Rank or Title
Date of Birth
Date of Death
1 Jul 1916
War time / or Pre War occupation
Place of Birth
World War I Address
Place of Death
War Memorial Location
Soldier or Civilian
Prominent Luton athlete Sgt Percy Edward Rickard, 3/8141, 7th Bedfords, was killed instantly while in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme - July 1st, 1916.
Well before official confirmation was received, parents William and Lucy Rickard, of 45 Crawley Road, Luton, had had letters from comrades who saw him fall.
A native of Luton and one of nine children, Sgt Rickard was educated at Dunstable Road School. He was aged 22 and before joining the Colours was manager of his father's straw hat manufacturing business at 6 Victoria Street. He enlisted with the 7th Bedfords in October 1914 and had been promoted to sergeant before going out to the front a year before his death.
In France his soldierly qualities won him great praise and he had been tipped for accelerated promotion. But it was as an athlete both at home and with his battalion that he particularly remembered. He was a member of Luton United Harriers and, along with Fred and Sidney, two of his five brothers, had won a big and valuable collection of cups and medals.
While his brothers were sprinters, Percy specialised in distance running. His achievements included winning the Luton Mayor's Cup in 1913, and heading a field of 2,000 runners in a five-mile cross-country race for the championship of the 54th Infantry Brigade on Salisbury Plain in May 1915.
Tributes to Percy came from comrades, officers at the front and from Mr J. T. Needham, headmaster of Dunstable Road School. Mr Needham described him as "one of our boys of outstanding merit," and said the whole school had stood in silence with heads bowed in his memory.
Major G. P. Mills, 7th Bedfords, wrote: "He was killed while gallantly leading his platoon, and we buried him on the battlefield. His loss is felt by all his comrades."
An autograph book kept by Percy's brother Arthur, is available to read in its entirity via this website. It contains a tracing of a medal awarded to Percy for winning a race across Salisbury plain.