Pioneer Richard Friend

Date of Birth c. 1878
Age at Death 41
Date of Death 23 February 1919
Service Number 137268
Military Service Royal Engineers
Merton Address 15 Sydney Road, Raynes Park
Local Memorial

Additional Information

Richard was born in about 1878 in Paddington to Alfred and Eliza Friend. He had a sister, Lillian, who was five years older than him. His father, Alfred, came from Bayswater and worked as a painter and decorator. In 1881, the family lived in a boarding house with at least one other family, at 56 Moscow Road, Paddington. By 1891, Richard’s mother had died (and apparently his sister as well), and he and his father had moved to a different boarding house at 4 Salem Gardens, Paddington.

Richard married Rosanna Chinnock of 93 Haydons Park Road, on 4 February 1906, at Holy Trinity Church, Wimbledon. He was living at 57 Tunis Road, Shepherds Bush at the time, and working as a porter. By 1911, Richard and Rosanna were living in a six room house at 130 Lavenham Road, Southfields, along with their two children, Raymond Richard and Alfred William, and Richard’s widowed father, who now owned a confectionary and tobacco shop. Richard worked as a postman.

Richard signed up on 11 November 1915. By now his family was living at 15 Sydney Road, Raynes Park. He was 5’7” and had had a hernia operation at some point.

He was enlisted into the Royal Engineers Postal Section. He had apparently served in the 12th Suffolk Regiment at some point in the past. The work of the postal section of the RE is described in a BBC article as follows:-

“The Royal Engineers (Postal Section) or REPS as it was universally known, was a part-time reserve unit in peacetime made up of GPO men who'd had a smattering of military training. This unit of postal workers was immediately subsumed into the Army when WW1 broke out, but the Army was only in nominal command. At the outbreak of war the unit almost immediately created a sorting office in London's Regent's Park - a gigantic wooden hut covering several acres. Outward mail was sorted by the military unit. On its outward journey to the Western Front, a fleet of three-ton army lorries would take the mail to Folkestone or Southampton where ships would shuttle it across to Army Postal Service (APS) depots in Le Havre, Boulogne and Calais.

Trains ran back and forth across Picardy under cover of darkness dropping some mail off along the route and unloading the rest at railheads where special REPS lorries took them to the "refilling points" for divisional supplies. Regimental post orderlies would sort the mail at the roadside and carts would be wheeled to the front line to deliver it to individual soldiers. The objective was to hand out letters from home with the evening meal…. …….. Letters back from the men were collected from field post offices. The mail was date-stamped with the field postmark and sent to the base post office for its journey home.”

As Richard joined the postal unit in 1915 and, as his service record doesn’t mention a foreign posting until March 1918, it must be presumed that he worked in the Regent’s Park Office for most of the war. However, his record shows that he joined the unit from England on 17 March1918 and that on 23 February 1919 he died from influenza and broncho-pneumonia contracted whilst still on active service in Belgium.

Richard is buried in the Buried at Halle Communal Cemetery in Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium. The cemetery/memorial reference is A. 69.


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