Richard was born in Richmond, Surrey, on 25 May 1912. Following education in London, aged 18 he enlisted with the Royal Artillery (Territorial Army) in 1930 and served continuously in this capacity until the beginning of the Second World War.
The opening chapter of his first book, Return Via Dunkirk, begins - The dear old house looked me full in the face over the sparkling waters. There it was, perched on the green wooded hillside with the path straggling down to the pretty sandy beach. There it was, warm and mellow in the late afternoon sunshine, radiating peace and the peaceful virtues, very lovable, very English, and - which seemed most miraculous to me - unchanged.