Children in the First World War

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More About This Title Children in the First World War


When the First World War broke out in 1914, the civilian population of Britain was exhorted to carry on with their normal lives by the slogan ‘Business, as usual’. Soon, however, the war began increasingly to impinge upon civilian life. This book looks at the ways children’s lives in Britain were affected and influenced by the war. In the call for men, fathers, uncles and elder brothers went off to war; later even some younger boys, lying about their age, joined them. Then there were the invasion scares, in which the Boy Scouts became coast watchers, and guarded railway bridges and other important points. Mike Brown describes what school was like in 1914: the lessons, classrooms, uniforms, and curriculum, and he looks at how school children helped, raising money for the Red Cross, knitting soldiers’ comforts, etc. And beyond school, the contribution of youth groups. The war brought excitement, danger and fear for Britain’s children: Zeppelins, air raid warnings and the all-clear, drills and shelters in schools, shelters at home and in public places; the blackout – all became chilling parts of everyday life. In the sea beyond our shores, the U-Boat assault contributed to shortages of food; ‘No cakes, no jam, no nuffin.’ Children found themselves helping with the harvest and foraging in the hedgerows for food. Many foods, including sweets, would be strictly rationed. Home Front expert Mike Brown also explores what children wore, how they dressed, and what they read. He also looks at how the rituals of birthday and Christmas were affected by the first global war, which raged one hundred years ago.


Mike Brown was head of history in a London comprehensive school who decided to make good the absence of a book about the Home Front for his pupils by writing one. In doing so he became something of an authority on the home front, and has since written or co-written 27 books.