How Did World War I Affect Children?

Children during World War I were forced to deal with many aspects of such a widespread conflict. In Great Britain alone, the BBC reported more than 500,000 fathers lost their lives and left single mothers to raise children. In France, parents placed gas masks on their children during wartime drills in case of an invasion. German kids feared bomb noises and were subjected to wartime propaganda.

Unpredictability was, perhaps, the overriding theme of how children were affected by the Great War. Leave granted to soldiers occurred once per year and lasted only a few days. News from the front lines was slow and sporadic. Many men went to war when their wives were pregnant; that meant fathers were total strangers to children when they came home.

More than 8.5 million people lost their lives because of World War I. Technologies such as airplanes, Zeppelins, mustard gas and machine guns brought new horrors or excitement into the minds of children at home. Schoolboys in London wandered among debris after airship raids to inspect the damage. German students learned math lessons by calculating war rations or the number of prisoners held in camps.

Children during World War I read about the conflict on a daily basis in newspapers and heard about the front from neighbors. Because of the constant bombardment of information, parents and relatives found it difficult to find normalcy on the home front.