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THE MEN WHO SAID NO | ROAD TO CONSCRIPTION | CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION | PRISONS | SENTENCED TO DEATH | TRIBUNALS | WIDER CONTEXT | INDEX
ARTHUR EDWIN RAITT 1884 - 1949  

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Arthur was 32 years in 1916 and lived at 102 Arngask Road, Catford together with his wife Mary Jane Strawbridge, nee Phillips, who was born in Bristol. They had married in Lewisham on 19 December 1905 and in 1916 had two children Arthur Ernest and Ivy Josephine. His father William Henry lived at 181 High Street Deptford and Arthur is shown as having attended the Ricardo St. School in the 1880s together with his sister Ellen. His brother William Robert Raitt was also a conscientious objector.

Arthur worked as a deputy receiver for the Metropolitan Water Board. His motivation in objecting to combatant duties seems to have been religious and he is known to have worked as a volunteer with the YMCA.

Arthur attested on 10th November 1915 that he was willing to serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps and he believed that this was agreed by the Recruiting Officer. This was ignored, however, and he was called up to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps where he was court martialled for refusing to obey an order on 7 August 1916 and sentenced to 112 days hard labour in Wormwood Scrubs. On 16 September 1916 his brother William wrote to T.E. Harvey MP, who took up the cause of imprisoned conscientious objectors, that “the circumstances of the case are as follows: being anxious to do all in his power to help his country in the time of trouble, my brother attested for RAMC work only making it quite clear to the Recruiting Officer that he would not take human life, but would do anything to save life”. Having been called up into a fighting unit Arthur repeatedly protested and appealed for a transfer, obeying orders until he was instructed to practise bomb throwing.

The Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs found him a genuine conscientious objector on 15 August 1916 and recommended his transfer to the Home Office Scheme. Had this been accepted he would in all likelihood have been discharged to a work camp immediately, but at the same time others, including a friend Major Coates whom he was acquainted with from his YMCA work were acting to get him transferred to a non-combatant unit. Although authority was given for his transfer to the Non-Combatant Corps on 29 August 1916 his prison sentence was not remitted until 6 November 1916 when his release was ordered. William had expressed concern that Arthur was not fully recovered from an illness when imprisoned and on 16 November 1916 Arthur wrote a letter of thanks to T.E Harvey from the YMCA Convalescence Huts in Winchester.

His army records show copious correspondence backwards and forwards between the NCC, the KRRC and Wormwood Scrubs trying to find his original attestation form and trying to find out if the Recruiting Officer had actually promised that he could serve in the RAMC. Otherwise, Arthur’s time in the 5 Southern Company of the NCC appears to have been uneventful until 2 August 1918 when he was charged with hesitating to obey an order, insolence to a superior officer and absenting himself from Royal Engineering Works and he was harshly sentenced to 14 days Field Punishment No. 2. It is not know how the punishment was carried out in his case, but at the very least it would have included tough extra drill and fatigues and could well have included being shackled for up to two hours a day, restraints used included the so called figure of eight where hands were pinioned behind the back, an extremely painful practice. Field Punishment No 2 only differed from Field Punishment No 1 in not allowing the soldier to be tied to a fixed object such as a gun carriage wheel, a practice known as “Crucifixion” . Where COs were subjected to military discipline it was usually because they refused to do work that they considered aided combat, such as handling munitions. It is possible that this late in the war non-commissioned officers transferred to the Non-Combatant Corps were battle hardened men returning from the front and on the 9 December 1918 Arthur was sentenced to seven days Confined to Barracks for insolence to an NCO.

Arthur was eventually demobilised on 29 August 1919.
He died in Lewisham Hospital on 18 July 1949 and his address was given as 141 Bellingham Road, Catford. His wife died in 1967.

 

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CO DATA

Born: 1884
Died: 1949
Address: 102 Arngask Road, Catford, London
Tribunal:
Prison: Wormwood Scrubs
HO Scheme:
CO Work: NCC
Occupation: Deputy Receiver

Motivation: Religious

NON-COMBATANT

 


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WIDER CONTEXT | more
ROAD TO CONSCRIPTION
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CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTION
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