Submitted by Paul Elliott.
Many people will, no doubt, have the same experience as myself, in that my grandparents and parents never discussed or talked about their war experiences.
Arthur Dobson was a Great Uncle of whom I was totally unaware. He was born in 1896 and lived with his parents, Benjamin and Emily at Commercial Street, Rothwell, Leeds. He was a miner.
He joined the Kings Own Yorkshire Light infantry as 37722 Private Dobson and went to France in September 1915 with the 9th Battalion. They were active at the Battle of the Somme and Arthur was posted as missing in September 1916. His parents twice put appeals for information about him in the Yorkshire Evening Post. He was eventually found to have been killed in action on September 16th 1916.
He is commemorated on Rothwell war memorial and at Thiepval. He was 20 when he died.
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Bert Brocklesby, a school teacher from Doncaster, applied for exemption from military service early in 1916 on religious grounds. Bert went before his local and appeal Tribunals in February and April 1916, and was given exemption from Combatant Service Only by both. To Bert, this was an unacceptable decision – joining the Army, even in a Non-Combatant role meant going against his deeply held conscientious belief that war in all forms was a crime. He was arrested as an absentee after refusing to obey the order to report to his nearby barracks to be enlisted into the Non Combatant Corps. Bert refused to compromise his principles in any way, and did not even take the step of signing his Army papers – denying the military authorities even this rudimentary control over his life. For making this stand, and for disobeying other orders, Bert was Court Martialled and would soon become one of a group of Absolutists (known as the ‘Richmond 16’) sent to France from Richmond Castle, Yorkshire, as military prisoners. It seems that Bert managed to drop a cleverly edited field service postcard out of the train while being transferred to France for further punishment. This postcard alerted Bert’s local MP (who sympathised with the principles behind Bert’s objection to military service) that men were being transferred to the combat zone, where, considered to be on active service, they could be sentenced to death for disobeying orders. Bert would find this out on arrival at Henriville Camp, Northern France….
Story submitted by Mrs Drury, a resident of Richmond. Nancy Bainbridge was born in Weardale, County Durham in May 1894. She was one of eight children whose parents were hardy hill farmers. Nancy was a very practical person and joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1914. Nancy served at a military hospital in East Anglia where the nurses received casualties straight from the Somme. Her upbringing on a farm had afforded her some preparation for the ensuing, distressing sights and sounds. She described how the men arrived with mud and tufts of grass in their wounds. The nurses found out the hard way that soldiers’ skin, subjected to the mustard gas attacks in the trenches, could not be washed with water as that inflicted pain. Nancy received many deathbed requests. After the war Nancy worked as a private nurse in families with disabled soldiers and patients with other conditions. She married Captain Jack (John Adam) Bell. Nancy had a brother William, also a hill farmer and ten years older. He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, but saw little service because, when detailed to chop an officer some sticks, a splinter blinded him in one eye. Another sibling, Violet, worked in Barnard Castle’s recruiting office. Her soldier husband Harry Raine was awarded the Military Cross. The medal was presented to the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.
Submitted by Marcia Howard, a resident of Richmond. Albert William George Clifford was my maternal Grandfather born at Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire in 1886. Prior to his medical discharge in 1916, he was serving in Malta with No.1 Coy, of the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Gunner. He was subsequently presented with the Silver War Badge which in September 1916, King George V had authorised to honour all military personnel who had served at home or overseas since 4 August 1914, and who had been discharged because of wounds or illness. Following his return home to his wife and 2 small children in Gloucestershire, he became Chauffeur to the local doctor, where he also contributed to the recruitment drive popularly known as ‘Your Country Needs You’.