Book Review
Children at War 1914-1918
Children at War 1914-1918
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by: Fay Baker [ AWESOME_ODP ]


When most people think of children ar war they mainly think about those youngsters who lived through World War II, not many people would think about those children who lived through the Great War (World War 1). Not only did the adults who took part in the fighting of World War 1 had to contend with a new type of warfare, but thise left at home had to deal with their own personel wars.

The following is taken from the Pen and Sword website:

For most British readers, the phrase ‘children during the war’ conjures up images of the evacuees of the Second World War. Somehow, surprisingly, the children of the Great War have been largely and unjustifiably overlooked. However, this book takes readers to the heart of the Children’s War 1914-1918.

The age range covered, from birth to 17 years, as well as the richness of children’s own writings and the breadth of English, French and German primary and secondary sources, allows readers to experience wartime childhood and adolescence from multiple, multi-national standpoints. These include: British infants in the nursery; German children at school; French and Belgian youngsters living with the enemy in their occupied homelands; Australian girls and boys knitting socks for General Birdwood, (Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Imperial Force); Girl Guides working for MI5; youthful Ukrainian/Canadians wrongfully interned; German children held as Prisoners of War in Siberia; teenage deckhands on the Lusitania, not to mention the rebellious underage Cossack girl who served throughout the war on the Eastern Front, as well as the youngest living recipient of the VC. At times humorous, at others terrifying, this book totally alters perceptions of what it was like to be young in the First World War.

Readers will marvel at children’s courage, ingenuity, patriotism and pacifism and wholeheartedly agree with the child who stated, ‘What was done to us was wrong'.


This paperback book is a new release from Pen and Sword History, written by Vivien Newman it contains 177 pages of good quality paper with a glossy section of black and white photographs in the centre. Priced at £14.99 (It may be found at a cheaper price on the Pen and Sword website), it gives an insight into the experiences of children of varying ages during a time of turbulent change in the world.

During the war children were asked to help collect different types of metal for the war effort, and one little German boy drew lots to see which ones of his lead soldiers were to melted down for the Fatherland. Some children received a biased view of what was happening from their teachers, the teacher (Sister Gertrude) told the children “…Germany is going to win, because God will punish France and England…”. Other children were encouraged to draw posters to give information for food saving, this publication also covers the role of the Girl Guides. The Guide hand book of 1912 was subtitled ”How Girls can help build the Empire”, and gave tips on hospital duties and tending the injured to outdoor crafts and using weapons for self defence.

“What was done to us was wrong” - This chapter of the book explains how the children were told that the war was being fought for them. The information given to the children was that the conflict would mean that they (the children) would not grow up under the hand of a vicious oppressor. This chapter then goes on to narrate the last voyage of RMS Lusitania, including the story of Nigel Booth who was an eight month old Canadian, who was saved by another passenger on the ship, and when they arrived in Liverpool and was asked what had happened, he could not explained what had happened only that “nobody thought it would sink so fast”.


The memoirs of the children give a detailed insight into their lives during the First World War. I found some of the stories so sad. The story of Betty Bretherton who perished on the RMS Lusitania is particularly sad, as her mother had given her to a male passenger while she had to go down to their 2nd class berth to rescue her son Paul. Betty was never seen alive again, whether Betty was abandoned by the male passenger, or had been placed into a life boat which sank we will never know, but Betty’s body was found and she is buried in Cork. This book gives a different view of what war was like on both sides, and would make a good addition to any book collection.
Fay Baker takes a look at a new offering from Pen and Sword titled 'Children at War 1914-1918'.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781473821071
  Suggested Retail: £11.99
  PUBLISHED: Oct 10, 2019

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