Obituary: Maj-Gen Frank Richardson

A soldier must have many qualities but above all he must have courage: this Frank Richardson had in abundance. Richardson was both a doctor and a soldier who understood the mind of his men. He was also, as a son of Scotland, one of their finest pipers.

His was a rich life founded on discipline and compassion and many men are alive today because of his skill and courage. With his military background he knew that in the heat of battle those in command, at any level, must remain calm. He also knew that in the opening fearsome minutes of an attack momentum has to be maintained at all cost.

In the fiercely fought Battle of Keren during the Eritrean campaign of 1941, Richardson's courage, understanding of men and his piping were brought together with dramatic effect. The Italians, smarting from their rout in the Western Desert, were determined to defend their position, particularly at Fort Dologorodoc, which blocked the Dongolas Gorge. It was essential that the Italian resistance was overcome, for they controlled the road to the capital Asmara.

During the attack, while Richardson was busy organising recovery of casualties, he realised that one of the Scottish battalions had lost their momentum. Grabbing hold of his bagpipes, which he always carried with him, he moved among them and with complete disregard for danger he played them forward. This brave and inspired action raised the spirit of the men and they overran the Italian positions. Rightly, Richardson was awarded a DSO: many thought he deserved the Victoria Cross. In this deed there were strong echoes of Piper Laidlaw at Loos in 1915: both knew the power of the pipes.

Frank Richardson was born in St Andrews and was the son of Colonel Hugh Richardson RAMC, who also won a DSO while with the Territorial Army in the First World War. He was educated at Glenalmond College before going on to Edinburgh University to study Medicine and was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1927.

As with many junior officers at the time, the training ground was India. Here he enjoyed the usual traditions such as polo and pig sticking and he took part in a number of expeditions to the Himalayas. He was invalided home in 1933.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he was again in India and returned to take over command of 166 Field Ambulance and was with them at the Battle of Keren. He then served in Syria, Lebanon and in the Western Desert, where he took part in the Battle of El Alamein and the advance into Tunisia with the 51st Highland Division. In June 1944 he landed in Normandy with the 160th Field Ambulance and commanded them throughout the North West European campaign. He then became Assistant Director of Medical Services of the 15th Scottish Division during some of the toughest fighting in that harsh winter. In the spring of 1945 he was involved in the crossing of the Rhine and the advance to the Elbe.

In his six years at war he had come to understand battlefield fatigue and trauma and its effect on morale. After the war he held a wide range of medical appointments in British military hospitals and field force units. He was Director of Medical Services of HQ British Army of the Rhine from 1956 until he retired in 1961. During 1957-61 he was the Queen's Honorary Surgeon.

Like Lord Moran, Churchill's doctor, who recorded his experiences of dealing with troops suffering from fatigue and shellshock in the First World War in his classic work Anatomy of Courage, Richardson now turned to writing and lecturing on his experiences. At the Army Staff College in Camberley, Surrey, he gave an annual lecture on "Fighting Spirit; Psychological Factors in War". He was a brilliant speaker who could pull from his vast reservoir of experience and captivate his audience.

In his retirement he worked for the Army Benevolent Fund and for six years was the medical adviser to the Civil Defence in Scotland. He later worked for the Red Cross Society and became director of the Scottish Veterans' Residences at Whiteford House, Edinburgh.

Richardson was not only a gifted speaker but a fine writer who did not balk at awkward subjects. His first book, Napoleon, Bisexual Emperor, was published in 1972, followed by Napoleon's Death: an inquest (1974); The Public and the Bomb (1981) coincided with his work on civil defence; Mars with Venus; a study of some homosexual generals (1981) made interesting reading. He co- authored with Seumas MacNeill Piobaireachd and its Interpretation (1987): a classic work on piping.

Frank McLean Richardson, doctor, soldier, piper: born St Andrews 3 March 1904; DSO 1941; OBE 1945; Director of Medical Services, BAOR 1956-61; Honorary Surgeon to the Queen 1957-61; CB 1960; married 1944 Silvia Innes (two sons, one daughter); died 27 August 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones