#whitefeather diaries
John Hoare

About John Hoare

Joseph Edward (“Ted”) Hoare was the son of a bishop. He was a prefect at Repton, an elite boarding school in Derbyshire, and belonged to the Officer Training Corps. When Ted turned 18 in 1914, he seemed to be a model of social respectability and destined for a bright future.

On the eve of the war, Ted was injured at a school camp and spent several weeks recovering over the summer. While doing so, he prayed and read about religion, politics and ethics. In the autumn Ted returned to school as a convinced Christian pacifist.

Alternative work

Friday 11 March 2016
John Hoare

Last week we saw John's description of Pentonville Prison, where he had been sent to await court martial. A few days later he was transferred to Mill Hill Barracks (where Howard Marten had been a few months earlier) and imprisoned in the guard room with other COs, awaiting trial.

John was conscripted later in the year than Howard and Bert. By this time the Home Office had come up with a scheme to offer some COs the option of doing alternative work of “national importance”. Details of the scheme were vague and pacifists were split over whether to accept it. These are extracts from John's diary at the time.

COs engaged in alternative work

Conscientious objectors engaged in alternative work. Used by kind permission of the Peace Pledge Union.

Thursday: I was ushered into the guard room and overwhelmed with greetings from the 15 COs in there. A meeting was in progress to discuss the question of alternative service and I was “deemed to be a member of the Mill Hill Guard Room branch of the NCF” so as to take part in it.

The evening before they had passed a resolution condemning the Home Office scheme of quarry work and road making, from which I alone dissented.

In the middle of the discussion I was taken to the quartermaster’s stores and offered boots, tunics etc in front of the captain – who fumed all the time at my escort – and refused to put them on. I let them fit me with a cap which I then put on the ground. My escort then picked up my kit and marched me back to the guard room. I never saw it again.

Then came exercise in the yard. I can still see Runham Brown, tall, bent and deliberate with a reddish moustache walking round with Scrivener rather slowly and young Brownlow and Symonds, a writer with a fine full silky beard and short stature, a vegetarian by the way, tearing up and down in the middle at a huge pace. I discussed the Home Office scheme with the elder Hughesdon.

Friday: We were taken out into a barbed wire pen, which cannot have been more than ten yards square. There was nothing to sit on and to make matters worse everything we had on us, paper and books and everything, was confiscated. They were all returned that evening. Anyhow that spoilt the day for us.

Monday: Neither Saturday nor Sunday were particularly eventful. Runham Brown and the other six had sentence promulgated on Saturday, six months hard labour, and went off on Monday to Wormwood Scrubs. We could see the smoke of their train as it left the station. They had been able to say goodbye when they came down for their mattresses.

One evening I spent in discussing the Home Office scheme with Gascoigne, another discussing Christadelphianism with Jones. Drayton signalled the first night with mattresses by rolling on to the floor, luckily only a couple of inches. But he is not very light and woke us all up.

Wednesday: There was one awful rumour that we were going to have added to our number a tall, unkempt and not very clean man who said he was the Son of God and therefore had not registered. Fortunately he was discharged.

Monday: We have to do a lot of sharing of blankets and mattresses. When on Sunday night we laid the mattresses lengthways to make them go further there was nothing to divide the beds and Gascoigne kept on rolling over towards Scrivener and Scrivener towards me until I was lying on about 18 inches of board. On Saturday evening Scrivener recited Collins’ Passion standing on his bed with only his vest on, in the limelight thrown by the gas jet behind the little pane of frosted glass. Gascoigne contributed a few mangled songs, chiefly comic.

On Sunday evening Gascoigne and I discussed the Home Office scheme and from that we roamed until in the end we stood together in the dark, in the far corner whilst I tried to explain to him something of what I meant by Christianity and by God.

Tuesday: A more eventful day today. At our usual visit to the orderly room the colonel read out: “Adams, Muirhead, Scrivener, Hoare, Snowdon and Hammond will be court-martialled on Friday.”

John's diary makes imprisonment at Mill Hill Barracks sound almost fun, although there are hints that aspects of it were deeply unpleasant. Unlike some COs, John was not held in solitary confinement. How far can camaraderie – with strangers who share a common cause – relieve suffering?

Copyright: This is an edited extract from part of John Hoare's diary, which appears in A Pacifist's Progress: Papers from the First World War (Sessions, 1998), edited by Richard Hoare. Used by kind permission of John's son, Richard Hoare. 

Conscientious objectors undertaking work at Dartmoor
Friday 1 April 2016

Conscientious objectors were offered the chance of doing “alternative work of national importance” under the Home Office scheme. John had for a long time been offering to do such work, although others did not agree. Here is John's description of his move from prison to alternative work.

hands outside a prison window
Friday 25 March 2016

Last week we saw John sentenced to six months’ hard labour. He began the sentence at Wormwood Scrubs. He was in the prison for only three weeks. He wrote a description of life there shortly afterwards. 

Satirical pencil drawing of CO being inspected by a prison doctor
Friday 18 March 2016

After John's court-martial he had to wait several days for the verdict and the sentence. Here are extracts from his diary at the time.

The CO in prison drawings
Friday 4 March 2016

John was ordered to join the Non-Combatant Corps in 1916. Upon refusal he was imprisoned in Pentonville to await a court martial. John wrote in his diary about his first few days in prison.

Front cover of The Tribunal
Tuesday 10 November 2015

As time went on, John became less isolated and more involved with the anti-war movement. Motivations for opposing the war differed; some held religious convictions while others opposed it on political or humanitarian grounds, others made no distinctions.

The ‘absolutists’ were determined not to accept any work ordered by the state; others would consider alternative work – though there were further differences over what sort of work they would accept. John was later asked about divisions in the movement. This was his reply.

Women's peace conference
Tuesday 3 November 2015

For 19-year-old John Hoare, Oxford University was less lonely than boarding school – but only just. He was still struggling to find others who shared his views. The threat of conscription was round the corner and criticism of the war was suppressed. John discovered help in the form of the No-Conscription Fellowship and amongst Quakers (also known as Friends). He later looked back on this discovery. 

Cartoon of a Quaker avoiding enlistment
Tuesday 27 October 2015

John Hoare found himself isolated at boarding school after professing his abhorrence of killing at the outbreak of war. As he discovered others who shared his views, among them many Quakers, he began to feel less isolated.

Across the country, however, the political landscape was hardening. Pressure to introduce conscription intensified. During 1915 the ‘Derby Scheme’ began, registering men who said they were willing to fight if the call came. John later recalled the challenges he faced at the time.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

As we have seen, John's initial determination to resign from the Officer Training Corps weakened under pressure from the headmaster and public opinion. He was later asked why he had joined the Corps in the first place.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

John's last year at boarding school in Repton was a time of “terrible isolation” due to his pacifist convictions. John said that one of the influences that had pushed him towards pacifism was the writings of the former headmaster, the theologian William Temple.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

His sister Alice wrote that the headmaster, Geoffrey Fisher, treated him [John] with “ostracism and contempt”.

Tuesday 5 August

John Hoare was 18 years old and still at school when the war came. Nine years younger than Bert Brocklesby, he was from a very different background...

Related Materials

COs engaged in alternative work
Friday 11 March 2016

In July 1916, pacifist philosopher Bertrand Russell went on a speaking tour in Wales, where he was delighted to find much opposition to the war.

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