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.
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. John wrote to him in November 1914, seeking support. Temple wrote back, inviting John to visit him in London but firmly declaring his support for the war.
Explaining why he admired the Quakers but disagreed with pacifism, here is part of Temple's response to John.
My Dear Ted,
I am so glad you wrote. Could you (do you think) come here for the weekend between your two exams? We will try to talk about it all.
I say you must always weigh the practical alternatives. What was the alternative to war for England as England was on August 4th? I say without hesitation it was something worse and less Christian than war: and of course I do not think it is only lack of faith in me that forbids me to feel that anything higher was possible. To expect good fruit from the corrupt tree is to expect a miracle which is very precisely said to be improbable.
What then is the individual English Christian to do? Well – here I confess to much more doubt. I am quite sure the Quakers have done an immense amount to bring us to such horror of war as we have; and I am sure the hideous attitude of the Prussian Church is due not only to its subordination to the state, but also to the fact that the Society of Friends never got into Germany. And yet I think the Quakers are wrong: we can't do without them, because the tendency is for the Church to lose its balance on the other side. But I believe there is a balance which is right.
For the Church is in the world and its members are citizens. I think the Quaker ideal involves total practical anarchism – a refusal to vote, a refusal to pay tax, a refusal (therefore) to accept the advantages conferred by the state on citizens etc.
Caption: John and his fellow students at Repton, 1914. Used by kind permission of John Hoare's sons, Richard and David Hoare.
But if I am still a citizen, I am involved in my nation's acts. If England is at war, I cannot be at peace. Did you see the thing in Punch, where the shopkeeper told the recruiting officer that “We in this neighbourhood went into the matter and decided to remain absolutely neutral”? Why is it absurd that Little Paddington should be neutral when England is at war and not absurd that W. Temple should be neutral when England is at war? I can't be neutral; I am friend or enemy; I support or I attack – there is no middle position. Now if I thought our cause was wrong I hope God would make me say so in my Church (He'd have to make me or I would funk it). But if I think it is just, and if I must support it or attack it, why hesitate to support it?
Quakers are asked to, "Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs..." and "Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God's purposes..." Advices and queries 34 and 35
If you were in John’s position how might you state your position?
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.
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.
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.
His sister Alice wrote that the headmaster, Geoffrey Fisher, treated him [John] with “ostracism and contempt”.
Today, as in World War I, opponents of violence work across the divides created by their governments.