Arthur Waterman

By Nicholas Blatchley

The Arthur Waterman appealing in this case was probably Arthur James Waterman, born 1896 in the village of Ugley, which is in Essex but near Bishop’s Stortford. He was the son of James Waterman, a farmer, and his wife Myra.

In 1911, Arthur was 15 and still living with his parents and three siblings in Ugley, and is described as being at school. By the time of the hearing, when he’d have been about 20, the family lived in Castle Street, Bishop’s Stortford, and Arthur was working as a stonemason who inscribed tombstones.

Arthur described his religion as “A Baptist by upbringing; Secretary of a Union Church and member of an Adult School” and, in answer to the question “Are you a Quaker?” he responded “Yes by conviction.” He also stated that he’d held his views opposing war “Ever since I could reason and think for myself.”

The North Herts Mail, 23/3/16

The following four cases of appeals by conscientious objectors who heard together – A. [Arthur] Waterman (Bishop’s Stortford), L. H. Caton (Bishop’s Stortford), B. G. Burton (Ware), and A. H. Dixon (Hertford).

Mr. S. Graveson (Hertford) asked for leave to make a general statement.

In reply to Lieut. Vos, Mr. Graveson said he had sent a letter to Major Kenman.

Lieut. Vos: I object very strongly to this gentleman speaking.

The Chairman asked on what grounds.

Lieut. Vos said he understood the letter in question was of a somewhat intimidating character.

The Chairman said they could not act on hearsay.

Mr. Graveson, proceeding to address the Tribunal, said exemption from combatant service only did not meet the case of the appellants. They recognised the need for sacrifice and service, and if absolute exemption were granted would be anxious to render any service they conscientiously could to their fellow men. They abhorred shirking, but considered their God-given conscience must be the ultimate tribunal to which they must bow. He mentioned that one of the applicants was secretary of the Hertford meeting of the Society of Friends, and others did Sunday school work. They were fully prepared to go to prison if needs be, though they had no wish to add to the expense to the country by becoming prisoners or soldiers…

Cross-examined by Mr. Gratton, the appellant Waterman said he did not disbelieve in authority of every kind. He believed in the authority of the King.

Mr. Gratton remarked that he was the descendant of a Quaker, and referred to the fact that the Society of Friends had many members at the Front, and Mr. Gratton suggested appellant drew a very fine line between civil and military authority.

Appellant: By acting under the military authority one is participating in the war.

Replying to a question about his occupation, appellant said he thought it right to cut letters on tombstones, whether for civilians or soldiers…

The above three appellants had been granted exemption from combatant service only…

The Rev. R. Dunkerley, of Colchester, said he thought from the questions it was not sufficiently realised that appellants were acting from what they believed to be a high sense of duty, though they respected those whose idea of duty had driven them into the Army.

After a private consideration, the Tribunal decided to refuse the appeals for absolute exemption of the first three appellants…The Chairman said the Tribunal appreciated the offer to engage in work of national importance. They heard much of agriculture requiring labour and they suggested Mr. Crauford [representing the Board of Agriculture] should communicate with the Board of Agriculture suggesting that they make use of these men.

Leave to appeal to the Central Tribunal was refused.


Arthur successfully appealed against the tribunal’s refusal to grant him absolute exemption, but the tribunal still refused to alter the certificate. Expecting to be arrested, Arthur left home to avoid it happening in front of his parents, but left an address so it couldn’t be claimed he’d gone on the run. After working for a while on the land in Buckinghamshire, he was arrested and charged with desertion.

There are no records, but it’s probable he was imprisoned, though he’s not listed in 1918 as an imprisoned conscientious objector. He remained in Bishop’s Stortford as a stonemason for the rest of his life, though the records aren’t quite clear as to his later life. Three Arthur Watermans married fairly locally in 1920-21, while two who were born at the right time died in London, one in 1955 and the other in 1962. In both cases I’ve been unable to determine for sure which (if any) is our Arthur.


Bishops’s Stortford in the First World War by David Clare, Carolyn Downing & Sarah Turner, 2014, gives further information about Arthur Waterman.

This page was added on 04/06/2015.

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