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.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law