Alfred Myers came from a large family in East Cleveland and before the war worked with two of his brothers in the ironstone mines. A member of the Independent Labour Party and a devout Wesleyan Methodist, he played a key role in his local community. He was a tenor in the Wesleyan Carlin How choir, a Sunday school superintendent and trustee of the local church.
Myer’s service record survives and records the process of his arrest and sentencing in cold, hard terms. One month after his posting he was arrested and court-martialled. Initially he was sentenced to death but this was commuted to 10 years imprisonment.
At his hearing for exemption from compulsory military service, Myers asserted his belief in an international brotherhood of man, and stated that he ‘could not conscientiously kill, nor assist in killing’. But like so many others he was only granted exemption from combatant service and was sent to the Non-Combatant Corps at Richmond Castle.
In the cells at Richmond, Myers’s tenor voice was put to good use. With two other conscientious objectors, Brocklesby and Gaudie, he sang the hymn ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ in three-part harmony. Myers’s performance wasn’t as perfect as the other prisoners hoped, however – they had to bang on the cell floor to keep him in time.
Following his ordeal with the rest of the Richmond Sixteen in France, Myers was sent first to Dyce Camp, near Aberdeen, and then Maidstone prison. Others of the Richmond Sixteen were also there, and Myers worked alongside Brocklesby in the laundry.
On his release, the effects of imprisonment were evident. Brocklesby described in his memoirs how on their journey home ‘poor old Alfred … was suffering from an emotional or nervous reaction and felt unable to go further alone’.
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William Hird was nominated for the Ribbon of Remembrance by Dianne Evans, and his story illustrates a problem that can occur with records that are a century old. Thanks to the original 1914-16 enlistment leger at the Green Howards Museum, we can say with some confidence that William enlisted on 10th December 1914 in the City of Durham and that he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, based at West Hartlepool on 18th January 1915. According to his medal card 18390 Acting Lance Corporal William Hird served in France from 19th September 1915, and was entitled to the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. William is recorded on the ‘Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919’ database as having died on 29 September 1916 as a Private in the 7th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. This might have been the case, but on examining the battalion war diary, the 7th Battalion were away from the frontline in training and there are no records of any deaths that day. Of course soliders would often die from wounds days after an offensive, however the Green Howards Gazzette for December 1916 records that 18390 W Hird was Killed in Action – there is a separate list for those who Died of Wounds. On further investigation, the Register of Soldier’s Effects lists William as being in the 6th Battalion when he was killed in action in France. The war diary of 6th battalion recounts the attempted assault on ‘Stuff Redoubt’…
Fred was the youngest son of Joseph Shields, a Castle Bolton plumber and tinsmith. He was born around 1897. The 1911 census shows the family as having 3 children, Alice, 28, Joseph, 26, and Fred, 14, with his wife Elizabeth. They lived in a section of Bolton Castle, acting as caretakers, with Elizabeth providing refreshments for visitors. They also had a tinsmith’s shop in a building across from the castle making kettles and pans etc. which today is a storeroom. Fred enlisted at Northallerton on the 7th December 1915 and joined the 8th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Early in July 1917 Fred arrived with a detachment of men at Steenvoorde in northern France adjacent the Belgium border in the area west of Ypres. It was during the 3rd Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele, that Private Fred Kilding Shields was killed. A shell burst in the trench where Fred and 3 others died, He was just 21 years old. Fred is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery.
William was born in Middlesbrough on the 26th March 1887. He was the son of Joseph and Maria Constantine of Harlesly Hall Northallerton. He was one of five offspring, having 2 sisters and 2 brothers. His father ran a shipping company which he had started in 1885 and would last until it was sold off in 1960. At the outbreak of WW1 the company had 28 vessels, 22 being ocean going and 6 coastal. During the war 13 of the company vessels and 32 crewmen would perish. William was gazetted into the Yorkshire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant in March 1906, promoted to Lieutenant 27th May 1907, and to Captain 5th October 1913. He served in France with the 4th Battalion. He suffered gassing at Ypres on the 24th May 1915 and was wounded on the Somme on the 15th September 1916. In 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross for ‘conspicuous gallantry in action’ which was cited in the London Gazette on the 14th November 1916. He had been promoted to Major on the 13th June 1916. On the 2nd May 1918 he was posted to The 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, then in August to the 9th Battalion the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The family were associated with Constantine College in Middlesbrough having donated £40,000 towards the building cost. The college opened in 1930. William died on the 11th November 1970 and was buried at the Church of St. Oswald, East Harlsey where he had been Churchwarden…