Lieutenant Richard Despard


Richard Despard of Richmond Hill, Monkstown, was born on 14 October 1865 at Rathmolyon, County Meath, son of landowner and estate agent Richard Despard and his wife Sophia Louise (nee Noble).

Educated at Fulneck School, Yorkshire, and The Abbey School, Tipperary, Despard lived for some years in Burma, where he served in the Police Force, and South Africa, where he farmed. He served in the South African War and the Natal Rebellion as a trooper in the 1st Battalion, Imperial Light Horse (No.868) and in Roystons Horse. He took part in the Relief of Ladysmith, Relief of Mafeking, and in Transvaal.

On the outbreak of war he sought a commission in the North Irish Horse and was made a lieutenant in the regiment on 16 January 1915. However he resigned his commission on grounds of ill-health on 12 June that year, the resignation being sought on the grounds of "intemperance and inefficiency", the North Irish Horse's commanding officer stating that "... he would never be likely to make an efficient officer".

The following month Despard enlisted at Kingstown as an ordinary soldier in the 2nd King Edward's Horse (No.1720). He gave his age as 40, understating his real age by nine years.

Despard joined his regiment in France in October 1915. After almost two years, on 7 August 1917 he left for England to transfer to the Machine Gun Corps, Heavy Branch (the Tank Corps) (No.112193). He was posted to K Battalion at Bovington, but by the end of the month had again transferred, to the 10th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Liverpool Regiment, at Oswestry (Nos.360279 and 91428).

Two weeks later he transferred to the Inland Waterways & Docks section of the Royal Engineers (Nos. WR/354958 and RE/369923), the same day applying for a commission in that unit. Despard's commission as a 2nd lieutenant came through on 1 December. He was posted to the Royal Engineers Canal Depot at Mary Hill, Glasgow.

Despard was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 1 June 1919, and relinquished his commission on 14 January 1920.