VIDEO: Museum's graveyard project reveals Bradford stories of the First World War

6:30pm Wednesday 11th June 2014

The untold stories of Bradfordians involved in the First World War will finally be revealed as part of a project involving the Peace Museum and Undercliffe Cemetery.

Stories in Stone reveals the stories of both soldiers and conscientious objectors who are buried in the Victorian cemetery.

It is part of the museum’s “Choices: Then and Now” programme - which teaches school children about the everyday decisions people had to make in the Great War.

Researchers have identified that a number of conscientious objectors are buried in the cemetery, and the museum hopes to be able to place white poppies on those graves on Armistice Day “to remember their determination not to kill and their desire for peace not war”.

Children taking part in the project will be asked whether the objectors should be remembered for their courage to say “no” to war, and like the wider project, to show that the war was not as black and white as it is sometimes made out.

The information will also be part of a special open day at the cemetery next month.

Undercliffe Cemetery has more than 23,000 graves, and is often referred to as the finest Victorian cemetery outside London.

One of the conscientious objectors identified in the project is Amos Arthur Birkby, who was a Methodist Lay Preacher at Eastbrook Hall. When he was call to service in 1916 he claimed exemption, saying he believed the Bible taught that it is wrong to kill.

He was assigned to the Medical Corps but in 1917 was court-martialled for refusing to follow orders. He was sentenced to 112 days imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs before being forced to do hard labour.

Staff at the museum have managed to speak to his family for the project, who informed them that Mr Birkby had been labelled a “conchie” which meant he struggled to find full time work for many years after the war.

Shannen Lang, the museum's education and collection intern, said: “There are many soldiers buried in the cemetery but we think other people should be remembered too, like conscientious objectors. This is the big reason we are focusing on these.

“When we spoke to Amos’s family they said he struggled to get work. People thought that because he didn’t fight for his country he didn’t deserve a job.

“A lot of people had no idea about the stories of people buried here, it was not something you would put on a grave. We are incorporating Stories in Stone into our Choices then and Now programme which we are doing with schools.”

The museum is in talks with schools and other groups about how poppies will be placed on the graves in future years.

There will be open days at the cemetery at which the Peace Museum will man a stall from July 11-13.


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