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Children at War 1914–1918 (Paperback)

Military > Victoria Crosses P&S History > Social History WWI > By Year > 1914 WWI > By Year > 1915 WWI > By Year > 1916 WWI > By Year > 1917 WWI > By Year > 1918 WWI > Home Front

By Dr Vivien Newman
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 50
ISBN: 9781473821071
Published: 4th September 2019


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For most British readers, the phrase ‘children during the war’ conjures up images of the evacuees of the Second World War. Somehow, surprisingly, the children of the Great War have been largely and unjustifiably overlooked. However, this book takes readers to the heart of the Children’s War 1914-1918.

The age range covered, from birth to 17 years, as well as the richness of children’s own writings and the breadth of English, French and German primary and secondary sources, allows readers to experience wartime childhood and adolescence from multiple, multi-national standpoints. These include: British infants in the nursery; German children at school; French and Belgian youngsters living with the enemy in their occupied homelands; Australian girls and boys knitting socks for General Birdwood, (Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Imperial Force); Girl Guides working for MI5; youthful Ukrainian/Canadians wrongfully interned; German children held as Prisoners of War in Siberia; teenage deckhands on the Lusitania, not to mention the rebellious underage Cossack girl who served throughout the war on the Eastern Front, as well as the youngest living recipient of the VC. At times humorous, at others terrifying, this book totally alters perceptions of what it was like to be young in the First World War.

Readers will marvel at children’s courage, ingenuity, patriotism and pacifism and wholeheartedly agree with the child who stated, ‘What was done to us was wrong'.

A largely unexplored area of wartime experiences, Children of War is, while well researched and well written, a very difficult read. The subject is by definition very emotive and some of the stories and accounts are extremely harrowing.

Covering not only the Home Front in Britain at that time, many of the accounts have been gathered from the theatres of war across Europe and Russia, all as heartbreaking as each other, as the bravery and tenacity of the subjects is detailed. From accounts of the Lusitania through the Zeppelin bombings of London, to the little 14 year old Russian girl, Sofja, who dressed as a boy and joined the child soldiers, this is a stark and honest account of hardships faced.

With an enormous bibliography providing further research, anyone studying this period of history needs to consider this as compulsory reading in order to gain a balance of view, not only of military warfare but the social life as well, and particularly its impact on the most vulnerable members of society.

Tastes Through Time website

This excellent work takes the reader to the heart of what it was like to be young in WW1 and we can only agree with the child who said ‘What was done to us was wrong’

Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

This is a wonderful book, with heart-wrenching and inspiring moments in equal measure, and full of unforgettable characters. It’s fundamental to remember WWI, and its impact on everybody, particularly the children. We should never forget the price paid by both sides, and we must remember there is no such a thing as winning a war, only surviving it, and that applies to whole generations of people, to countries, and to the world at large. I recommend it to anybody interested in gaining a different perspective on WWI, to those researching the topic, to historians, and, in general, to anybody who wants to learn a bit more about that historical period and how it affected the youngest of the population.

Read the full review here

Author Translator

..deserves a place on the shelf next to other childhood histories of the First World War and is highly recommended for anyone interested in how war is experienced through the eyes of a young child.

The Journal of Military History

Review by Barbara Taylor

I have to applaud Dr Newman for this book. The research to select her examples, and then decide on those she had to omit, must have been overwhelming and at times heart breaking. Some of the reminiscences are frankly shocking. This is a work which should be compulsory reading for any who are thinking of starting or going off to fight in a war!

Western Front Association

All in all, it's an excellent book for anyone whose ancestors were growing up at the time of the Great War - there is a section at the back listing sources used in the book, as well as other books and websites of interest for those who want to know more.

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

As featured on The Miniatures Page

The Miniatures Page

Drawing on an impressive list of resources, much of which she translated herself, Newman explores how the first global conflict affected children and young people, many of whom left diaries and accounts of what they experienced. I did not realise there were so many children and young people on board the British Royal Mail and passenger liner “Lusitania” when she was torpedoed and sunk. Those accounts are particularly heart-breaking, as are the accounts of those who were killed, badly injured and/or rendered homeless during the devastating explosion that took place at the munitions factory in Silvertown.

I found a great deal in this book about which I was unaware – I was particularly interested to read accounts written by German children of what life was like for them. All in all this is an excellent book which should be required reading in schools.

Read the full review here

Fascinating Facts of WW1

This terrific book looks at the effect of WW1 on the children who were affected by it. All too often, books about war concentrate on the adults. Vivien's accounts of primary and secondary school children in England, France and Germany are measured and often heartbreaking. A fantastic read.

Books Monthly

...anyone with ancestors who were children during the First World War will find much of interest in this well-written, insightful work.

WDYTYA? Magazine, November 2019 – reviewed by Michelle Higgs, Tracing Your Medical Ancestors

I would definitely recommend this book to others and it’s not your usual war book or memories, it is good to hear the viewpoints from lots of children. The author has written a very thought out book with lots of great research and beautifully written.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

The memoirs of the children give a detailed insight into their lives during the First World War. I found some of the stories so sad... This book gives a different view of what war was like on both sides, and would make a good addition to any book collection.

Read the full review here

Dr Vivien Newman

About Dr Vivien Newman

 Dr Vivien Newman is the author of We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War. An expert on women's experiences during the First World War, she is based at the University of Essex. Dr Newman is also working on a collection of women's First World War poetry and a book on children's experiences during the conflict, both due to be published by Pen and Sword. She is a regular speaker at national conferences and for groups including the Women's Institute and the Western Front Association.

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