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.
Approaches to pacifism
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.
It seemed to me there was very definitely a tendency for them to divide one way or the other. There was a division of course between the absolutists, as they were called, and the alternativists, all the way through, but that ran through every kind of grouping. I mean, some of the Friend objectors were in one and some were in the other, and the same with the socialist objectors and all the rest of them.
No, the extraordinarily close comradeship really I had all the way through was between objectors of all kinds.
If it comes to that, I don't think I lost any friend that I had had previous to the war because of being a pacifist. I've got a letter from the father of a contemporary of mine, asking me, please not to upset his son who already you see, had a commission in the army, and whom I kept in touch with for quite a while. From somebody who had no sympathy with pacifism at all you see, and had written this letter, very nicely worded, but rather grim letter. It was an interesting illustration again of what the ordinary person felt about it.
John is not the only person to testify to the “close comradeship” in the peace movement of the time, despite divisions. The pressures they were under, fearing imprisonment and death, go some way towards explaining this. Some differences appear minor when the risks are so great, and the risks are shared.
What characteristics do people need to stick to their convictions? Does working with others who share the same goals, if not the same motivation, help create a stronger sense of purpose?
This is an edited extract from John Hoare's 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 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.
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.
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.
John was conscripted later the year than Howard or 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”. Pacifists were split over whether to accept it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
His sister Alice wrote that the headmaster, Geoffrey Fisher, treated him [John] with “ostracism and contempt”.
Those attempting to persuade young men to enlist in the army often spoke of adventure, sacrifice and comradeship.
As John's entry today makes clear, there was also much comradeship in the peace movement. Maude Royden, an Anglican who worked closely with Quakers, was keen to associate peace with the spirit of adventure traditionally associated with war. Her book, The Great Adventure, was published in early 1915. Here's an abridged extract.