How did children help the war effort?

The Ministry of Munitions required a large quantity of horse chestnuts to be collected by schoolboys Schoolboys throughout the country collected horse chestnuts for The Ministry of Munitions

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World War One even changed children's games. In the autumn of 1917, when conkers fell from horse chestnut trees, children went out and collected them - not to play with, but to help with the war.

Chemicals from conkers were used in factories, to make a substance called cordite. Cordite was an ingredient in explosive shells and bullets.

Making money

Horse chestnut 'conker' and leaves

In 1917 a hundredweight of conkers (roughly 50kg) would earn you seven shillings and sixpence, approximately £23.00 in modern money.

Posters were put up in schools, encouraging children to gather conkers. Boy Scout leaders helped organise collections.

The conkers were sent by train to top-secret factories at Holton Heath in Dorset and King's Lynn in Norfolk. Around 3,000 tonnes of conkers were collected by Britain's children in 1917.

The plan wasn't a great success. Conkers were a poor source of acetone, the chemical needed to make cordite. In the end, piles of unused conkers were just left to rot!

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes to accompany the 'How did children help the war effort' section

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