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.
What Daddy did in the Great War
Last week, we saw that John had heard he was to be court-martialled on Friday. After the court-martial he had to wait several days for the verdict and the sentence. Here are extracts from his diary at the time, in which he pokes fun at a recruiting poster that showed children asking their father “What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?”
Friday: Court-martial day. Adams fought his case so vigorously that it was the only one dealt with before lunch. I came on fourth at about 4 o’clock. The court and the adjutant were very nice. Adams, Gay, Muirhead, Davies and I slept in the guard room and the others, not having been court-martialled, went back to the other room.
Saturday: The other four joined us in the afternoon after trial, so we were a cheery party for the weekend. The day seemed so much longer with no orderly room or visitors and I read through both parts of Henry IV.
Sunday: We had a dear old sergeant on guard and spent almost all day sitting on coats in the yard, leaning against the wall, reading, writing and eating sweets, a very cheery party. In the night we most of us caught Muirhead’s cold or one of our own making and woke up miserable. At any rate I did. A room without proper ventilation 18 feet by 24 is too small for ten men.
Monday: In the morning we had a debate on a series of questions sent down by the No Conscription Fellowship. I again stood alone for the Home Office scheme and alternative service. There was I am glad to say not the slightest feeling of dissatisfaction with one another’s views.
We have an objectionable sergeant on guard. I am writing this in the yard, where he has graciously allowed us out now that the sun has finally disappeared. In the evening we had Scrivener’s recitation again, and some reading from Chesterton’s poems, and the dream of John Ball by the light of the gas jet outside.
Tuesday: We are all getting fed up with this place, especially in the morning when we wake with dry throats and a bad taste in our mouths and at night when we go to bed with the anticipation of it. Sergeant Fulton on guard today, a regular bully in nature.
Wednesday: Marched out this morning at 10 o’clock for promulgation of sentences. A nice breeze was blowing though it was too misty to see far. We stood in line, facing a parade of about forty men. The sergeant-major pushed us forward one by one as the adjutant read the whole rigmarole about the summoning of the court, the names of the officers and then our particular charges and the sentence.
We all got six months’ hard labour except Holcomb who got three months, the “recommendation of mercy” being made by the reason of his being the only son of a widow.
We have all packed our parcels of goods though I am sure we shall not go today. We have all been seized with a frenzy of postcard writing. In the evening we congregated on my bed and talked, of politics, taxes, literature, and all kinds of odds and ends.
Thursday: We have just been down for yet another medical inspection before the same officer. We expect to go off to Wormwood Scrubs by the 12.39. Here endeth this chapter of what Daddy did in the great war.
John says there was no bitterness between “alternativists” such as himself and the “absolutists” who would not accept the Home Office Scheme. Are you inclined to believe John’s perspective or to suspect that he may have been influenced by wishful thinking? Did the suffering they shared make it easier for them to focus on a common cause despite their differences?
This is an edited extract from part of John Hoare's diary, which appears in 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.
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.
His sister Alice wrote that the headmaster, Geoffrey Fisher, treated him [John] with “ostracism and contempt”.