Arthur was born 1890/1 in Australia. At the outbreak of the First World War he was living in Surrey; he was employed in a family business as a master stone mason.
Before the outbreak of hostilities, he had served in the Territorial Army as a member of the 5th Battalion, Queen’s Royal Regiment. Following the outbreak of war in 1914, this unit was posted first to India and then, in December 1915, to Mesopotamia (Iraq), presumably to take part in the operations against the Ottoman Turks who had allied with the Central Powers. Alone of the Great Powers, Britain relied on volunteers as a source of recruitment for its armies. As a result of what was becoming a global conflict, the enormous demand for recruits meant alternative means had to be devised to meet demand (Derby Scheme 1915). In January 1916, conscription was finally introduced, first for unmarried men between the ages of 19-41. Exemption was permitted including on grounds of conscientious objection; individuals applying for exemption had to convince a tribunal. Tribunals were often unsympathetic and, initially, 6000 men whose cases were rejected, were imprisoned for refusing to serve in the armed forces. In response, the Home Office introduced a scheme (HOS) whereby those imprisoned would be released on condition that they agree to undertake what the authorities deemed to be essential work necessary for the war effort. This might involve labouring or service at the front in a non combatant role such as stretcher bearers. There is an image of quaker stretcher bearer team at the Somme
Ralph must have been unmarried at the time of the act, as he had to appeal to a tribunal. According to the Pearce Register on Conscientious Objectors, his motivation was listed as Quaker (religious grounds). Ralph also used in his defence a legal loophole, that as an expired member of the Territorial Army he was exempt from service. This was initally granted, but the military authorities appealed and under the terms of the conscription act, the authorities were, indeed, allowed to call up former members of the Territorial Army. He made further appeal, again on conscientious grounds and his father also appealed on his behalf on business grounds. On 12th July, he was granted exemption from combatant (not military) service on conscientious grounds only. This meant he was still liable for military service and, therefore, was ordered to report for duty. He was eventually arrested on 24th September 1916, having ignored four notices to register for enlistment issued between 31st July and 22nd September 1916. At his trial in early October, at the Guildford Borough Police Court, he admitted to having received call up notices but refused to pay the 40 shilling fine and was remanded into custody.
As an ‘absolutist’, Ralph did not apply for the Home Office Scheme and spent the second half of the war in prison. On 23rd March 1917 he was sentenced to two years, hard labour at Wormwood Scrubbs, later commuted to six months. However, on 3rd September of that year, he was sentenced again to two years hard labour at Wandsworth Prison. At the war’s end, Ralph was still in prison; under the two-year rule, he was released from Wandsworth Prison on 8th April 1919.