Seventh Day Adventists

Seventh-day Adventists first formally organised in 1863 to take advantage of the provision that members of recognised churches, who professed pacifism, be allowed exemption from conscription during the American Civil War. At the outbreak of the First World War they had been in the United Kingdom for about a decade and numbered about 2,500 members. Coincidentally on the day war was declared they were holding their British Union Conference at Battersea Town Hall with about 400 delegates attending. One-hundred-and-thirty of their men were called up and the official advice was to serve in the Non-Combatant Corps (NCC) as Seventh-day Adventists saw themselves as conscientious objectors who were willing to co-operate rather than absolutist objectors [1] Some 10 members appeared before the Pelham Committee, [2] and although the final decision was left to the individual's conscience very few joined the armed forces.

Punished for their Sabbatarian Beliefs

Despite their willingness to accept the NCC as a reasonable Government response to conscientious objection to conscription, however, service in the NCC presented a special problem for Seventh Day Adventists as they held strong Sabbatarian beliefs and refused to obey orders from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. Sabbatarian beliefs were not recognised in the Military Service Acts and the response was left to the Military, with varying results. In Lewisham three of the four known Seventh-day Adventists appeared to fare well in the NCC, but one Lewisham man Harry Yeates is known to have been court martialled and harshly treated for his refusal to obey orders on the Sabbath. [3] Harry's statement to the Lewisham Tribunal also shows quite clearly that he was willing to co-operate with the Government, short of bearing arms or working on the Sabbath. Other Seventh-day Adventists also faced courts martial and imprisonment after which, like Harry, they were transferred to work camps under the Home Office Scheme. An account of the suffering of 14 NCC Seventh-day Adventists in Le Havre Military Prison in November 1917 was printed on the front page of the The Tribunal on 4 April, 1918. [4]

There are four Lewisham men on the Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors that are known to have been Seventh-day Adventists and it is possible that with further research other names may be found among the one-third where motivation is not shown. Their biographies can be found from the links on the table below.

Metzner, Albert Edward Metzner, Arthur Robert Raitt, William Robert Yeates, Harry

1.Adventist History, Souvenir Messenger 1902-1992 p.13
2. John Rae, Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919, London OUP 1970 Appendix C.
3. Centennial Historical Special 1974 p.17
4. Link to the Tribunal 4 April, 1918 with permission of

Web Pages
WW1 and the Adventist Church,
Adventist Centennial Historical Special 1974,
Adventist History - Souvenir Messenger 1902-1992,

Ann O'Brien, Volunteer at Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre, April 2015

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