World War Two Pathfinder Hero and Rainham Cricket Icon
John Richardson arrived in Rainham during the late 1940s and lived with and worked for a retired Colonel as a batman (a commissioned officer’s personal servant). He also joined Rainham Cricket Club for whom he became a highly successful player and captain.
A secretive man, John Richardson didn't reveal much about his life when socializing with others and remained reluctant to talk about his war experiences but it became known that he originated from the Margate area and served as a pathfinder pilot during World War Two, flying countless missions over Germany. Pathfinders flew low and ahead of the main fighter bombers dropping incendiary bombs to mark targets while usually under heavy fire. John was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry in combat but he would never reveal the exact reasons for this. During the process of one of his dangerous missions his plane got hit and he sustained wounds to his lower parts which kept him in hospital for some time.
A genuinely comical character with the ability to tell funny stories and make people laugh, John Richardson seemed very much a man’s man although he was also regarded as a charming person in the company of women but he remained single throughout his life.
During the early 1950s John Richardson became homeless when his employer, the retired colonel, died. Wealthy Rainham farmer Sid Callaway offered him accommodation in his Pudding Lane house, general work on his property and as groundsman at Rainham Cricket Ground. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s John Richardson spent much of his time at Berengrove Park while Sid Callaway sponsored both him and the club from his own pocket.
John spent time at the ground preparing the wickets and cutting the outfield then captaining and playing for Rainham First XI at the weekends. During the course of the 1950s he became regarded as Rainham's leading batsman, a regular wicket taker with his medium pace seam bowling and astute captain, almost unopposed throughout the decade. His first big performance took place in 1951 when he hit 117 not out against Frindsbury and 88 against Bluebell Hill.
In 1956 John won a bat from the ‘Chatham Observer’ after several outstanding performances that included 101 against Grove Park, 6-21 against Trottescliffe, 5-5 against Medway Officers, 5-22 against Kent Farm Institute and 5-24 against Hobourn Aero.
During this period John Richardson was at his best and his most memorable batting performance took place against Colyer in 1959 when he hit 102 not out in a partnership of 119 in only 32 minutes with Les Wood who got 52 not out. For this innings he won another ‘Chatham Observer’ batting award for the most valuable century for his side. This became his thirteenth century for the club and possibly his best. With 104 not out against Offham in 1962 he scored a total of fourteen centuries for Rainham in his playing career. This became a club record until Keith Morris surpassed it during the 1990s.
John Richardson became Medway District Cricket Secretary and he also represented the Medway Area team as a player. Unfortunately, his playing career with Rainham ended in 1963 after an argument over a match that was played at Berengrove Park that he had asked to be called off due to the wicket being unfit for play. The captain of the side ignored this and proceeded with the game. Because of this John Richardson walked out on the club and refused to play or to fulfill any further part although he did periodically visit the club after this and once played in the club’s annual Married v Singles match. Overall, he goes down as one of Rainham's greatest players and characters in their long history.
After his break with Rainham Cricket Club John Richardson continued living with and working for Sid Callaway and became a kind of adopted son to the Rainham farmer and his wife Doris who didn’t have children. He also became familiar to customers in The Green Lion and Cricketers pubs where he spent much of his free time drinking, smoking and socializing with the locals, usually accompanied by a small Scottie dog that sat under his stool at the bar. John often held centre stage in the bar with a vast repertoire of jokes and his well-known stories like ‘Ponsonby and the gorilla’ which he told with great frequency.
During the late 1980s John Richardson and Sid Callaway became victims of an attack when thieves broke into their house in Pudding Lane, roughed them up and stole various items and cash. Sid Callaway died soon after this and left most of his wealth to John Richardson who died a few years later during the early 1990s. After his death his ashes were scattered on the pitch at Rainham Cricket Ground at his own request and so ended the life of one of Rainham’s most recognizable characters and secretive wartime heroes.
Back row: Roger Spyer, Peter Long,….? John Gorf, Roger Tottman, Clive Chambers, Wally Varley. Front row: Warren Chambers, Sid Callaway, John Richardson, David Hardman, Hughie Russell