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.
Sent to the headmaster
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. He was studying at Repton, an elite boarding school in Derbyshire. His father had been a bishop. He was a prefect and a member of the Officer Training Corps (OTC).
Ironically, it was at an OTC camp in the summer of 1914 that John was injured and thus had plenty of time to read while he lay in bed recovering. As a result, he returned to school in September with a different set of values. Here is an abridged extract from his notebook.
Late July: At OTC camp on Rugely Heath, which ended a bit early because regular officers, cookhouse staff, etc were mobilised. Sunset walk and talk about what we (England) should do if Germany invaded Belgium, with Donald Fox. I damaged my ankle during a field day and had to be taken in camp by a very uncomfortable ambulance.
August/beginning of September: Very much out of action during holidays and thought and read a lot, coming to thrilling Christian pacifist conviction: That love as revealed and interpreted in the life and death of Jesus Christ is the only power by which evil can be overcome and the only sufficient basis of human society. That therefore, as Christians, we are forbidden to wage war and that our loyalty to our country, to humanity and to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, calls us instead to a life service for the enthronement of Love in personal and national life. Influences: “Billy” Temple had made Christianity alive and practical. And the Gospels and books about them played the chief part. He had given us H.G. Wood's Life of George Fox to read which has a bit about Quaker pacifism. It was a very positive vision of a way of life.
Repton: Back rather lame. Working for Oxford scholarship exam with at times very painful ankle and overdoses of aspirin. Head of house, school prefect. Resigning from OTC in which I was colour sergeant the chief issue. Sent by Cattley promptly to Geoffrey Fisher, the new head.
John's “thrilling” conviction led him straight into trouble. He later said that he did not know another pacifist in the world at this time. Nowadays, the internet allows almost anyone with an unpopular opinion to find someone who shares it. How can you stick to a conviction if you know of no-one who takes the same view? Is this something you can relate to?
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.
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 was not the only teenager to oppose the war. Some were determined not only to speak out against the war but to make contact with others who shared their views...