Research and text by Brian Roote
There were a number of conscientious objectors in the Croydon area. Charles John Cobb became the subject of a crusade in 1979 when an appeal was launched to have his unmarked grave in Mitcham Road Cemetery recognised which finally resulted in a marble headstone being unveiled in 1988 bearing the words ‘I Fear God not Man’ Another Croydon man, Harold Bing was called to his tribunal in 1916, failed to win his case and was sent to Kingston Barracks. Whilst there he helped to create a prison magazine “The Winchester Whisperer” and on his move to Wandsworth another called “The Old Lag’s Hansard” He also taught himself German and French but they stood him in little stead on his release after 3 years as such men were banned from gainful employment. His sight had been damaged from stitching mailbags. He died in 1975.
One man from St Augustine’s Avenue, South Croydon, John Arthur Clinch became an objector. He was born in Clapham in 1896 to Arthur Robert and Edith Murch. His father was a bank clerk and moved to Croydon.
John was conscripted under the 1916 Act and applied for exemption. His tribunal took place on 29 May 1916 and he refused to be posted abroad to fight. He was put into a Non Combatant regiment for service at home. His service records show that he was court-martialled on 12 June 1916 for ‘disobeying a lawful command’. He was found guilty and sentenced to 98 days detention in Maidstone Prison. Whilst there he would have been bullied and deprived of basic needs. On completion of his sentence he was transferred to the Army Reserve on ‘medical grounds’. He married Mary Sleep in Croydon in 1924. They had no children. His father died in 1940 and left John the considerable sum of just over £28000. John died in 1981 in Croydon.