Born in Florence in 1870, Raffaello Batelli encountered The Salvation Army in 1895 and enrolled as a 'soldier'. The following year, he was introduced to British Salvation Army officers Major John Gordon and Mrs Major Margaret Gordon who worked in Italy. Batelli travelled with Major and Mrs Gordon to Britain frequently in the late 1890s, referring to himself as their "spiritual son". He accompanied Margaret to Scotland for John's funeral after he died in a tram accident in Edinburgh in 1902. Raffaello went on to become a Salvation Army officer himself, rising to the rank of Adjutant. His appointments included five years in charge of the Men's Shelter in Rome.