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.
On June 24th 1916, Bert’s sentence was read out in front of the Non-Combatant Corps Battalion to which the Army believed he belonged:
“The accused were tried by Field General Court-martial on the 13th day of June, had been found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentences had been confirmed by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig……………. and commuted to ten years’ penal servitude”
Bert was sent to Dyce Camp to quarry stone with primitive tools in atrocious conditions. Soon afterwards the camp was closed after the neglect of the men working there had resulted in the death of Walter Roberts.
Bert spent the rest of the war in prison, finally being released in 1919. He joined the Friends War Victims Relief service soon after his release, determined to not just protest against war, but provide aid and support to some of its victims.
Based on an article by the Peace Pledge Union.
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Information submitted by John Holdsworth. Edoardo Giovanoli was born in Samedan, Switzerland in April 1889, but by around 1907 he had moved to Filey in Yorkshire to work with a relative to learn the art of confectionery. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Edoardo decided to become a Naturalised British Citizen, which would allow him to fight for his adopted country. He joined the 5th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment as 3072 Lance Corporal E Giovanoli in 1915. On 20th September Edoardo was wounded while in the trenches outside of Armentieres, receiving gunshot wounds to the left arm and the neck. After hospitalisation and convalescence (during which time he met his newly born daughter, Dorothy) Edoardo returned to the front in 1916, attaining the rank of Corporal some time after this. Having spent most of the war in Belgium and France, it seems that Edoardo may have been used as an interpreter during the latter part of the conflict on the Italian-Austrian Front. Following the war the family moved to Bradford, and Edoardo worked as a Master Baker for Clark’s High Class Confectioners on North Parade. He became ill in 1927 and was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital. He died on 13th August and his death certificate records that the war wounds sustained 12 years earlier were the cause of his death. …
Gerald Francis Hadow was born in Scarborough in 1895, the son of Colonel A de S Hadow of the XIX Regiment of Foot (the Green Howards). He was commisioned as a Second Lieutenant on 15th August 1914 and promoted to Lieutenant in March 1915. His first actions were at the battles of neuve Chapelle and Festubert. His death at Givenchy on 15th June 1915 was recorded at the time: “He had reached the German barbed wire and finding he was practically alone, returned to his own trenches, which he reached untouched. Here he found his captain killed and all the other officers dead or wounded. His company went into action 180 strong and had 142 casualties. he returned to report to the C.O. and on the way, was struck on the head by a piece of shell. A captain under whom he served wrote; ‘I feel I have lost a young friend whom I had got to know and tested in perhaps the most severe time – war time – and he never failed. He was such a gallant little fellow and quite ready to die for the good cause.’”
Alan Simpson, a resident of Richmond called into the musueum to tell us about his grandfather. After months of collecting stories from the time of the First World War for the Ribbon of Remembrance, we have our first story relating to our rural location. Henry Barningham Simpson farmed at High Rockliffe Farm Hurworth during the First World War. He was also given the role of official horse buyer to the War Department during the conflict. Alan Simpson recalled, “I know he had to travel to very many farms selecting the best of the cart horses to pull the guns and carts of the army. My dad told me that he hated having to take the farmers best and most useful horses. He knew very well that a lot would be killed or injured from the shelling, ‘blown to pieces’ were his actual words. I suppose he was given some leeway in selecting which horses to buy as food still had to be produced, how they were selected he never said but I suppose they had to be fit for purpose whether they be cart horses or hunters for the cavalry”. The requisitioning of horses during the First World War was dealt with by the Army Remount Service. This department existed before the conflict broke out, with a total establishment of 25,000 horses and mules, five Remount Depots and four Remount companies, with a strength of approximately 1,200 animals. Within 12 days, the establishment had been increased to 165,000 animals and…