely accepted by every man that each moment could be their last? He also could not have known that he was amongst the first to experience the effects of chemical warfare.
It was just a few hours later that he was fatally wounded.