Stoneham War Shrine     Discovering the Park

2nd Lieut.  Richard T C Willis Fleming (1896-1916).

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Richard Willis Fleming

Richard Willis Fleming was killed in Egypt on 4 August 1916, the day after his twentieth birthday. By coincidence, this day was the second anniversary of the outbreak of war, and until 1919, the fourth of August was designated Remembrance Day.

Richard was born at Chilworth Manor on 3 August 1896, the second son of John and Violet Willis Fleming. He passed for Oxford University, but in March 1915 obtained a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 1/1st Hampshire Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery.

The Battery remained in England during 1915. Richard's sister, Ida, recalled of this time, "Dick was longing to get out. His team were very well trained and he took enormous pride in racing them, and having them manned and ready." He finally left home on 29 January 1916, his brother John seeing him off from Southampton railway station. Richard sailed, in snow, from Avonmouth at the end of February, and arrived at Alexandria on 5 March. The troops travelled on to Port Said, and then to the camp at Kantara.

Richard kept a daily diary while he served overseas, and over the next few months he recorded his observations about desert wildlife, pursued his interest in photography, and, during leave, visited Cairo and the Pyramids. On the 24 May the soldiers moved near to Romani, a town 23 miles east of the Suez Canal near the Mediterranean shore of the Sinai peninsula. On 18 July it was reported that 15,000 Turks were massing twelve miles away./p>

The enemy attack began early on 4 August. "At five, Fleming was sent to get fresh ammunition at the Dump at Railhead," wrote Lieut. Alan Franklin. "I saw him just before he went. I then went down to the guns to relieve Elliot, and I hadn't been there one hour, when a message came through that Fleming was slightly wounded in the head. Elliot came down later and told me I should never see him again. I nearly broke down - hardly believing it. Elliot then told me Fleming had received a piece of bomb right through his head, that he was unconscious all the time, and his death was expected any minute." A lone enemy plane had dropped a single bomb. Richard died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. Lieut. Franklin made a drawing of Richard's temporary grave, and wrote: "An English Gentleman is what I would call him, although not a typical one, as that would not be a very praiseworthy attribute, but an Ideal English Gentleman - an ideal man."

Richard is buried at Kantara War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. Like all British soldiers in the Great War, his body was never returned home.

Richard Willis Fleming is one of thirty-seven men commemorated by the Shrine; his is one of thirty-seven stories. Over the year of the restoration project, we hope to find out more about these men. Can you help?

There is a tablet to Richard in North Stoneham Church.