How did children help in World War One?

Between 1914 and 1918, everyone was expected to 'do their bit' to help with war work.

Many British children were very keen to lend a hand.

They took on jobs, grew vegetables and raised money.

They wanted to support their fathers and older brothers who were away fighting on the front line.

Watch our video to find out more about how children helped with the war effort.

What did 'growing your own' mean?

A photograph of children cultivating vegetable patches during World War One

‘Growing your own’ food became very important

Food was scarce because German U-Boats (submarines) were sinking the ships bringing supplies. Children helped by digging, weeding and cultivating vegetable patches.

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Fundraising and collecting

Children collected many useful things, such as blankets, books and even conkers.

Some things were sent to the soldiers at the front. Others were sold to raise funds for the war effort.

Money raised could be used to build warships or to help wounded soldiers. There was even a Blue Cross fund to help horses hurt in battle.

A photograph of schoolboys in front of a crowd carrying bags of conkers in World War One

Chemicals from conkers were used in making shells and bullets

Posters were put up in schools encouraging pupils to gather conkers. Around 3,000 tonnes were collected by Britain's children in 1917.

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How did Boy Scouts help the war effort?

  • They carried messages on behalf of the War Office.

  • They guarded railway lines, water reservoirs and coastline.

  • They watched the skies for attacks and sounded their bugles (a type of brass instrument) to signal when an air raid was over.

  • Rifle ranges were opened where boys learnt how to shoot, so they could help to defend Britain if it was invaded.

Here we can see a young boy scout delivering a message to a solder at the war office.

How did Girls Guides help the war effort?

  • They knitted socks and scarves to help keep British soldiers warm.

  • They learned first aid so they could help with injuries.

  • They carried important messages and helped deliver milk.

  • Some reports even suggest that Girl Guides acted as messengers for the British Secret Service, MI5. Boy Scouts were apparently the first choice for this work, but they turned out to be too naughty and talkative!

How did the war change children's lives?

Many children tried hard to 'do their bit' in whatever way they could.

Sometimes this meant looking after younger brothers and sisters, helping with housework or joining long queues for food in the shops.

These small tasks were extremely helpful to the men and women who were struggling with the pressure of life in wartime.