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.
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.
In August 1915 I think there was compulsory registration, and the No-Conscription Fellowship, which in fact I never joined, had one or two big conferences then. Everyone expected that conscription was just ahead.
I don't think I met another undergraduate pacifist until we came to the time of the Tribunals. I think I was always rather a solitary person anyway. On the whole I knew practically nobody in Oxford who was a pacifist, except one or two Friends. Henry Gillett who had been mayor, I think, of Oxford, and was a very well known doctor there, was extraordinarily helpful. There must have been other Friends there too.
Although I didn't join the No-Conscription Fellowship, they and the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Friends' Service Council worked in very close co-operation, and their organisation really was magnificent.
And of course, they had a journal, a four or five page thing called The Tribunal, which continued to be published right away till the end of the war, with all kinds of devices adopted to keep it going. You had to get it surreptitiously. But that wasn't too difficult.
The NCF had to deal with a lot of hostility: at one conference held in Devonshire House, then the Quaker central offices in London, a pro-war mob attempted to enter the building. Whereas John's former headmaster insisted that no more than 200 people would have agreed with him, the NCF at one point had 100,000 subscribers to its newspaper. A support organisation can make a big difference to someone with unpopular opinions.
How can we offer support to people who face abuse because of their beliefs? And should we do so even if we don't share them?
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.
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”.
While John was becoming active in anti-war campaigns in Oxford, around Britain and across Europe the peace movement was growing. In 1915 anti-war women's groups from belligerent and neutral countries met in the Netherlands (which was neutral).
The International Congress of Women was held in The Hague from 28 April to 1 May 1915. Women from over 150 organisations in eleven countries attended.