Info about "Richmond 16"? (WWI conscientious objectors)

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slothjabber
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Aug 29 2009 22:48
Info about "Richmond 16"? (WWI conscientious objectors)

Recently came across the Richmond 16, conscientious objectors imprisoned in Richmond Castle, Yorkshire in 1916.

There seems to have been a mix of Methodists, Quakers and socialist internationalists, from what I can tell. There is an exhibit about them at Richmond Castle museum, which, if it's accurate, implies that at least one of them wrote grafitti on his cell wall which started "The only war worth fighting is the class war...".

I'd be really interested in any info anyone has on this, cheers.

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fnbrill
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Aug 30 2009 00:57

Check in with the SPGB, many of their members went to prision avoiding the draft. At least they have the files which coud give a background.

slothjabber
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Sep 3 2009 19:54

Thanks Fnbrill, I'll ask the SPGB if they have info.

Got the text of the grafitti I was after:

"The only war which is worth fighting is the class war. The working class of this country have no quarrel with the working class of Germany or any other country. Socialism stands for internationalism. If the workers of all countries united and refused to fight there would be no war."

I think that's pretty interesting in 1916.

The info is from a book called "We Will Not Fight... The Untold Story of World War One's Conscientious Objectors" by Will Ellsworth-Jones (Aurum: London, 2008)

The book doesn't seem very good on the politics to be honest. Lots about the religious dimension (11 of the 16 were religious apparently), an awful lot of biog of one of the Richamond 16 whose brothers joined up, "conscientious objector" and "pacifist" are used as synonyms (despite "The only war which is worth fighting is the class war..." which is hardly 'pacifist'), the SPGB, John Maclean and the anti-war faction of the BSP, Guy Aldred and the Glasgow Anarchists, and the SLP, don't get a mention, the only political group apart from the Labour Party I can find references to is the ILP.

But it's a start. Seems the history of socialist internationalism in Britain during WWI hasn't been written yet. Any info that anyone knows about - pointers to any work already done, texts, articles or whatever - gratefully received, thanks.

nastyned
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Sep 3 2009 20:08

There might be something in: Mark Shipway’s Anti-Parliamentary Communism - the movement for workers’ councils in Britain 1917-45 or John Quail's 'The slow burning fuse - the lost history of british anarchism'.

nastyned
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Sep 3 2009 20:14

Oooo...and 'Come dungeons dark', Guy Aldred's biography by John Taylor Caldwell has resistance to WW1 stuff in it I'm sure.

slothjabber
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Sep 3 2009 20:30

Thanks for those, Shipway's book has been on my list of things to read for a long time now, and both those others sound well interesting to, cheers.

Keep 'em coming folks! I have Perrin's history of the SPGB, and Hayes's British Communist Left, both of which have some info, but the more the merrier!

Of course there's no discussion of the interantional dimension either. Even when the grafitti I quoted says "Socialism stands for internationalism" there's no mention of any internationalist socialist or anarchist positions against the war.

So "...class war ... (and) ... internationalism" is equated with (religious) pacifism and explained in a national context. Well bizarre.

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fnbrill
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Sep 4 2009 05:53

Parts of the graffitti is close to the wording of the SPGB's anti-war statement.

Internationalists and religious pacifists sometimes worked together (eg the IWW and the Catholic church in Australia) or back up their common interests - eg in the US where IWWs supported Mennonite prison strikers.

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waslax
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Sep 4 2009 06:39
slothjabber wrote:
I have Perrin's history of the SPGB, and Hayes's British Communist Left, both of which have some info, but the more the merrier!

Who published the Hayes book? Is it available online? I assume it is not the ICC book of the same title. Is that correct?

Spassmaschine
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Sep 4 2009 10:19

No, it is the ICC book; the author is a 'Mark Hayes'.

shepgem
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Nov 11 2009 21:02

Perhaps you would like to take a look at my web site it is about my Grandfather who was a Consiensious Objector and was in Wakefield prison for the duration of the WW1.
I understand he could have been at Richmond for a brief period.
I am doing research at the moment to verify some of the history I have had passed down to me.

The site is:
http://alfredkemble.weebly.com/

I may be able to help you with your research and you could also help me.

Cleishbotham
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Nov 13 2009 13:13

There is also Dave Lamb's pamphlet for Solidarity which one of our Canadian comrades showed me last month (it deals with mutinies mainly). Don't have copy to send you though. Ironically we also saw the Richmond Castle grafitti last winter and can confirm it - it is all the more striking when you consider that the area around (Catterick camp) is one of the most militarised zones in Britain - but I suppose that's why they sent them there for a bit of extra intimidation.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 13 2009 13:18

Mutinies - Dave Lamb

Jason Cortez
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Nov 15 2009 16:29

They is also an interesting book on this period which focuses on the underground network for the folks who went awol etc it also includes a play about this topic. but I can't for the life of me remember who wrote it, i think it was a pretty well known feminist.

Jason Cortez
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Nov 17 2009 17:37

Finally dug the book out it is "Friends of Alice Wheeldon" by Sheila Rowbotham. From a quick glance I couldn't see anything about the Richmond 16, but it does give a good account of the milieu. it tells the story of a Derby socialist feminist, falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Lloyd George during the first world war. Looking at the interactions between suffrage supporters, syndicalists, shop stewards and ethical idealists in the anti war movement. Alice and her daughter Hettie were in the WSPU and were friends with Willie Paul of the SLP, Hettie courted Arthur MacManus (also SLP) who had been a Clydeside shop steward who had been deported from Scotland. Their home was a safe haven for 'conscientious objectors' on the run.

redschlog
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Dec 15 2018 16:37

Howdy! Slothjabber: The graffiti you were most impressed by is actually signed by a H Conlin or Gonlin, who was in the Green Howards. There's a confusing date "19.3 9" (1939? 19th March 1919?). He's not listed by wikipedia as being part of the Richmond 16. fnbrill says it's close to the SPGB war statement. I can tell you for sure (well 99% sure) that the bloke wasn't in the esspeegeebee.