First News - - SPECIAL REPORT -

World War One be­gan in the sum­mer of 1914. At this time in Bri­tain, there were just over five mil­lion chil­dren in pri­mary school; chil­dren only had go to school, by law, from age 5 to 12. Only half of chil­dren stayed in school af­ter that, so many got jobs to sup­port their fam­i­lies in their teen years.

With so many men leav­ing the coun­try to fight in the war, fac­to­ries were left short-staffed. Of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance were fac­to­ries mak­ing items for the war. As the min­i­mum age to join the army was 18, many chil­dren aged 12-17 opted to work in these fac­to­ries.

Although the fight­ing took place over­seas, it still had a big im­pact on chil­dren’s lives. Bri­tain did not grow enough food to sup­port its pop­u­la­tion and re­lied on im­ports, which were se­verely af­fected by the war. There were shortages and even­tu­ally ra­tioning was in­tro­duced. To lend a hand, lots of schools dug up their play­grounds or fields and planted veg­eta­bles.

Girls were en­cour­aged to spend school hours knit­ting warm items for the soldiers on the front. In schools sit­u­ated close to mil­i­tary camps they even mended uni­forms.

For some chil­dren and young peo­ple, work­ing and hear­ing ru­mours of the front line was not enough; some were de­ter­mined to be there and serve their coun­try, de­spite it be­ing il­le­gal for them to do so. Jack Corn­well is one of those young men we will be re­mem­ber­ing this Novem­ber.

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