Arthur Riches was called up for the militia in 1938. In 1940 he refused military service. He was sentenced to a year in prison. When a bomb damaged part of a prison warders’ house, Arthur was sent there to do repairs (he was a plasterer by trade). After each day’s work he used to return to the prison and knock the prison gate to ask, “please may I come in?” Arthur joined Tottenham Quakers in 1945.
Arthur Riches in Rhodesia
Arthur had always wanted to visit Africa. Before the war, at the age of eighteen, he stowed away on a ship, but was found and sent back.
In 1951, when he was in his thirties, Arthur finally managed to fulfil his dream of going to Africa. He spent ten years in what was then Rhodesia. A plasterer by trade, he helped to build the Meeting House at Bulawayo and the YWCA. Blacks were not allowed to learn trades and Arthur lost jobs with many whites for teaching Black people plastering.
While helping to build the non-segregated YWCA, a woman came out with tea and cups for the Whites and tin cans for the Blacks to drink out of. Arthur could not see himself treating people differently, so when she had left he poured the tea into the cups and shared them around.
Finally, in 1961, Arthur returned to Tottenham. He continued to be an active member of Tottenham Meeting.