A Hill to Die On

Maurice RICKARD’s maternal grandparents were George Toyn COLLEY (he of the Penny Farthing) and Charlotte WARLEY. His paternal grandfather was William “Billy Ricky” Rickard who kept a chemist’s shop in Filey.

Maurice was given two middle names at birth – Nelson and Jellicoe. It should be no surprise that his father was a sailor. Born just after the Great War began, Maurice was of fighting age when the Second global conflict needed bodies to throw at the enemy.

It is a surprise that Maurice not only joined the army but an emphatically Irish Regiment -The London Irish Rifles, the Royal Ulster Rifles. (Today it seems to be just The London Regiment.)

At the beginning of 1943, the 2nd Battalion was in North Africa, moving towards Tunis. Near Bou Arada, it was tasked with clearing two rocky hills of their German occupants.

The 2nd Battalion, The London Irish Rifles was a fine battalion – first-class officers and NCOs – and good men, all as keen as mustard. They had been working together for three years. They possessed a good “feel”, they were proud of their battalion, as they had every right to be.

They attacked with great spirit, and after heavy fighting drove the enemy from Point 286. But then came the trying time. It was practically impossible to dig in on the hard, rocky slopes and all through the day they were subjected to heavy artillery and extremely accurate mortar fire. This fine battalion refused to be shelled off the position. What they had, they held, but at heavy cost. I never hope to see a battalion fighting and enduring more gallantry. Nor do I want to witness again such heavy casualties.

Brigadier Nelson Russell

“Point 286” is also called Hill 286 and there are several web pages that deal with the action on the 20th and 21st January. Maurice died on the second day and you’ll find him listed with his fallen comrades here. (The page offers a link to a full account of the battle of Hill 286.) Three photographs on this Facebook page show the countryside that Maurice last looked upon. He may have been one of the soldiers pictured.

Maurice didn’t choose this hill to die on but had he survived he may have had to fight his way from Anzio to Rome. His brother, James Raymond, did land on the infamous beach with the Green Howards (The Yorkshire Regiment) and died on 23 May 1944, the day before the United States VI Corps broke out of the peninsula.

1bnGreenHowardsAnzio
Men of ‘D’ Company, 1st Battalion The Green Howards, 5th Infantry Division, occupy a captured German communications trench during the offensive at Anzio, 22 May 1944.
Photographer: Sgt Radford, No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit
Crown copyright, IWM Non-Commercial Licence

The brothers are together on the Filey War Memorial, and their gravestones in Tunisia and Italy carry the same words:-

To live in the hearts

We leave behind

Is not to die.

RickardBros2

Find them on the Shared Tree.