Richardson Family World War I Letters

Letter and flower from Richardson WWI letters

The Fisher Library has acquired a remarkable collection of letters written during World War I by three brothers from Ingersoll, Ontario. Ted, Reg, and Harry Richardson fought with the British Army during the war, and their letters provide an invaluable account of the excitement, fear, and mundanity that characterized their experiences.

At over 70 postcards and letters, the correspondence of Ted Richardson makes up the majority of this collection. The youngest of the brothers, Ted arrived in England to join the war effort in 1915, when he was only 17 years old.  His initial letters from that year, sent mainly to his sister, describe the rigorous training, enduring the cold and hunger on long marches, and his desperate desire for better boots. By 1916, Ted is sent to France, where he provides a chilling account of the sound of guns and shells exploding, and the utter horror of being sent "over the top" of the trenches.

The letters of Reginald Richardson begin in 1917, and detail a nearly two-year stretch in France. It is unclear how much of this time was spent near the front, however much of Ted's correspondence mentions his anxiety about his older brother’s safety. As a man of 27, Reg’s writing is considerably more eloquent than that of his brothers. His letters to his sister, Aut, are incredibly compelling, and infused with a touching sense of humour.  On the back of one letter, Reg includes the text of a remarkable poem titled "The Poilu's Litany" (pictured at right - please click on image for larger view), which he describes having heard from a French solider.

Harry Richardson joined the army in July, 1918. Luckily, Harry managed to avoid being sent to France, and in fact was still training in England when the war ended. One letter, sent to his sister on November 15th, 1918, describes having been in London on the day the armistice was signed, and witnessing the massive celebration.

Miraculously, all three brothers appear to have survived the war.  Ted Richardson would go on to become a lawyer and later an Ontario Supreme Court justice. Their letters are a wonderful addition to our manuscript collections, and will serve as a valuable resource for teachers, students, and scholars.  For further information, or to request to view this collection, please consult the catalogue record and finding aid.

- Lauren Williams