By Seren O’Brian
Albert Rudall is the only Newport man mentioned on a commemorative stone in Tavistock Square, London, which records the names of the 69 Conscientious Objectors who died as a result of mistreatment during the First World War.
Albert was born in late autumn 1887 and christened in St Mark’s Anglican Church, Newport on the 2 November. He is mentioned in two censuses; in 1901 he was living at 145 Shaftesbury Street with his parents Tom and Emma, his older brother Thomas and his younger sister Rose, and in 1911 he was living in 25 Wheeler Street, Newport with his parents, and sister. By this stage, Albert was already working as a brewer’s labourer. Otherwise we know that he was one of eight children, of whom five were still alive, and his family was English speaking.
Albert was a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) both of which were opposed to war. As a single man aged 28 he was one of the first to be called up under the Military Service Act which came into force on the 2 March 1916. He refused to serve and was arrested as an absentee on the 30 April 1916, tried on the 1 May by Newport Magistrates, was fined 40 shillings and handed over to the military authorities. His case was refused by the Military Service Tribunal in Newport and the County Appeals Tribunal so he was drafted into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Cardiff where yet again he refused to obey military orders.
The No-Conscription Fellowship kept records of what happened to every member and published information in sympathetic newspapers such as the Pioneer. On the 20 May 1916 we can read a report from Emrys Hughes, himself a member of the NCF:
South Wales Conscientious Objectors. THEIR POSITION UNDER THE MILITARY NOTE FROM EMRYS HUGHES.
The following summary of the South Wales Conscientious Objectors has been prepared by the Wales Division of the N.C.F. for us, and is complete up to the 10th inst. We have had a letter card this week from Hughes, in which he mentions that […] G. Dardis, C. James, R. James, E. James (Risca); P. Pope, A. Rudall, A. J. Hewinson, H J. Davies, B. G. Davies D Herbert (Newport); I. Shepherd, J. Shepherd, and W. Jones (Pontypridd); [were] transferred 10/5/16 from Garrison Artillery Barracks, Cardiff, to Kinmel Park Camp, Abergele..
In Kinmel Park, which is situated near Rhyl, Albert was brought before yet another court martial on the 25 May and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with hard labour, commuted to 112 days with hard labour. The Pioneer picks up the story on the 10 June 1916:
NINE SOUTH WALIANS SENT TO WORMWOOD SCRUBBS. Comrades Percy Pope, Albert Rudall, Arthur J. Hewinson, G. Reynolds, Dorian Herbert, J. H. Davies, Trevor C. Griffiths (all of the Newport Independent Labour Party and No- Conscription Fellowship Branches), Joseph Shepherd (Pontypridd), and W. T. Jones (Treforest) were on Friday removed from Kinmel Park to Wormwood Scrubbs to commence their period of two years’ hard labour for “disobeying in such a manner as to show willful defiance of authority a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office.”
Once prisoners arrived at Wormwood Scrubbs they were allowed to send an “official letter” to their families. The whole form was printed, and all that had to be filled in by the prisoner was their state of health, and how long it would be before they were allowed to write another letter home. We don’t know just what Albert wrote but one of his fellow Newport prisoners is quoted by the Pioneer:
In this case the words, “My sentence is two years,” were added in writing: H.M. Prison, Wormwood Scrubbs, June 3rd, 1916. Dear Father, I am now in this prison, and am in usual health. If I behave well I shall be allowed to write a letter about 7 weeks time and to receive a reply, but no reply is allowed to this. My sentence is two years. Signature, ARTHUR HEWINSON.
After two months Albert went before the central tribunal at Wormwood Scrubbs and finally was accepted as a ‘Class A’ i.e. a genuine conscientious objector. Under the auspices of the Home Office Scheme he was found ‘Work of National Importance’ mending roads at Clare in West Suffolk.
The Pearce Register doesn’t tell us any more about Albert’s war service but just one month before the end of the war he sadly died as a result of his poor treatment as a conscientious objector. On the 19 October 1918 the Pioneer reports:
In Memoriam. DEATH OF ALBERT RUDALL, C.O. We regret to announce the death of Albert E Rudall, of Newport, Mon. Comrade Rudall was an old I.L.P.er, and one of the original C.O.’s to be arrested under the Military Service Act. After his imprisonment he was released on to the Home Office Scheme and worked at Keddington, Warwick and Dartmoor.
A short while ago he was allowed to proceed home to find work under the H.O. new scheme of Exceptional Employment and, owing to the time-limit imposed in such cases, was compelled to undertake work for which he was entirely unsuited. The result is he has left us for good. His Newport comrades are filled with grief at the loss of so sincere, unassuming, but enthusiastic a supporter of freedom and international brotherhood – a grief which we feel sure will he reflected throughout the whole C.O. movement.