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Silence in Castle To Honour Conscientious Objectors


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A MEMORIAL service is being held to remember 16 conscientious objectors  “crucified” during the First World War after being locked up in a castle’s former dungeon.

 

The Richmond 16 included Sunderland FC centre forward Norman Gaudie, from East Boldon, brothers Billy and Bert Law, from Darlington, Alf Matthews, a clerk at the Rowntrees factory, in York, and Alfred Myers, an ironstone miner from Carlin How, in east Cleveland.

 

 

The conscription laws allowed men to object to military service on grounds such as faith or moral beliefs, but the Richmond 16, who were composed of Quakers, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and socialists, were ordered to join the 2nd Northern Non-Combatant Corps, stationed at the castle.

When they refused to undertake non-combatant duties, they were imprisoned in the castle, where they left defiant graffiti on the cell walls, before Field Marshall Lord Kitchener ordered them to be sent to France, where they could be court-martialled and shot if they refused to fight.

As they travelled towards France on a train, one of the group threw a letter out the window addressed to York MP and social reformer Arnold Rowntree, who alerted Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister after receiving the note.

After arriving in France, the Richmond 16 were forced to watch deserters being executed and given a punishment known as crucifixion, in which they were suspended from posts to which their hands and feet were tied, for several hours a day.

Lord Kitchener’s sudden death at sea within days of their arrival in France, led Mr Asquith to commute their sentences to ten years’ hard labour.

They spent three years in labour camps and civil prisons before being released in 1919.“When the surviving members of the Richmond 16 returned home they were ostracised by their communities as there was a great deal of misunderstanding about their witness.”

http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/10507058.Silence_in_castle_to_honour_First_World_War_conscientious_objectors/

Among the Richmond Sixteen were five International Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known. 
 
In mid-June 1916, the prisoners were marched before 3,000 troops in France to hear their sentence of death, but by this time Kitchener had died, and the British prime minister had intervened. A postcard with a coded message had got through to authorities in London, and the military order had been countermanded. General Haig was ordered to commute all death sentences to ten years’ penal servitude. 
 
Upon their return to Britain, some of the 16 were taken to a Scottish granite quarry to do “work of national importance” under appalling conditions, says an official report. Others, Brother Herbert Senior among them (quoted in the Awake article below), were sent back to civil, not military, prisons.
 
See Also the Awake of February 22nd 2004  and the article on pages 12 and 13 "A Test of Faith"
 
Bits of trivia
 
-1916 Lord Kitchener, having condemned these prisoners, had taken a train to Thirsk and then a ship which got torpedoed and he died. I owned, but sold - his last letter written on that train before taking the fateful ship. He was writing to another gentleman's gardener to see if he could give him a better offer of a job at his house instead of his present employment.
 
-The other postcard/letter mentioned in the article above, that was got out of the train by the prisoners, was for Arnold Rowntree - Quaker and social reformer and if the name seems familiar to any Brits - your right he was of the family of famous chocolate makers Rowntree and also related to the Cadbury's - Yum,yum!!
 
 
Edited by retroHelen
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