A Child’s War
Words and pictures from World War I
Runs from 24 November 2014 – 27 February 2015 | 10am – 5pm, Monday – Saturday | Level one
Although geographically far removed from the war, children in New Zealand were profoundly affected. In a time of militarisation and commitment to the cause of Empire, children were the soldiers and citizens of the future.
Boys had no choice but to join the cadets or take part in compulsory military training. At school the progress of the war was followed closely in the School Journal, and students were expected to be patriotic and behave in a manner befitting a good citizen of the British Empire. Children were drawn into fundraising and war work in all manner of ways, including contributing their own pocket money.
Through all this, many lived in households where fathers, brothers or other close relatives had gone off to war. Nonetheless, they were told by the authorities to be good, helpful, and not to cause worry to their mothers. If their school hadn’t chosen to donate the end-of-year prize money to fundraising appeals, a child might be presented with a book telling a stirring story of heroism and victory.
Children had no invading forces to fight, but the adult world sought to win their hearts and hands to support and contribute to the war effort.
Group of school children, Waihi, ca 1916. Ref: Eph-A-POSTCARDS-Magill-01.
Some New Zealand children’s reading during World War I did not go much beyond the School Journal and perhaps the newspaper. Others, though, read stories and informative books about the events of the war. The exhibition includes a selection of children’s books from the Dorothy Neal White Collection that were published during World War I.
Read the sources
Digital copies of some of the items now on show.