Peace protest remembers conscientious objectors before anti-NSA rally
Protestors, including the relative of a WW1 conscientious objector, visited the castle where they had been kept prisoner before setting off on a four day walk to Yorkshire's American spybase at Menwith Hill.
A relative of one of the WW1 conscientious objectors held prisoner at Richmond Castle was among those commemorating their plight in north Yorkshire today.
At the start of a four day walk to protest against the American Spy base at Menwith Hill, the Northern Friends Peace Board held a short silent meeting which Marjorie Gaudie, whose father-in-law Norman was one of the ‘Richmond 16’, attended.
She said he would have been thrilled and humbled to see the commemoration after 100 years.
“I think he would have been thrilled, in some ways, to think that his stand is still being remembered today. Very humbled about it too.”
One of those involved in organising Sunday’s peace action, Jenny Hartland said it was time for history to reconsider the way objectors were thought of.
“I think it’s time it was recognised that they were very brave and principled people who were among the first few who stood up to say it was an insane way of carrying on, that the war was destructive and evil, not a way to solve international problems and that it was against their conscience to take up arms and killed people. They were very brave because they were vilified by society at the time."
In May 1916, the 16 men were taken from Richmond against their will to an army camp in northern France where they were due to be shot for refusing to obey orders while on active service.
Just before the death sentence was due to be carried out, Kitchener died suddenly and the sentence was commuted to ten years hard labour by the Prime Minister, Asquith.
On their return from France the Richmond 16, with the other absolutist conscientious objectors i.e those who refused to play any part in the war effort, were imprisoned in labour camps and prisons.
Although they stayed true to their pacifist principles, imprisonment had a huge impact on their lives and the objectors suffered severe long-term psychological effects.