Richards, Henry Burnleigh

He was 30 in 1917

Henry Burnleigh Richards lived at 24 Bullock Road, Catford he was single and his Military Service Record shows his father as his next of kin. Henry worked as a jeweler's assistant and was a member of the International Bible Students Association a corporation founded in 1914 in London to promote the interests of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War:
No records have been found showing that he appeared before a local Military Service Tribunal and was refused exemption, though this may have happened. Whatever the sequence of events, however, Henry's Military Service Record, which is marked CO, shows that he was conscripted into the 112 Training Reserve Battalion at Camberwell Recruiting Office on 2 August, 1917. Four days later on 6 August he was court-martialled at Wimbledon suggesting that he immediately refused to obey orders; often the first refusal by a conscientious objector was the refusal to wear a uniform or to stand to attention when spoken to.

Henry was sentenced to 2 years hard labour and sent to Wormwood Scrubs prison. At the Military Service Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs on 24 September 1917 he was deemed to be a genuine conscientious objector on religious grounds (Class A) and was referred to the Brace Committee (Home Office Scheme) on 6 November, 1917. On 8 November Henry was released from Wormwood Scrubs, transferred to the Army Reserve Class W*, and sent to Knutsford Work Camp.

*Army Reserve Class W was used by the Military to pass imprisoned CO's over to the responsibility of the Home Office. In the event of the CO rejecting or being rejected by the scheme they could be recalled to "the colours" and be subjected again to military discipline, effectively a round of courts-martial and imprisonment. While remaining in this Reserve Unit they were not subjected to military discipline nor did they have to wear a uniform and were paid two-thirds of the minimum pay awarded a private.

After the First World War:
He may be the Henry Burnleigh Richards who died in June 1980 aged 94 in Worthing, West Sussex

Cyril Pearce, University of Leeds, Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors
British Army Military Record

Ann O'Brien, Volunteer at Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, January, 2015.

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