Regina Trench was the longest trench constructed by the Germans on the Western Front. It was four kilometres long and it snaked along the valley of the Ancre River north of Courcelette, taking advantage of every contour of the land and much of it hidden fron the Allied artillery, and well protected by barbed-wire.
The Canadians needed four attempts to complete their goal of taking the trench. It was on the second attempt that James Richardson makes a most valiant act. On October 8th, 1916, at 4:50am, the three-kilometre long attack began. The 16th Canadian Scottish found the barbed-wire was still intact and they were pinned down in No Man’s Land by German machine-gun fire.
Piper James Richardson, seeing his comrades prostrate on the ground and their attack doomed, stood up and started playing his bagpipes. Seemingly impervious to the German rifles and machine-guns, marching back and forth in front of the enemy wire. His example of remarkable bravery in the face of fire so encouraged his comrades that they lept to their feet and stormed the German trench. The 16th battalion had succeeded. The had taken the Regina Trench!
The Germans counter-attacked and without reinforcements, the Canadians had to retreat and by the morning of the 9th, all were out of the trench, however their piper, James Richardson was killed during the evacuation. All accounts suggest that he had evacuated only to realize that he had left his pipes behind in the trench and returned to retrieve them and was never seen alive again.
For his act of courage in the support of his brothers in arms, James Richardson received the Victoria Cross.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
By mid-October 1914, the Valcartier soldiers had received their basic training and had been assembled into battalions of approximately 1000 men. One of these battalions, the 13th, was comprised of men from the former Royal Highlanders of Canada militia unit. Most of the men in the battalion were from Montreal and like all of the battalions, its officers were predominately well-to-do businessmen, Aomong the 13th’s officers was Guy Drummond.
The Drummond family was immensly rich and wielded great influence in the Canada of 1914. Guy, a handsome, 26 year old banker, was already a millionaire. Guy received a BA from McGill University in 1909 and continued on towards a military career, making lieutenant, 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada in 1912, and he died in 1915, 27 years old.
The father, George, was a Director of the Bank of Montreal.