The following post is about Captain Robert Alven Richards (1878-1963) of Devonshire who is linked to the Rowsells through the marriage in March 1948 in Bideford, Devonshire of his daughter Margaret Ann Mary Richards (1923-1992) and Major Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000). Captain Richards escorted Crown Prince Hirohito to Japan in 1921.
Captain Robert Alven Richards son of William Vellacott Richards (b. abt 1841) was born 30th July 1878 in Barnstaple, Devonshire. He had one older brother and one younger brother and two little sisters. His sister Charlotte Winifred Richards (b April 1880) married Commander Pasfield Victor Oliver of H.M.S. “Royal Arthur,” at All Souls’, Langham Place, London, 3rd September 1900. The following year they had a son, Lieutenant General Sir William Pasfield Oliver GBE KCB KCMG (1901–1981) who became a well known military figure. The eccentric fellow was said to borrow tanks to drive to the pub.
In 1891 at the age of 13, Robert is recorded as a student at St Giles in Cambridge. According to the website Lives of the First World War, Robert was a Commander in the Royal Navy from 1893. On 1st April, 1901 it is recorded in the Gazette that Sub-Lieutenant Robert Alven Richards was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Fleet.
The date of Robert’s marriage to Eva Montgomery (b.1887) dau. of ship owner William Montgomery is not known, but the couple had their first daughter, Betty Alven Richards (1911-2006) in 1911 at which point they were living in Portland, Dorsetshire.
In the same year, Robert Richards is listed as a lieutenant aboard the HMS Albemarle under Captain John Scott Luard. In December 1913, Lieutenant Robert Alven Richards was promoted to the rank of Commander in His Majesty’s Fleet and served in the North sea during WWI. The photograph below was taken around this time.
Commander Robert Alven Richards became Captain of H.M.S. Britomart on 24th January 1918. It was one of four gunboats of the Bramble class completed for the Royal Navy about the turn of the century. You can see her voyages of that year in the map below and more details of coordinates at this link. The voyages of the following years were also in the Gulf, but I am not certain who succeeded Robert Richards as Captain or in which year. The ship was sold in 1920 into civilian service, being renamed Sakuntala. It is not to be confused with the Halcyon-class minesweeper of the same name which was launched in 1938.
In 1920 Crown Prince Hirohito was promoted to the rank of Major in the Japanese army and Lieutenant Commander in the navy. In 1921, Hirohito took a six-month tour of Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium. He was the first Japanese prince to travel to the west. During his time in Britain he met with King George V. After his return to Japan, he became Regent of Japan (Sesshō) on November 29, 1921, in place of his ailing father who was affected by a mental illness. Captain Robert Alven Richards accompanied Hirohito back to Japan in 1921 as a naval escort and upon arrival, attended a traditional Japanese royal banquet.
Two years later, Robert and Eva had their second daughter, Margaret Ann Mary Richards (1923-1992) who was born in Hampshire. Robert was 45 at this time. In 1933 The Hydrographic Dept. published Captain Richards’ book ‘West coast of England pilot : from the Scilly Isles to the Mull of Galloway including the Isle of Man‘.
Robert Alven Richards remained in his home county of Devonshire until at least the age of 72, but moved to Worcestershire, near his younger daughter and her family during the later years of his life (see photo below). He died on 29th November 1963 at Court house nursing home in Malvern, Worcestershire.
It is alleged that he went swimming every single day of his life, regardless of the weather.