A MEMORIAL service is being held to remember 16 conscientious objectors  “crucified” during the First World War after being locked up in a castle’s former dungeon.

About 40 members of Teesdale and Cleveland Area Quaker Meeting will gather outside cells in Richmond Castle on Sunday to remember the men who defied the newly-introduced conscription law in 1916.

The Richmond 16 included Sunderland FC centre forward Norman Gaudie, from East Boldon, brothers Billy and Bert Law, from Darlington, Alf Matthews, a clerk at the Rowntrees factory, in York, and Alfred Myers, an ironstone miner from Carlin How, in east Cleveland.

The conscription laws allowed men to object to military service on grounds such as faith or moral beliefs, but the Richmond 16, who were composed of Quakers, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and socialists, were ordered to join the 2nd Northern Non-Combatant Corps, stationed at the castle.

When they refused to undertake non-combatant duties, they were imprisoned in the castle, where they left defiant graffiti on the cell walls, before Field Marshall Lord Kitchener ordered them to be sent to France, where they could be court-martialled and shot if they refused to fight.

As they travelled towards France on a train, one of the group threw a letter out the window addressed to York MP and social reformer Arnold Rowntree, who alerted Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister after receiving the note.

After arriving in France, the Richmond 16 were forced to watch deserters being executed and given a punishment known as crucifixion, in which they were suspended from posts to which their hands and feet were tied, for several hours a day.

Lord Kitchener’s sudden death at sea within days of their arrival in France, led Mr Asquith to commute their sentences to ten years’ hard labour.

They spent three years in labour camps and civil prisons before being released in 1919.

Michael Wright, of the Teesdale and Cleveland Area Quaker Meeting, said the group would honour the courage of the Richmond 16 and centenary of the Northern Friends Peace Board with a gathering of silence.

He said Mr Gaudie’s daughter-in-law, Marjorie Guaudie, a current member of Great Ayton Quaker Meeting, would be among those attending the silence at 11am, followed by an open-air Quaker Meeting for worship at 12.30pm in the castle grounds.

Mr Wright said: “When the surviving members of the Richmond 16 returned home they were ostracised by their communities as there was a great deal of misunderstanding about their witness.”

He said members of the group would then make a pilgrimage from the castle to the US intelligence base at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate.