Miles, Herbert Henry

He was born in Canterbury in 1875 and was 42 in 1917.

59 Perry Hill, Catford

In the 1911 census Herbert Henry Miles* is shown as living at this address together with his brothers Archibald, Cyril and Walter Edwin. They were were all conscientious objectors as was another brother Henry "Havelock". 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)

Herbert Henry was single and worked as a cabinet maker, upholsterer and linoleum fitter. He was a member of the Perry Rise Baptist Church and of the Dulwich Branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship.

Conscientious Objection during the First World War

Herbert Henry was arrested as an absentee. His appearance at the Greenwich police-court was reported in the Kentish Mercury on May 26, 1916, under the headline More Lewisham Laggards : “Peculiar or Convenient Views?" Appearing at the same hearing on 24 May were two other absentees, his brother Archibald and Wilfred George Bligh.

Herbert would have been taken from the court under guard and conscripted into the Royal Fusiliers. Arthur Creech Jones' list of imprisoned Dulwich NCF members shows him serving 28 days in Lewes and his first full court-martial at Shoreham on 30 June, 1916 led him to be sentenced to one year commuted to 112 days also in Lewes. His appeal was heard at the Central Tribunal at Wormwood Scrubs Prison on 11 August, where he was held to be a genuine conscientious objector. He was referred to the Home Office Scheme and was sent to the Dyce work camp where he rejected the scheme. He was then transferred to the Depot Labour Company of the Royal Fusiliers and was again court-martialled at Purfleet on 1 December.;


He continued to refused to co-operate and, 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. 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.

By January 1919 he had served four sentences and had spent more than two years in gaol in Lewes and Wandsworth. It is quite possible that he was the H. Miles involved in the disturbances in Wandsworth in 1919. Militant, anarchist and socialist conscientious objectors went on strike and created disturbances. and the enraged prison Governor called him "the son of a cesspool". This intemperate language on the part of the Governor led to a parliamentary enquiry after Edward Harby formally complained.

He was supported in his stand by the No-Conscription Fellowship, Dulwich Branch.

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 would be released if they had served two years or more. Herbert was finally released in April 1919 and as with all others in his situation he was dishonourably discharged and told 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 courts martialled and imprisoned Herbert Henry would not have been allowed vote for five years from the end of the war. He is shown in various Lewisham electoral registers after the war as living at 59 Perry Hill.


Clara Gilbert Cole says that five of the Miles brothers were conscientious objectors, they are now believed to have been Archibald, Cyril, Henry "Havelock", Herbert Henry and Walter Edwin

The Dulwich No-Conscription Fellowship Leaflet shows two H.H. Miles, one an absolutist, the other who had spent some time in prison. Herbert Henry's date of birth on the Pearce Register of Conscientious Objectors; a list prepared by Arthur Creech-Jones; and letters written to to Clara Gilbert Cole all indicate that Herbert Henry was the absolutist and his history as a conscientious objector is shown in this biography. It is likely that Henry "Havelock" was the other H.H Miles mentioned in the Dulwich NCF leaflet.

The use of the family names Henry and Herbert and the nickname "Havelock" has led to some confusion. In the Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors Herbert Henry is shown as Herbert Havelock and he may well have used this name with the authorities at times, even though "Havelock" was the name given on the 1891 and 1901 census for his brother Henry. There may or may not have been a cousin who was a conscientious objector Herbert Henry who was reported attending the Military Service Tribunal on the same day as with Archibald, Cyril and Henry "Havelock" and further research is required to see if the history on the Pearce Register for Harry Miles is in fact the second half of Henry "Havelock"s story as a conscientious objector.

Thanks is due to Stephen Lee a cousin of the Miles brothers who recently wrote to LHAC wondering if the press reports indicated an attempt by the brothers to confuse the authorities or else misreporting. This query led to further searches and a revision of the detail shown on this wiki.

Cyril Pearce, University of Leeds, Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors
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
Arthur Creech-Jones On the Latest Information Concerning all Men arrested at the Dulwich Branch in the Special Collections at the Bodleian Library.

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

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