Thursday, 13 October 2016

A WW1 CO who survived, though not unscathed.

More evidence for the theory in an earlier post that he didn't commit suicide before the end of the war.

As previously noted, there is reason to believe that Oscar Ricketts, one of the First World War conscientious objectors sentenced to death (the "Frenchmen", and reprieved only after traumatic delay and uncertainty, survived until 1981, contrary to a source consulted for the Pearce Register.

Oscar Gris[t]wood Ricketts
Marital status  Single

Occupation      Bank Clerk
Age     21
Birth year        1895
Year    1916
Address           73, Mayfield Avenue*
Address 2        West Ealing
Local authority            Ealing MB
County            Middlesex
Country           England
Latitude          51.5
Longitude       -0.32
Ordnance Survey reference    TQ160800
Service number           609
France Yes
Fugitive           Yes
No-Conscription Fellowship   Yes
Motivation      Christian and pacifist
Military Service Tribunal        MST (Military Service Tribunal) Ealing 29.2.16 - claimed AE (Absolute Exemption) - refused; Middlesex Appeal 20.3.16 - granted ECS (Exemption from Combatant Service); Central Tribunal 7.8.16; Central Tribunal at Wormwood S. 14.8.16 - CO class A, to Brace Committee
Central Tribunal          Central Tribunal Nos. W.466 M.561
War Service     NCC (Non-Combatant Corps) 19.4.16 Hounslow (Eastern) CM (Court Martial) at Hounslow (?) and then (25.4.16) to Felixstowe and Harwich to serve 28 days in redoubt; June 1916 in France awaiting sentence; FGCM (Court Martial) Boulogne 10.6.16 - death 10 yrs.PS Winchester CP (Civil Prison); Home: 19.4.16 - 8.5.16; France: 9.5.16 - 29.6.16; Home: 30.6.16 - 31.3.20; Deserted 1.11.16 - 31.1.17 (?)
War Service comments           Refused to sign army papers or to give details; Thought to be in Harwich Redoubt military prison 18.5.16; Sent from Harwich and Felixstowe on 8th May, where already sentenced to 28 days, kept in irons, on bread and water.
Magistrates Court       Arrested and tried at Brentford Police court 22.4.16, fined 40/- and handed over
Magistrates Court comments  Absentee
Prison  Winchester CP (Civil Prison) 30.6.16 discharged 31.8.16
Work Centre   HOS (The Home Office Scheme, administered by the Brace Committee) Oct.1916 Dyce Camp (photo.88); Dartmoor (18.10.17)
WO363           true
Notes   *Ricketts committed suicide before war ended. NCF Souvenir History has him from High Street, Petworth, Sussex, probably his parents' and his 'home' address.
Sources            NA/MH47/66; The Friend 12.5.16; Jack Foister, Liddle CO/032; Sanctuary Autograph Book WYB8/2/1; Liddle CO/038, 061; Tribunal 18.5.16; NCF (No-Conscription Fellowship) Souvenir History p.47; Tribunal 29.6.16; NA/PCOM 6; Hampshire R.O. Winchester CP (Civil Prison) Register 16.3.15 to 16.4.17; Letters May and June 1916 re.victimisation and brutality in T.E.Harvey MP (Military Prison) Correspondence FH/Temp.Mss.835 Box.4; NA/WO213/9/115; NA/WO363 - on line - very detailed; NA/MH47/125; NA/MH47/1 Central Tribunal Minutes; FH/SER/VOPC/Cases/7(271)

Record set       Conscientious Objectors' Register 1914-1918
See also how Oscar's case was raised in the House of Commons.

From WO363 Record of Service (16 page-images, some blank)
[middle name given as "Griswood" throughout].

Report: moved to Petworth after call-up then back to Ealing – “sent an impudent note” re Petworth call-up. Appeal for variation of Ealing certificate (having obtained ECS (Exemption from Combatant Service only) on Middlesex appeal) – thrown out as “invalid”; failed attempt to take appeal to Central Tribunal – authorities felt he could go on with endless appeals if not stopped. Arrested 19-4-16.
[Prison, France...] Detention 6/6; disobeying an order, refused to do punishment drill when ordered (Boulogne). Sentenced to suffer death by being shot 10-6-16, commuted to 10 years hard labour 16/6.
73 Mayfield Avenue, W13:
Oscar's address at call-up and discharge

"Service" summarised as Home 19/4 – 18/5; in France 9-5-16  to 29-6; Home (Army Reserve class) 30/6/16 – 31-3-20.
Discharge form. Stamped “FIT”; the Mayfield Avenue, West Ealing, address is given.
Discharged by reason of demobilisation 31-3-20
[Obviously this would tend further to confirm his survival.]

The 1939 Register of Electors
A search of the1939 register finds no "Oscar G" Ricketts, but turns up:
Oscar F            Ricketts          1890   Farnham U.D.            Surrey
Allowing for the fact that a couple of mistranscriptions per record are virtually par for the course in this sort of context, this was worth following up, and the transcription amplifies it to:
Ricketts Household (2 People) 
Cherening , Farnham U.D., Surrey, England - 
Oscar F Ricketts  10 Feb 1890    Male    Bank Clerk Incapacitated       Married           94        1           
Jean M Ricketts           28 Jan 1897     Female Shorthand Typist        Married           94        2
1939 Register of Electors with entry for Oscar and Jean Ricketts
"Bank Clerk" was the occupation of Oscar G Ricketts the CO; his having been, sadly, "incapacitated" since 1920 would kind-of figure too.

Capital G and F in joined-up writing
as taught in British schools until about the mid-20th century.
On closer inspection, the given date of birth is not clear, and could be 1896 or 1895, which would fit, rather than 1890. Similarly, the middle initial could well be, and is arguably more like, a G.

As a further reinforcement, it turns out that Jean Mary Ricketts died in the same place (Brighton 1982) as, and a year later than, Oscar Gristwood Ricketts.
So, in spite of his unspecified long-term incapacity, it now looks as though Oscar not only survived long after the end of the First World War, but had found a life partner by 1939.

Last name   First name          Born      Died      Event    Record set          Location
RICKETTS  JEAN MARY       1897      1982      1982      England & Wales deaths 1837-2007         Brighton, Sussex, England

Death record for Oscar Gristwood Ricketts, 1981.
(Birthday matches that of the above Oscar Ricketts in 1939). 
Perhaps there may be people in Brighton today - or neighbours from earlier, in Surrey - who remember Oscar and Jean Ricketts, and even whether or not he ever spoke of his experiences..?

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