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WW1 at Black Country Living Museum

Childhood in WW1

A lot of children had a tough time during the war as their fathers, brothers and uncles were away serving.

Over 500,000 children lost their father in World War One. It was the biggest loss of fathers in modern British history. Children were taught about the war at school and had a strong awareness of what was going on. However, children were still expected to do their bit working, fundraising and helping at home.

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             Children pictured above at school, subscribing to war savings certificates.

 

War Babies

Babies and children tended to fare better in the war than they had done before. Improvements were made in maternal and child nutrition, midwives and doctors were given better training and government initiatives meant that child welfare was a top priority.

The infant mortality rate dropped in Britain during the war; it was the only European country where infant mortality rates dropped.

Prior to the war, the local government board asked county council and sanitary authorisations to undertake infant and maternal welfare work, with the board providing half the necessary funds. This included hospital treatment for post natal care, infant and child clinics, antenatal clinics and home visits.

In 1916, the government board made further improvements through funding salaries of health care inspectors and health visitors working in antenatal and child welfare. The Midwife Act was also amended in 1916 to ensure more rigorous training in midwifery.

WW1 in the mind of a child

Children had a strong awareness of what was going on in Europe and they would have been taught about it at school. Their awareness is reflected in the archived stories and poems they had sent in to local newspapers.

Here are some pieces written in to the Dudley Herald's regular children’s column ‘Childrens Circle’

13 February 1915, Dudley Herald.

    James Wilson, Netherton, says 'I cannot see how this can be called a Holy War. For what can be Holy in the slaughter of innocent women and children, the breaking up of peaceful homes and the death & maiming of thousands of our breadwinners. Twelve nations are at each other's throats at the bidding of a handful of militants.’

A poem sent in by your loving daughter, Ethel Cole, 146 High Street, Dudley:

MY DADDY'S A SOLDIER

I don’t know much of fighting,

And I’ve never seen a sword

But Daddy’s gone and left us

And they say he’ll get reward.

But, oh me the house is lonely,

And poor Mother’s awful sad

She’s one pleasure, now, one only

And it’s me now we’ve lost Dad.

Dad they tell me is a soldier.

And he ought to go and fight;

And our neighbours say he’s plucky

And I’m sure he’s going right.

But oh dear, we do so miss him

And poor Mother sits and sighs

And I know she’s very troubled

By the tears in her eyes

 

Children's Contribution on the Home Front

School leaving age wasn't raised to 14 until 1918, so some children would have already been at work or would have been sent to work to replace the workforce fighting in the war.

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Children continued to help at home, some children would have taken on extra responsibilities if their mother was doing any sort of war work.

Children would also organise egg collections, fundraising activities and wealthier children would invest in war loans to contribute their help to the war.

 

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