Percy Richards (1895-?) was a young African-Canadian born on May 30, 1895, in Saint John, New Brunswick, where he lived with his grandmother, Mary, until the start of the First World War. He enlisted in 1916 with the No. 2 Construction Battalion, which was known for being the only predominantly black battalion in Canadian military history. The unit was created in response to a petition sent to the military, as many young blacks were turned away from military service due to racial prejudices of the time. Like most of the young men who joined the battalion, Richards was a miner from the Maritimes. He left for France with his battalion in March 1917, and was active in the field by May. He survived the war and was discharged in February 1919.
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: May 30, 1895
Date of Attestation: August 10, 1916 (Saint John, New Brunswick)
Age at Enlistment: 21 years
Height: 5 feet, 3 inches
Weight: 132 pounds
Description: Dark complexion, black eyes, black hair. Baptist.
Home Address: 272 Britain Street, Saint John, New Brunswick
Details of Family: Grandmother, Mary Richards, living at 272 Britain Street, Saint John, New Brunswick. Father, William Richards, of Saint John, New Brunswick.
Next of Kin: Mary Richards (grandmother)
Branch of Service: Canadian Expeditionary Force
Theatre of War: England, France
Casualties / Medical History
- September 19-22, 1916 – He is admitted to the General Hospital in Truro, Nova Scotia, for three days with a fever of unknown origin before being discharge to duty. (Page 34)
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- October 14, 1916 – He arranges for $15 of his pay to be sent to his grandmother each month. He has insurance with London Life. (Page 6)
- April 7, 1917 – He arrives in England on the SS Southland. (Page 10)
- August 10, 1918 – He is awarded a good conduct badge in the field. (Page 10)
- February 18, 1919 – When he is discharged from service his grandmother is living at 191 Broadview Avenue, Saint John, and his address is given as 136 Mecklenburg Street, Saint John. (Pages 7 and 18)
- April 23, 1952 – His Record of Service indicates that he received the British War Medal and Victory Medal. (Page 9)
The London Gazette
Military Medals Honours and Awards
In 1991, Percy Richards is 16 years old and living with his grandmother, Mary Richards (67), in the Sydney Ward of Saint John, New Brunswick. Mary's son James (27) also lives in the house and works as a teamster. Mary is the head of the household. She was born in Ireland, while Percy and his uncle, James, were born in New Brunswick. Her religion is Plymouth Brethren, an Evangelical Christian movement that originated in Ireland in the 1820s, with roots in Anglicanism. Percy and James are described as "Negro", with origins in the United States, and Anglican.