Obituary: Bernard Richardson, wartime veteran

Bernard Richardson, who has died at 102, was a Normandy veteran and wartime espionage agent who became a Yorkshire farmer and a pioneering occupational therapist in the early years of the NHS.

Bernard Richardson

Bernard Richardson, who has died at 102, was a Normandy veteran and wartime espionage agent who became a Yorkshire farmer and a pioneering occupational therapist in the early years of the NHS.

Born into an agricultural family near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, he left school at 14 and worked on farms until training as a nurse on a farm supporting the Pastures Hospital near Derby.

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He joined the Royal Artillery in 1939 and was soon in France. As troops retreated via Dunkirk his unit found itself left behind, defending an airfield. Told to head south, they were forced to take cover with refugees, and reached the port of St Nazaire in time to witness the torpedoing of the requisitioned ocean liner RMS Lancastria, with the loss of 4,000 lives. It was a ship Mr Richardson should have been on.

Instead, he next boat home, where he was posted to Teeside air defences. There, he met Martha Leather, who served him sweets and cigarettes in a seafront shop in Redcar. They married there and remained together for 72 years.

As an expert at aeroplane identification he was sent on a covert spying mission to Norway. But it was aborted over the North Sea, and not long after he was able to return to Europe as part of the Normandy invasion of in 1944.

After the war he resumed his farming and mental healthcare career. In 1951 he became manager of Stanley Royd Farm, providing fresh milk, vegetables and meat to Stanley Royd and Pinderfields hospitals, as well as occupational therapy.

After retirement he travelled around the world then at 79 he took up golf with some success, playing his last golf at 100 on the course at Normanton which had been developed on the site of the farm he managed.

In 2016 he was awarded the France’s Legion d’honneur, and remained welfare officer of the Dunkirk Veterans’ Association until it was disbanded in 2010.

He is survived by leaves two sons, four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.