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.
You really must not laugh
Shortly after John was imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs, several COs 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 other COs – the “absolutists” – did not agree. Here is John's description of his move from prison to alternative work.
We were marched across the courtyard and waited outside the Deputy's office. He came out and read the conditions of the Home Office scheme to us and we then went in one by one.
The one question asked was “Are you willing to do work of national importance?” I answered “Yes”.
Then he told me to sign the agreement promising to obey all present and future regulations of the Home Office. I refused and after a slight argument he said, “Well it makes no difference. You will instead of signing a paper beginning 'I agree to accept the conditions stated below', receive a paper saying 'You are released on the conditions stated below'.”
Snowdon signed, Holcombe and Adams said “Yes” to the question but refused to sign. The governor gave Adams his word that the work would be of real national importance.
Muirhead, Davies, Scrivener and Hammond refused the scheme. Then we returned to our stitching and the silence of the cells.
Many men accepted on principle, a few because they were broken men.
I have talked to several men of my age and size, that is to say men who are still growing and are neither short nor slight, and they all say that they felt the lack of food considerably. The small men, and the men getting on in years, could not eat all that was given them. I ate it all and found it about right, though I found it increasingly difficult to last through my exercises in the morning which showed that I was losing strength a bit.
The psychological effect of prison varied immensely in different cases. I was not in long enough, lover of solitude as I am, to feel the waves of desolation that some men felt, though I experienced it in some degree in my short stay in Pentonville. In the Scrubs I found the sight of so many men in there for conscience's sake, and the knowledge of their presence and companionship, kept me entirely cheerful, and the kindness of the warders on our landing contributed to it in no small degree.
Also we had a good view from our windows, a priceless treasure. There is a pitiful wistfulness in the eyes of some of the men here who have been four months or more in Durham and Newcastle prisons, as they describe how they could only see a blank wall and were conscious of glorious days going by and summer passing into autumn, bringing nothing but bitterness to them.
On Wednesday we knew that we were coming out the following day and said a warm and regretful farewell to our friends who thought it right to stay behind.
On Thursday morning, three weeks after we came in, we were taken down and given two suits of corduroys and departed in a party of seventeen to the 1.30 at King's Cross, with untidy great brown paper parcels, leaving some hundreds of friends inside, some still to come before the Tribunal, many who had refused alternative service.
We had made a wretched lot of prisoners. We were too cheerful for one thing. At the supreme moment before going in to the Central Tribunal, Muirhead had to caution me “Now you really must not laugh this time”. At the end Snowdon said he had never seen me without a smile on my face.
Conscientious objectors engaged in “alternative work” at Dartmoor, where John was sent after accepting the Home Office Scheme. Used by kind permission of the Peace Pledge Union.
John spent eighteen months doing work under the Home Office scheme at work centres in Wakefield and Dartmoor. By April 1918, he no longer supported the scheme, believing that the work was not really of “national importance” and opposing the conditions imposed on the COs. He literally walked out of the gate and was returned to prison until 1919.
After the war, John was not allowed to continue his course at Oxford and instead took up youth work in the east end of London. He became a Quaker in 1933 and worked with the peace movement during the Second World War. He died in 1974, aged 78.
Copyright: This is an edited extract from a long letter from John Hoare to his family, written in October 1916, 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.
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.
His sister Alice wrote that the headmaster, Geoffrey Fisher, treated him [John] with “ostracism and contempt”.
A year after the war ended the final conference of the No-Conscription Fellowship was held. The fellowship's chairman, Clifford Allen, who had narrowly survived severe illness in prison, urged peace activists to continue campaigning.