William Charles Richbell – an old HPS boy

Early life & family – Born in the winter of 1896, Will was the second of eight children of John Thomas and Mary Richbell of New Buildings, Flask Walk, Hampstead. His father John had been a professional soldier in the 2nd Bn Middlesex Regiment and had served in the Boer War, before becoming a porter for the Post Office.

Their’s was a large extended family. His grandparents and unmarried uncles and aunts lived in Heath Street or were in service locally. And three married uncles and two married aunts and their families lived in Hampstead Square, Flask Walk and Hendon. Altogether there were over 40 members of the immediate family living in or near Hampstead. The cousins must have had some great times growing up together!

In 1901 Will lived at 1 New End Buildings and was a pupil at Hampstead Parochial School. Life at home was tough. One cousin, Tommy, died age 9 of appendicitis at Hampstead General Hospital at the end of June 1910; and a younger brother, Arthur, died at age 10 early in 1911. Life at school was pretty busy too. In 1910 and 1911 there were 350 children on the school roll – although they didn’t always all turn up!

By 1911 the family had moved across the courtyard to 35 New End Buildings, and Will had left school and was working (age 15) as a telegraph messenger (ie delivering telegrams) alongside his brother John. Perhaps his father or his brother helped him to get the job?

War service – When the War was declared, the whole Richbell family wanted to “do their bit”. Will joined the 4th Bn, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) as a Private (service number L/15674). And 11 other members of the family joined up as well – including his father John and his uncles Walter and Fred; his brothers John and Bert; two sets of his cousins – Fred and Tom, George and Walter; and two uncles by marriage, Edgar Wenham and William Preston. Two other brothers and three cousins were too young to fight.

Death & commemoration – Will died on 28 August 1915 at the Battle of Ypres (age 20), and is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial (on Panels 6 & 8). His cousin Fred was a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, who died almost exactly 2 years later in the same place (and is also commemorated at the Menin Gate – panels 5 & 9). And his uncle by marriage Ed, who was in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was killed at Paschendaele in October 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial (panels 115 to 119, & 162A, 163A).

Will’s death is commemorated on the War Memorial at New Court, and Ed’s on the War Memorials in Church Row and in Hampstead Parochial School.The Richbell families continued living in Hampstead at least until after 1953 (see ABG graves C033, N068).

This page was last updated on December 5th, 2014.

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