During the First World War, Richmond Castle was used as a base for the Non-Combatant Corps, an army unit set up to enable men to support the war effort without fighting. Conscientious objectors were often sent to join this unit.
The castle also had a more sinister wartime use, as a military prison for 16 Conscientious Objectors, among them some of the first to refuse to fight. The 'Richmond Sixteen' included men from all walks of life, from Norman Gaudie, a former professional footballer, to Alfred Martlew, a clerk at the Rowntree’s chocolate factory in York.
When conscription was introduced in 1916, Norman Gaudie was a 28-year-old clerk and professional football player for Sunderland. As a Quaker, Norman was a committed pacifist and so he refused to fight. After a tribunal failed to grant him an exemption (allowing him not to fight), he continued to refuse to join the army and was taken to Richmond Castle.
Bert Brocklesby, a teacher in his mid-twenties, from a South Yorkshire mining village, had decided not to fight due to his Methodist beliefs, while his brother Philip joined up. However, both brothers understood the other's decision. 'I'm right proud of him', Philip wrote to his parents of Bert. At his tribunal, when asked what he would do if his life was in danger, Bert said:
The Sixth Commandment says 'Thou shalt not kill'. I take it it is better to be killed than kill anyone else.