Header Copy

Covering the villages of Wilsden and Harecroft

Bingley Petty Sessions

Soldier Absentees

Harry Bentham, of Cullingworth, was charged with [being an absentee from his regiment], having been absent from December 24 from the depot of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Police-Constable Dunnett arrested the man at Wilsden, and he then remarked to the constable that he had had a good run and a good time. He was remanded on bail to await an escort

- Keighley News, 9th February 1918

6th February – Though vocal and visible anti-war feeling in Britain was still confined to a few thousand conscientious objectors, there was outrage amongst this minority group when one of their number, a Methodist shoemaker named Henry Firth, died at a work centre for conscientious objectors on Dartmoor. Firth had been imprisoned for nine months, and had become so ill in prison that he had accepted alternative service at the Princetown stone quarries on Dartmoor. Admitted to hospital after collapsing at work, Firth’s, a diabetic, requests for eggs were denied on the grounds that they were wanted for soldiers in France. Eventually the authorities relented and he was granted three fresh eggs. They arrived the day after his death. Three days after Firth’s death, the philosopher Bertrand Russell was sentenced to six months in prison for advocating in public that the British Government accept a German offer to open peace negotiations.

Mark Hayler, a Quaker and another conscientious objector imprisoned alongside Firth on Dartmoor, recalled sixty years later that “[Firth] had pneumonia. He’d been badly treated at Dartmoor, he should never have been sent out on the moor in bad weather. He should have got an indoor job and he got this cold and he got pneumonia …It was the only funeral from Dartmoor and the whole of the men attended the funeral, they insisted, they couldn’t have prevented them and they followed behind the coffin down to the railway and it was put on the little train at Princetown and taken down to Plymouth … which is about ten miles away… And I remember nearly a thousand men sang a hymn, ‘Abide With Me’”.

Sources

Gilbert, M. First World War

Keighley News Archive (accessed via Bradford Libraries website)

http://www.myprimitivemethodists.org.uk/page/henry_firth_conscientious_objector