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.
Different for women
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.
I had no objection you see in those days at all. I hadn't thought about it, nor had anybody really. I mean, there had been the Boer War a bit before and a great many other wars, but nothing had made anybody face it up I think. I gathered later on, when I did finally join the Society of Friends a good while after, that thirty percent of the eligible young men in the Society of Friends did join the armed forces, and almost without exception they were the born Friends who you see, like me, like most people, although there was that Quaker tradition about war, had never really thought it out for themselves, and when the time came they had to.
My mother all the way through did incredible things trying to get this, that and the other contact with me and so on. And all three sisters. I remember the occasion right at the beginning when I jumped off a sofa and hobbled round the room saying “I'm sure that's right, I'm sure that's right”, finding a great deal of sympathy, especially from one of my sisters. But none of them of course then, none of them at any time, had to face the issue in the same way as a young man had to. I mean that was universally so.
At any rate I had no kind of hostility or holding back so far as home was concerned. Some of my cousins and relatives weren't at all friendly but we had no particular reason to have any contact with them.
As John says, women were not faced with calls to enlist in the army. This does not mean that they were under no pressure: a government campaign urged women to persuade their husbands and sons to sign up. Women such as Hilda Clark also made difficult choices, in her case giving up general practice in London to work with war victims.
Today only two countries conscript women into their armed forces: Israel and Eritrea. But choices about cooperation with war face us all at some point. How do you feel about paying taxes to fund warfare and pay for weapons such as Trident? Engineers who refuse to work in the arms industry often find themselves with fewer job prospects. Can they be compared to the pacifists of the World War I?
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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.
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”.
John Hoare pointed out that the situation was different for women, as they did not face the same pressure to enlist or the threat of conscription – although they faced many other pressures.