Sunday 24 July 2022

Imperial War Museums - Children and the First World War


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How did children help the First World War effort?
The immense battles of 1916 did not bring an end to the First World War. In fact, they only succeeded in intensifying it. In Britain, nobody could escape the impact of war anymore.

Women kept the country going, taking on work usually done by their fathers, brothers and sons. But children also rallied to contribute to the war effort.

The Boy Scout’s Association was one of the first youth organisations to provide practical assistance to the British war effort. In the Scout Movement handbook, published before the outbreak of war, Scouts were instructed to ‘be prepared to die for your country if need be’.

Part of a network of observers, Boy Scouts watched the coast for signs of espionage or invasion, or guarded transport networks against sabotage. By late 1917, many Scouts would assist in air raid duties, including sounding the all-clear signal after an attack.

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Family Activities this Summer Holiday
Activities vary, we recommend checking details at the admissions desk on arrival.
Story Seekers: Camouflage & Design
Brand new this summer, uncover the secrets of camouflage by getting up close with objects focusing on illusion and deceit.

Use your imagination and embark on a special mission that’s fun for all the family. 

IWM London: Daily from 26 July until 29 August. Free entry. 

IWM North: Daily from 26 July until 29 August. Free entry. 
Find out more
We Were There:
Family Days
Hear an array of personal stories from Veterans and eyewitnesses of conflict. Gain a first-hand insight into the impact of war. 

IWM London: Every Tuesday from 26 July until 30 August. Free entry. 

IWM North: Every Tuesday from 26 July until 30 August. Free entry. 

HMS Belfast: 29 July, 5, 12, 19,  26 August. Free with admission.
Find out more
The Camouflage Unit Camp
Join the camouflage unit and try your hand at code-breaking, don desert disguises and witness some mirror ‘magic'. 

IWM London: Fridays in August. Free entry.  

IWM North: Wednesdays in August (except 31). Free entry.
Find out more
The Dazzle Design Studio
This summer, play a game of nautical hide and seek. Create your very own designs of Dazzle camouflage and test them out on the high seas. 

IWM London: Daily from 26 July until 29 August. Free entry. 

IWM North: Daily from 26 July until 29 August. Free entry.
Find out more
Family Activities at
HMS Belfast
Discover how to keep HMS Belfast in tip-top condition in our interactive activity Sea Legs or learn about the biggest invasion in history in Family Mission.

Daily from 21 July until 4 September. Free with admission. 
Find out more
Family Activities at
IWM Duxford
Put your paper plane making skills to the test with Flight Academy or travel back in time to D-Day 1944 and prepare for the big jump with Family Mission.

Daily from 21 July until 4 September. Free with admission.
Find out more
The Girl Guides Association formed in 1910. During the First World War, Girl Guides also took on a variety of roles to support the war effort.

Girl Guides would package up clothing to send to British soldiers at the front and prepared hostels and first-aid stations for use by those injured in air raids or accidents. They also provided assistance at hospitals, government offices and munitions factories.

With Germany’s campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare threatening the vital shipments that carried supplies of food and raw materials to Britain, Girl Guides joined many young Britons in responding to official public appeals to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

By tending to allotments, Girl Guides aimed to help Britain cope with food shortages. Rationing was eventually introduced in 1918.

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By 1915, the supply of volunteers for the armed forced was dwindling. This British recruitment poster produced in 1915 utilised the persuasive potential of children to emotionally blackmail and urge men to enlist in the British Army.

Produced by the London Printers Johnson Riddle & Co, it was conceived from the director Arthur Gunn's own feelings of guilt at having not volunteered himself. 

Envisioning a troubled future for men who had refused to enlist, a young boy plays with toy soldiers on the floor at his father’s feet. The young girl points to a page in a book and looks questionably at her father asking “Daddy, what did You do in the Great War?”.

The poster would become a source of bitter trench humour on the Western Front. Such was the resentment towards it in post-war Britain that its creator, Savile Lumley, is said to have disowned it.