Rank: Brevet Lieut-Colonel
Regiment or Ship: 7th Bn Royal Sussex Regiment; 7th Bn. Machine Gun Corps.
Occupation: Professional Soldier
Date of Birth: 02.01.1882
Place of Birth: Sevenoaks, Kent
Date of Death: 30.11.1942
Place of Death: Royal West Sussex Hospital, Chichester, Sussex.Address: Leigh Holme, Hastings Road, Bexhill on Sea
Photos and newspaper articles
Parents: Daniel Maule Birkett (1849-1938) and Edith Birkett, nee Smith ( – 1921).
Dorothy Edith Birkett (1880 – ).
Agnes Mildred Birkett (1881 – ).
Evelyn Marion Birkett (1888 – ).
In 1891 the family were living at 17 Alms House, High Street, Sevenoaks, where Daniel was employed as a Grammar School Master.
In 1901 Richard was living at Sandhurst where he is classed as a “Gentleman Cadet”.
On 16th March 1916 Richard married Mary Hilda Verrall in Lewes, Sussex, and they had two children – Richard Alan Maule Birkett (1919 – ), and Patience M. Birkett (1923 – ).
After Richard’s death he left £1663. 5s. 3d. to his widow, Mary Hilda Birkett, and Helen Verrall, Spinster.
First World War Experience
Although Richard’s service records did not survive the bombings of WW2 the following four articles from local newspapers give a very good idea of his contribution to the war effort.
9th September 1916
“The name of Lieut-colonel Richard Maule Birkett, son of Mr. D. M. Birkett, M.A., J.P., of Leigh-Holme, Bexhill was mentioned in Wednesday’s list of wounded. When the war broke out he was attached to the 7th Royal Sussex Regiment, but early this year was transferred to a battalion of the London Regiments with the rank of Lieut-Colonel. He has been mentioned in despatches. He fought in the South African War, and was decorated with the Queen’s medal with four clasps. While our readers will join us in expressing sympathy with Mr Birkett, they will be glad to hear that the colonel is progressing favourably, that the wound, though serious, will not entail permanent injury and that he is expected to reach London for hospital treatment directly.”
27th January 1917
“Major R. M. Birkett, son of Mr. D. M. Birkett, M.A., J.P., of “Leigh Holme”, Hastings Road, has just been promoted to field rank in the Royal Sussex Regiment, with five other majors. Major Birkett, it will be remembered, was mentioned in despatches in connection with the battle of Mons and other actions. He joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1902, and saw service in the Boer War. It is stated that never in the previous history of the regiment have six captains been promoted to field rank in the same ‘Gazette’.”
27th April 1918
“The official announcement of the D.S.O., granted last January to Major (temporary Lieut-Col) Richard Maule Birkett, Royal Sussex Regiment (attached Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment) son of Mr. D. M. Birkett, J.P., of Leigh Holme, Hastings Road, has been made.
The award is ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’. When the advance was held up by machine gun fire, and considerable confusion arose, he went forward to the front line and reorganised units, collecting stragglers and selecting positions for defence. He was under heavy machine gun and shell fire the whole time and set a splendid example of contempt of danger.
After being at the front Major Birkett came home wounded, and was in England from August 1916, to September 1919. During five months of that time he did staff work as instructor of a battalion in the new Military School at Aldershot. He went out again in command of a battalion of the West Surreys. He was mentioned in despatches by Sir John French in January 1916.”
11th January 1919
“The ‘London Gazette’ announces that Major (A/Lt-Col) R. M. Birkett, D.S.O. has been appointed Brevet Lieut-Colonel.”
“Major R. M. Birkett D.S.O. (A/Lt-Col Machine Gun Corps) has had the honour of being mentioned in General Lord Cavan’s Italian despatches for devotion to duty.”
Amongst other medals he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star.