Alfred Martlew was a member of the No-Conscription Fellowship and the Independent Labour Party. He was uncompromising in his stance against the war but despite his protestations he was ordered to join the Non-Combatant Corps. He was one of the 16 men sent from Richmond to France in May 1916.
After returning to England, Martlew was imprisoned at Winchester before being offered a place on the Home Office Scheme. This gave ‘genuine’ and ‘sincere’ conscientious objectors the opportunity to undertake civilian work under civilian control as an alternative to time in prison. Martlew worked in the quarry at Dyce Camp, spinning at Wakefield Work Centre, West Yorkshire, and tree felling in Dalswinton, Dumfries. But like many other conscientious objectors he questioned whether the work he was performing was still contributing, if indirectly, to the war effort.
In 1917 Martlew went missing from his Home Office Scheme post and travelled to York where, before the war, he had been a ledger clerk at Rowntrees Cocoa works. There he met his fiancée, Annie Leeman. He gave her his money, watch and other possessions, and told her he intended to hand himself in to the police authorities.
This was their last meeting. Just over a week later Martlew’s body was found in the River Ouse at Bishopthorpe. Although the inquest into his death returned the unresolved verdict of ‘found drowned’, the coroner thought it likely that he had taken his own life.
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Information submitted by Liz Thompson, a resident of Richmond. Michael Joseph Kavanagh (Liz’s Great-Uncle) was born in Walsall, Staffordshire on 20 February 1879. He joined the South Staffordshire Regiment, serving in the Boer War in the Cape Colony, the Transvaal and at Wittegbergin. At the outbreak of the First World War he reenlisted into the same regiment as a Private and advanced to the rank of Colour Sergeant. He was Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1915 and promoted to Lieutenant in September of the same year. He was wounded twice during the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Military Cross. The citation published in the London Gazette stated “For conspicuous gallantry during operations. Though knocked over and wounded by a shell, he took over command of a machine gun company two days later, and, suffering from shock and considerable pain, stuck to his command and did good work”. He was promoted to Acting Captain on 8 March 1918. On his retirement in November 1919, Michael Joseph Kavanagh was granted the full rank of Captain. In later life Captain Kavanagh moved into local politics, being elected to the position of Mayor of Walsall in 1945. During the Second World War he served as Platoon Commander of No. 21 Platoon of the 27th Staffordshire Home Guard.
William was the son of William and Mary Rutley of 8 Mabal Street, Middlesbrough. He enlisted in late 1914 and was posted to the 8th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. The 8th Battalion left for France in late August 1915 and occupied trenches in the La Rolanderie and Bois-Greniers districts throughout October, November and December. William is reported to have died of wounds on December 16th. He was 22 years of age. He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was buried at Sailly-sur-la Lys Canadian Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais.
Edmund was born around 1885. Little is known of Edmund’s early life. In 1901 the sixteen year old Edmund was living at Park House, the Gayle home of a local solicitor called Simon Willan. Edmund worked there as an office boy. By the beginning of the war Edmund was married to Agnes Waggett and had a son, William, and a daughter, Nora. By then Edmund was employed in helping to run Strands Farm at Simonstone near Hardraw. Edmund enlisted at Leyburn joining the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Private Edmund Staveley was killed on the 9th June 1917 during The Battle of Messines. He was 32 years old. He is buried in the Military Cemetery at Poperinge. Edmund’s brother, Lister, had already been killed the previous year during the Somme offensive.