Richards was born in Liverpool. He studied at Wallasey Art School with his friend George Jardine who painted Springtime. In 1940 Richards won a scholarship to study painting at the Royal College of Art in London. He was soon called up for war service. He first joined the Royal Engineers. When stationed in England he painted whenever he could, capturing army life. In December 1943 he became the youngest Official War Artist. He retrained as a paratrooper and parachuted into France during the D-Day landings. On 5 March 1945 he set off to paint a night attack by Allied troops but was killed when his jeep went over an enemy mine.