6. Stories from the past
A dashing Army Major and his pretty show girl...
Richard Saker had a distinguished military career. He served in the Boer War with the Rough Riders, a yeomanry regiment of the British Territorial Army, with whom he received the Queen's South Africa Medal with four clasps (for four separate engagements). Later he joined the Connaught Rangers, 4th Battalion. By 1907 he had risen to the rank of Captain.
He was born in Liverpool in 1877 and was privately educated. In 1909 he married Winifred (Winnie) Millicent Volt, a musical comedy artist and his connection to Cookham Dean began! Winnie and Richard moved into Walnut Tree Cottage on the Cricket Common just yards from where Richard would eventually be commemorated. They had one son, Richard Kenneth Maitland Saker.
In October 1913 Richard was granted leave for six months and the couple travelled to Sydney in late November 1913 aboard the Orsova. He applied for and was granted an extra six months' leave and the pair travelled to New Zealand. During their time in the colonies Winnie appeared in a number of shows such as 'Puss in Boots' and 'The Forty Thieves'. She was described as petite and 'liberally endowed with good looks' in contrast to his 6ft 4ins and 13 stone.
While they were in New Zealand war was declared and Richard made a hasty departure in order to do his bit. He arrived in Melbourne on 22 August 1914 aboard the Ulimaroa and reported to the Defence Department the same day. He was given command of G Company of the 5th Battalion, Australian Infantry Force. He embarked on the Orvieto on 21 October 1914, at the time listing his address as Verona, Clarendon Street, East Melbourne. Winnie and their son embarked a day earlier on the Moldavia 1.
The Orvieto was the first troop ship to leave Victoria, meeting other ships from other states in Albany, Western Australia, and was the flagship for the fleet as it sailed to Egypt. On 9th November and fifty miles from the Cocos Islands HMAT Sydney, which was part of the convoy, sank the German cruiser Emden and its crew were placed on board the Orvieto as prisoners.
On arrival at Alexandria on 2 December the battalion travelled by train to Mena Camp just outside Cairo. On 21st December Richard found out that the War Office in London was looking for him. They had reported him missing when he failed to present himself at the outbreak of the war. His unit was based in Ireland at the time and he was expected to report there. He immediately sent an explanatory letter and all was forgiven. While still at Mena on 1st January 1915 Richard was promoted to Major and on 2 April was formally seconded for service with the AIF. The battalion left Mena Camp on 4 April bound for the Dardenelles. Richard took part in the legendary Anzac landing on 25 April but the following day he was wounded twice and then killed as he led his men forward out of the trenches.
He was buried at Brown's Dip South Cemetery, Gallipoli, about 500 yards south of Anzac Cove. However, the site proved unstable and prone to erosion and in 1923 all the bodies were exhumed and reburied at Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac, just over a mile south east of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. He received a fitting tribute in the Cookham Dean parish magazine for July 1915 and is commemorated on the Cookham Dean War Memorial.
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Sources: NAA name search, Ancestry.co.uk Unassisted passenger lists, Familytree maker, AWM, search for a person, AWM, War diary, 5th battalion. East Melbourne Historical Association, Cookham Dean Parish Magazine.
Major, 5th Battalion, Australian Infantry, AIF (and Connaught Rangers)
Born 8 November 1877. Died 26 April 1915. Age 37
Buried in Lone Pines Anzac Cemetery, Turkey
Commemorated: Cookham Dean War Memorial