One Childs War

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For the first time, war impacted on whole populations, as the requirements of mechanised warfare meant that entire economies had to change to support munitions production as well as feeding and supplying huge armies. Technological innovations brought the threat of bombing from the air to cities far outside the zones of conflict, while naval blockades of shipping meant that millions across Europe experienced starvation and other extreme shortages.

Childhood experience of the war reflected these radical changes.


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Children were vulnerable to the effects of shortages caused by blockades and the need to redirect resources to the war effort. They experienced the loss of parents and other adults in their families as fathers and uncles joined the armed forces and mothers and aunts started working in factories.

At the same time, the experiences of children across Europe generally had been changing rapidly from the midth century, as a result of reforms in education and progress in maternal and infant care. By the early years of the 20th century, more children received some form of school provision up to their early teens than ever before.

Usage terms Public Domain. Schoolwork created by children in wartime In the minds of many Europeans of this time, education meant learning correct moral behaviour just as much as learning to read and write. Typical lessons asked children to write and draw about the war. Much propaganda on all sides of the war focused on the atrocities caused by enemy troops against innocent civilian populations.

The peoples of enemy countries were portrayed as barbarians, who caused such outrages because amorality was an inherent part of their national character. This type of propaganda was not just restricted to children, and formed part of the wider environment within which the young lived. This picture, by a student at the same school, accompanies an essay describing a fictional Zeppelin attack on London.


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  • Originally published in the midth century, it remained popular through Europe, and was adapted for propaganda purposes in both world wars. In this version of the book, the enemies of Germany are portrayed as the errant children in the verses. A picture book of war. Usage terms Public Domain. Perceptions challenged The figure of the child is one that challenges popular perceptions of the war. The returning soldier - Poem by an 11 year old schoolgirl Poem written by an year-old school girl about a returning soldier walking through Vienna.

    Such material can help us to explore questions of how understandings of the figure of the child are tied up in the shifting positions of adulthood in war, as well as how representations of the child were complicit in restructuring attitudes towards war. The material held in these collections demonstrates that children did not keep diaries in the same way as adults, or that this material has not survived — where we can trace the impact of war on children, however, is primarily in schoolwork and in drawings.

    Images essays written by German children, describing their experiences during World War One. Maths problems from a German textbook. The problems contain statistics relating to the war, and require children to perform various calculations with them. Such questions helped to spread the idea of a powerful and successful Germany. Similarly, the boys of Princeton Street Elementary School in London wrote of their impressions of airship raids and these essays offer crucial insight into how the UK was not at all prepared for airship attacks.

    There was the occasional visit from my parents and I went home a few times. The visits were a painful but necessary trauma; I was four years old.

    Child's War - Wikipedia

    I remember the rainy day I was sent back to Leicester on a bus. The complaints against me were that I was always miserable. My crop of boils and sties put the farmer off his breakfast. I felt ill with homesickness. Once home my ailments cleared up. My dad was thrilled when his calling up papers came, and mum was glad to see him go, I heard her say so. Before long a team of women worked on the busses and close friendships formed. In no time at all she became chairperson for Leicester City Transport Trade Union, and became politically very active.

    By the revelling had begun. Our house was alive with happy people talking into the early hours, drinking, parties, story telling, love making, everyone living as though they expected to die any minute and wanted to squeeze all they could out of the present. In fact she gave our rations to the woman next door.

    The G. The dancing was really underway. Grownups seemed to be making love everywhere. The parks were littered with used condoms. We children amused ourselves fishing them out of the brooks with twigs. Many women had extra marital relationships and my mum was no exception. We had never had juicy fruit gum, or spearmint before. The American soldiers had lovely gabardine uniforms that fitted their bums like made-to-measure should. Our lads wore serge, bunched up round the middle. On the 19th to the 20th of November a landmine was dropped on Temple road where I lived, causing tremendous damage to Steel and Busks an engineering factory.

    On the same night following a flare another mine was dropped onto Victoria Park Pavilion completely destroying the ornate building but leaving De Montfort Hall unscathed.

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    My mother found lodgings with friends. The house next to the factory was gutted and never rebuilt. Our house was a corner house and for some reason corner houses often suffered the worst from the blast. These were strange times.

    Cisco Kid - War

    I knew when mum was coming home at night, I could hear the laughter and singing before they turned into our street. Drunk as sponges mum and her cronies, sometimes ten abreast, arms linked and unsteady they would wend their way home, sometimes someone tripped more loud laughter as they propped each other up. One day when I came home from school I was surprised to see Dad standing at the garden gate, his kitbag on the pavement. Several neighbours were talking to him, some with tears in their eyes. There was no recriminations or cross words.

    After a little while I asked him when he was going back. There was a beautiful blue quilt with tiny buttons sewn around the edges.

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    The vivid blue made me catch my breath. I still have a little hand carved box but someone has spoiled it by painting over the flowers. He handed me some photographs to look at. I was stunned. Were these the people we all hated so much? The people looked refined, well-cared for and their houses looked like castles in the snow.

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