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The Battle

On 28 April 1916 Charles Rowland Jackson and Charles Herbert Senior were among five conscientious objectors from Leeds who had been arrested by the Police, taken to a Magistrate, charged with having failed to respond to the notice calling them to join the colours fined and handed over to military custody.

Richmond Castle

Senior and Jackson were eventually sent to Richmond Castle, which served as the depot and base for the 2nd Northern Non Combatant Corps, attached to the West Yorkshire Regiment. Once inside Richmond Castle, as Privates in the Non Combatant Corps, it soon became apparent that Senior and Jackson were not prepared to become the soldiers the Tribunals had intended. When joined by three fellow Bible Students from Leeds (Leonard Renton and Clarence and Stafford Hall), the resistance stiffened. These five formed the hardcore of a group that has become known as the Richmond Sixteen, who also included Quakers, a Methodist, a Congregationalist, a Baptist and a member of the Church of England.

Military drills were not adhered to and uniforms that identified these individuals as soldiers were discarded. As a punishment for their resistance the men were put on a bread and water diet. Eight were put in detention cells while seven were crammed in the Guardroom. Senior was originally put in a cell but later transferred to the dungeon under the Keep.

The time came when the absolutists were to be taken from the Castle proved to be an ugly affair. On 29th May 1916, Clarence Hall wrote on the wall of cell no. 6: Sent to France. The writing is still visible on the crumbling plaster to this day, although public access is not allowed for reasons of preservation.

Clarence Hall Inscription

John Brocklesby, a Methodist teacher who was among the Richmond 16 recalled that as the guard went to turn out the men in the guardroom, our chaps offered resistance by clinging to tables, chairs or doorframes and they got some rough handling from the guard. Norman Gaudie also recalled that some of the sixteen had to be forcibly removed from their cells noting that R. Jackson was badly kicked inside by the Quartermaster for refusing to come out of the Guard Room.

The men were taken to Southampton where they evidently met up with 9 other conscientious objectors from Seaford (who included IBSA member Philip Belcher Jordan) and on the next evening loaded onto the torpedo boat St.Tudno for the Channel crossing to Le Havre. After staying overnight at the Cinder City Camp they were moved the next morning by train to Boulogne. The conchies continued to refuse orders throughout. Senior and his fellow IBSA members were then taken back to the Henriville Camp and put into army huts with soldiers. Initially the soldiers gave them short shrift, but they maintained their regular prayer and after a few days the mockery turned to respect as the soldiers evidently appreciated the sincerity of the Bible Students.

At Henriville Camp they were warned that as they were now on active service, the penalty for refusing to obey orders was death and told a blatant lie - as they later learned - that a previous group of absolutists had given way to such a threat by accepting their position in the NCC. However they were given 24 hours unhindered to decide, and told that their past errors would be swiftly forgiven if they now toed the line. They were allowed their freedom to walk round the town and pooled their money to enjoy tea in a cafe. On Boulogne beach they were allowed to bathe, play football and leapfrog on what must have seemed like the best day for many weeks. The five IBSA members remained steadfast, and their conversation and actions evidently inspired the remaining COs from other religious and political persuasions.

How far are you prepared to go? John Brocklesby asked IBSA member Leonard Renton. To the last ditch! he replied. As the others also insisted their loyalty to the cause, Brocklesby recalled that it was the most thrilling experience of my life. The trials of the five IBSA men had only just began however!

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