Miles, Archibald

Dates
He was born in Catford and was 34 in 1918. He died in Lewisham in March 1963.

Address
59 Perry Hill, Catford

In the 1911 census Archibald Miles is shown as living at this address together with his brothers Cyril, Herbert Henry* and Walter Edwin who were all conscientious objectors, another brother Henry "Havelock" was also a conscientious objector. Also living at this address were his father Arthur, mother Margaretta Jessie, and a brother Arthur E. Their father's business Arthur Miles & Sons Upholsters of 59 and 59A Perry Hill is listed in Kellys Post Office Directory and it also lists a yard at Rutland Road, Catford.
*(see Note below)

Archibald was an upholsterer and piano tuner and a member of the Dulwich Branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War
His appearance before the Military Service Tribunal was reported in the Lewisham Borough News on 17 March, 1916. He told the tribunal that, although he was not a member of any church, he was a believer. Later in the Dulwich NCF Leaflet (July 1917) his 'Society' is listed as Perry Rise Baptist Church. He and his brothers' Cyril and Henry "Havelock" who attended on the same day were all offered Non-Combatant Certificates, but they refused them and gave notice of appeal, as did a Herbert Henry whom both the Kentish Mercury and the Lewisham Borough News described as a cousin.

He was arrested as an absentee and his appearance at the Greenwich police-court was reported in the Kentish Mercury on 26 May, 1916, under the headline More Lewisham Laggards : “Peculiar or Convenient Views? Appearing at the same hearing were two other absentees his brother Herbert Henry Miles and Wilfred George Bligh. Considered the ring leader of this group Edward William Harby's case was held on 23 May. Archibald was taken from the court under guard to be conscripted into the 36 Brigade of the Royal Fusiliers and soon found himself imprisoned in Lewis.

Prison experiences
At the Central Tribunal held at Wormwood Scrubs on 17 August, 1916 his claim to be a conscientious objector was found unconvincing. Archibald was motivated by both religious and political ideals and, although he is also listed on the Wandsworth Nominal Register as a Quaker (see note on Quaker Prison Chaplains), it is likely that he became a member of the IBSA (Jehovah's Witness) while in prison.

Archibald, as an absolutist, now began a cycle of disobeying orders, being sentenced to a period of hard labour in civilian prisons and on discharge being handed back to the army for the cycle to recommence. From 1916 to 1919, he was courts martialled and sentenced four times and spent more than two years in goal in Lewis, Pentonville, and Wandsworth. The Kentish Mercury January 19, 1917 reported him as being charged as an absentee from the Royal Fusiliers.

He was supported in his stance by membership of the Dulwich Branch of the No Conscription Fellowship, and Clara Gilbert Cole includes some correspondence with him in The Objectors to Conscription and War p.24 where she says he was one of five brothers who were conscientious objectors.

Conscientious Objectors still in prison in April 1919 were released under what became known as the “Two Year Rule”, whereby all prisoners convicted of army offences were released if they had served two years or more. When Archibald was finally released, as with all others in this situation, he was dishonourably discharged from the army and was told that he faced another two years in prison if he tried to sign up again.

After the First World War
As a conscientious objector who had been court-martialled and imprisoned Archibald would not have been allowed vote for five years from the end of the war. On the 1925 Electoral Register he is showing as living again at 59 Perry Hill and his death is recorded in Lewisham in March 1963.

Note Herbert Henry's biography for details of possible confusion over the history of this families conscientious objection

Sources
Cyril Pearce, University of Leeds, Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors
Lewisham Borough News March 17, 1916
Kentish Mercury May 26, 1916
Dulwich N-C.F What are Conscientious Objectors? July 1917 in the Cumbria Archive Centre ref:D/Mar/4/97
Clara Cole, The Objectors to Conscription and War, published Manchester: Workers' Northern Publishing Society, 1936
For IBSA reference: Prison list from The Friends House FSC/SER 3.
Gary Perkins, for the sake of the Kingdom


Ann O'Brien, Volunteer at Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, May 2014, revised July 2015

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