Richard William May



RICHARD WILLIAM MAY 16/03/1877 – 12/02/1917

August 25th 1896  Richard William May was accepted as a member of Banks Rowing Club.  At that time he was a staff member of the Union Bank of Australia. On the 24th November 1897 he was selected to row in both Maiden Eight and Junior Eight categories in forthcoming regattas.

He was successful in winning the Inter-banks Fours on April 22 1899. He was again successful in this race again 23rd March 1901 and on the 26th April 1902. By this time the name of the race had been amended to the Henry Gyles Turner Fours in recognition of a handsome trophy donated by Mr. Turner. He is also recorded as having enjoyed successes in Maiden Eight class at the Geelong and Barwon Regatta 1901, plus winning Maiden Fours at the Melbourne Regatta 1902.

September 26th 1899  Richard May was elected to the committee and re-elected again at Annual General Meetings held during September 1900 and September 1901.

In addition he was also successful in the Australian Inter-colonial and Interstate Boat Race for the Championship of the Commonwealth. This was the most prestigious rowing competition held in Australia at that time. It has since been replaced by the “Kings Cup”.

May 2 1903 the race was held on the Yarra River in Melbourne over a 2 ½ mile course. Victoria was successful with May rowing in the (3) seat.

May 4 1904 the race was held on the Brisbane River in Queensland over a 3 mile course. Victoria was successful with May rowing in the (6) seat.

He resigned from Banks Rowing Club during the season 1909/10. His resignation coincided with his transfer to the town of Forbes NSW. In 1912 he was again transferred, this time to Kilcoy in Queensland.

August 16th 1915  Richard May enlisted in the (AIF). He was 38 years of age and fell on the 12th February 1917 on the Western Front. May is not recognised on the Banks Rowing Club honour board as he was not a paid up member when he enlisted. He is however recognised on the Victorian Rowing Association Memorial of our glorious dead 1914-1918 and is listed under the Banks Rowing Club.  
The death of Richard William May in February 1917 marks 100 years to February 2017.

Historians of the United Service Club, originally the United Service Institute have provided a fine recollection of the life and service record of Lieutenant Richard William May. The United Service Club was opened in Brisbane on 22 December 1892. It was established as a professional military club to serve two objectives, one to provide a social function, and the other to promote the study of professional matters.

A group of mainly USC members conducted a tour of the Western Front in September/October 2017. They kindly offered to leave a small piece of Australia at the foot of the headstone. The Banks Rowing Club was honoured to be able to provide a club medallion. The item needed to be unobtrusive and durable and the cemetery authorities will turn a blind eye. We offer our unconditional thanks to the USC.

Copyright is acknowledged to the United Service Club Queensland183 Wickham Terrace Spring Hill Qld. 4000 Aust. plus Ray McNab and Christopher Akeroyd (researchers) for the following record.       


42nd Battalion

Richard William May, one of five sons and two daughters of the Reverend John Henry and Helena Jane May (nee Dunn), was born on the 16th of March 1877 at Geelong in Victoria.  He was raised by his mother, widowed in 1881, in the Victorian country town of Kyneton.  In 1893 he gained his University of Melbourne matriculation at Brighton Grammar and in due course was employed by the Union Bank of Australia (now ANZ Banking Group).

After Brighton Grammar, one or two references mention an early interest in boxing.  Most frequently his name is associated with the Banks Rowing Club, Melbourne, notably in the crews from Victoria who won the Men’s Interstate Eight-Oared Championship in Melbourne in 1903 and again in 1904 in Brisbane.  Until 1909 he continued to participate in all aspects of club management and competition organisation. 

May was then appointed by his employer to the Forbes NSW branch as its accountant.  There he was very active in the local tennis club until February 1912 when he left on promotion to manage the bank at Kilcoy in Queensland.

In Queensland he maintained his connection with the community.  Occasionally he gave a recitation at a social event; and he won prizes for roses entered in the Kilcoy show in May 1913.  An absence of reports thereafter suggests promotion to another position elsewhere, possibly Brisbane where on 15 November 1915 he stated his home address was ‘Sydenham’, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane.  It seems likely his membership of the then United Service Institute was effected after leaving Kilcoy.

On 16th of August 1915, in his 38th year, Richard William May enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and was allotted to the 12th Reinforcements, 9th Battalion. 

Doubtless his education, skills, personality and character were recognised early and in just over a month he was promoted to acting sergeant at No 2 Depot Battalion.  Unsurprisingly this led to his application in early November for a commission in the AIF.

A month later on the 9th of December 1915 he was appointed second lieutenant to the just-raised 42nd Battalion, a unit of 3rd Division.  The battalion then began an intensive period of individual and unit training in Australia which continued in Britain after its arrival there on the 23 July.  A few weeks later on 1 October 1916, May was promoted to lieutenant.

At the end in November 1916 the 42nd entered the Armentieres Sector in France.  A severe winter saw it either in the front line undertaking sub-unit and unit patrols, or rotating to rear areas where training and labouring continued in support of other units then in the front line Important activities included development of personal skills in bombing, sniping, scouting, weapon handling, communications, bayonet fighting, gas protection and officer inspections of front line trenches. 

On the first day of the New Year, May with two other officers and 80 other ranks began a week of training in the conduct of raids.  A month later the first operation by this group clearly demonstrated skilful conduct and execution albeit unsuccessful, due to the presence of intense, unsuppressed enemy machine gun fire.

For the efforts made by May during the raid, his Commanding Officer said:  I wish to specially mention the cool manner in which Lieut May handled the retirement.  Any loss of nerve or control would quite easily have resulted in disaster

It was but a few days later on the night of 11/12 February that retaliatory indiscriminate artillery fire wounded May.  Unit stretcher bearers took him the 10th Australian Field Ambulance where his death was recorded at ten minutes past twelve.

He was the third of eight Club members who fell on the Western Front.

Lieutenant May now lies in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France.