During the First World War Richmond was the regimental depot for the Green Howards, with the regiment raising 24 battalions for King and Country (in peacetime there were usually one or two battalions). Richmond Castle served as a barracks for local regiments, a training camp for new recruits to the Army and for men who, excused military service, were part of the Non-Combatant Corps (NCC), with Baden-Powell the Commander of the Northern Territorial Army based at the castle from 1909.
A Voluntary Aid Detachment was formed in Richmond in late 1914, with several of the town’s larger houses being used as convalescent hospitals for the wounded. Both Frenchgate House and Swale House were used as hospitals.
Baden Powell had suggested the Colburn/Hipswell area was suitable for a new army camp, but it was only in 1915 that building the new Catterick Camp began; by 1916 more than 5000 German prisoners of war and British soldiers were working on its construction and road building.
In 1915, the town’s first purpose-built cinema was opened on the corner of Ryder’s Wynd and Queens Road, whilst a wood and asbestos cinema was created half way between the town and the fast developing Catterick Camp. Recruiting officers often attended screenings to encourage film-goers to sign up for duty following the film.
The Castle was also a prison in which Conscientious Objectors were held from 1916 onwards. Those held at Richmond were known as ‘Absolutists’ in that they absolutely refused to do undertake any service which, in their view, might aid the prosecution of the war. These men, known as the ‘Richmond 16’ were subsequently taken to France where their refusal to obey military commands was deemed mutinous in the face of the enemy and, as such, they were subject to the military laws of the day. Each man was sentenced to death by musketry, sentences that were subsequently commuted to varying degrees of penal servitude.
Bonfires were lit in the market place to mark the end of the war in 1918. The memorial and garden of remembrance in Friary Gardens was created in 1920, taking the place of wartime allotments, whilst the Green Howards Regimental memorial at the top of Frenchgate was dedicated in 1921.