This post was written by Victoria Doran.
Richard Waters was an Old Caldeian and Liverpool Pal killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme who came from a typical middle class background, but whose home circumstances were far from ideal.
Liverpool Pals cap badge
From newspaper reports we know that Richard was known as ‘Dicky’ to his family and friends, so that is how he will be referred.
Dicky was the only one of the three children of William Waters (1850-1916) and Annie Maria Richards (1859-1917) to reach their first birthday, as an older sister and a younger brother both died as babies.
William Waters was born at East Cholderton in the parish of Amport, Hampshire where his father, William Waters senior (1819-1872) was farming on a large scale – 490 acres and employing 11 men. It would seem that he was farming on behalf of other landowners, as he was later described as a farm bailiff, and left very little money when he died. However the family was well off as William and his siblings attended boarding schools. The Waters family had farmed around the borders of Hampshire and Wiltshire for generations. William senior’s father, Robert Waters (1788-1867) farmed his own land as he left a significant amount of money. William senior’s mother was Elizabeth Gale (1794-???).
William Waters became managing director of the company of John C. Gale & Co. of 7 Hatton Gardens, Liverpool.
Gore’s Directory of Liverpool, 1911
There may well be a family connection to his grandmother’s family.
Dicky’s paternal grandmother was Mary Ann Hatfull (1817-1884), the Londoner daughter of surgeon Robert Hatfull (1788-1867) who also left a significant amount of money. So the paternal side of Dicky’s family had prospered for many generations.
Annie Maria Richards’ background was more problematic. Her mother Rosa Cox (1827-1905) was born in Somerset where her father William Collard Cox (1790-1842) was a land surveyor. She was only 15 when her father died, yet she was the one who registered his death, on the day of his funeral. He made a will the day before he died, but his wife Ann (1793-???) took nearly 6 years to obtain probate.
Rosa is next found at her first marriage on 31 May 1846 at St George, Everton.
Rosa Cox & William Bainbridge Whatton marrriage
A marriage licence was required as Rosa was still only aged 19. She was presumably working at Kirkdale Industrial School more information about which can be found here.
There were no children from the marriage and Rosa was living in Liverpool with her mother-in-law, a boarding house keeper, in 1851, her husband absent. Presumably William Bainbridge Whatton died at sea as no record of his death has been found.
Rosa remarried by licence at Christ Church, Everton on 21 March 1857.
Rosa (Cox) Whatton & Roger Richards marriage
Annie Maria was the only child of this marriage. Roger Richards (1816-1862) was born in Camarthenshire, Wales and worked as a surgeon and chemist in Wrexham for many years, joining a Freemason’s Lodge in Chester. By 1857 he had moved to Everton.
However he never actually qualified as a surgeon as he is not listed in the UK Medical Register that was introduced in 1859. It was not illegal to practice medicine without being registered, but it must have made it much more difficult for him. He appears to have become a ship’s doctor. He died on 25 March 1862 at Bonny River, on the coast of modern Nigeria. The circumstances are unknown.
Rosa was left with less than £300 (worth around £25,000 today) and a 2 year old daughter. It is not known how she managed as she and Annie Maria are next found 17 years later at the 1881 census living in Heswall, where she is housekeeper for James Hobill (1819-1898). James was a widowed hotel proprietor, and they were married a few months later and moved to Seacombe where they ran Brightons Hotel in Brighton Street.
In the summer of 1887 Dicky’s parents married. The family lived in Oxton for many years, moving to a very large house at ‘Boscombe’, 15 Marine Park, West Kirby at some point in the first decade of the century. Boscombe, Wiltshire was where Robert Waters farmed and where William Waters senior was born. William Waters was a churchwarden at St Andrew’s church and a well known local philanthropist.
An indication that all might not be well in the family is that in 1901, aged just 10 years old, Dicky was a boarding school pupil at St Cuthbert’s, Great Malvern, Worcestershire. This seems a long way to send such a young child to a preparatory school, as there were many suitable schools much nearer. Unusually he did not then proceed to a Public School but returned to West Kirby and became a pupil at Calday Grange Grammar School. He was a member of the Boy’s Brigade.
Extract from the Old Caldeian magazine.
Note he was actually in the 2nd Liverpool Pals Battalion, the 18th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
After leaving school Dicky worked as a book keeper and then a salesman for a hide merchant, presumably for his father’s firm.
Dicky enlisted on 31 August 1914 as soon as the Liverpool Pals were formed, joining the 18th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private 16494, alongside Samuel Frank Barnes, Albert Henshaw and James Redfern Johnston. Dicky was 5ft 4 in tall with brown hair and hazel eyes.
In the early days of training he wrote to the local paper.
West Kirby News 24 October 1914
After training they landed in France on 7 November 1915 as part of the 21st Brigade of the 30th Division.
Exactly 2 months later, Dicky’s father died suddenly, leaving his mother alone. Another indication that all was not well was that the executors of William Water’s will were his 2 spinster sisters, Kate & Sarah Waters. Normally a widow would be one of her husband’s executors. Kate Waters was the principal mourner at the funeral which Annie Maria did not attend.
Very unusually for a Private in the months leading up to the Battle of the Somme, Dicky was granted 10 days home leave from 10 April 1916.
On 1st July 1916 they were engaged in their first major battle, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The 18th Battalion’s task was to assist in the taking of the village of Montauban. Of all the battalions which formed part of this Brigade, the 18th (2nd Liverpool Pals) suffered the heaviest casualties from machine gun fire from Railway Valley. The Brigade reached Glatz Redoubt as planned and moved on to take Montauban by 10.00 am.
Dicky was killed in the fighting that day. He was 24 years old and a wealthy young man.
One of his friends wrote in tribute
Dicky Waters is one of the best fellows in our company. We know that he could have had promotion over and over again, but he did not want it; he would rather be one of us. He is as true as steel, no side, ever ready to advise, or do any fellow a good turn, and the good life he leads himself is an influence I can hardly estimate.
His body was not recovered, so he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
There is a very sad coda to this tale. The telegram notifying his next of kin of Dicky’s death was returned undelivered to the depot. Subsequent inquiry by the Hoylake Police revealed that Dicky’s mother was ‘much addicted to drink’ and that her affairs were in the hand of a local firm of solicitors. It seems likely that Dicky’s last home leave was on compassionate grounds, to enable Annie Maria’s affair’s to be placed with the solicitors. Hardly a last memory anyone would want to have of their mother when returning to the Front. The solicitor’s also handled Dicky’s estate and effects. In due course his medals and scroll went to his aunt Kate. His only surviving close relatives were his 2 spinster aunts.
Annie Maria died on 10 April 1917.
Birth: Oct 1891 at Birkenhead
Death: 1 Jul 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, France; killed in action
Addresses: St Cuthberts, Victoria Road, Great Malvern, Worcestershire (01); ‘Boscombe’, 15 Marine Park, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: salesman – hide & leather company
Unit: 18th (Liverpool Pals) Battalion, Kings Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 16494 Private
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; St Andrew & St Bridget churches, West Kirby
Sources: CWGC, MC, SR, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR, probate, Kelly’s Liverpool Directory, Gore’s Liverpool Directory, CG, CGB, WK, DA, WKN