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.
No special treatment
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.
In 1915 I came in contact with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which had started in the December previously. I came into contact with Hampstead Friends' Meeting and later on with Oxford Friends' Meeting when I went up in October. One or two well-known Quaker names come to my mind.
Oxford was in a way rather desolate, practically nobody was there, and my College authorities weren't at all friendly – not unnaturally I suppose. The background during the whole time of course for me was one of very close connection with people who were involved in the war. I've still got a photograph of a school Officer Training Corps camp with my tent in it which had eight boys in it, all from the same house we were. I of course survived. One special friend of mine survived, who was wounded in the war. But the other six were all killed in the war.
Although I made very close contact with some Friends, I didn't join until quite a long while after the war, partly because it looked so much like going down a bolt hole, because Friends, it was assumed, would get much better treatment.
I started reading Honour Mods at Oxford in October and things began to warm up of course quite soon so far as the possibility of conscription was concerned.
It sounds like an extremely uncomfortable time. It's striking that John avoided becoming a Quaker partly because he didn't want to be seen as asking for preferential treatment.
Whether Quakers as a whole were treated better is debatable. Quakers nationally made clear that they did not want exemption from conscription if it applied only to themselves; they wanted to resist it for everyone. Why do you think Quakers may have been perceived as receiving special treatment? Should Quakers have accepted exemption only for themselves?
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.
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.
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”.
In today's entry John decided not to become a Quaker, but was happy to be part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR). This group grew out of a meeting between British and German Christians on the eve of war.
Today, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFoR) has branches in over forty countries across five continents.