Multimedia countdown: 100-days to the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice

Saturday, September 22, 2018-

Children of World War I- Children were particularly impacted by the war through disruption to home life and to schooling, absent parents, and deaths of family and family friends. While such experiences were common on the Western Front, children often struggled to understand the reasons behind these events, and the impact upon them was sustained in different, and often more emotional, ways.

McCoySkittleBowlFrance1917
Young boys playing skittle bowl in Rheims the Marne, France amidst the ruins of war in 1917. Photo:WorldWarOneColorPhotos.com

On Europe’s Western Front, French children were probably most affected by the war. Many lived near or in combat zones. Here, many French children experienced the sudden nature of war:  Forced from their homes by invading German soldiers, facing rationing of food and clothing, suspension of school classes, limited supplies of coal and wood with which to say warm. For them, wrote Manon Pignot, a researcher at the Université de Picardie and Institut Universitaire de France, “it was a drastic upending of their universe, now marked by the near-daily sound of cannon fire.”

McCoy RagDollGirlFrance
A young girl plays with her toy rag doll near soldiers rifles and back packs in Rheims the Marne, France in 1917. Photo:WorldWarOneColorPhotos.com

The large-scale conscription of married men and fathers who died in the fighting led to a great number of children orphaned by the war. Olivier Faron estimated that there were about 1,100,000 French orphans from the Great War.

During WWI, thousands of French children lost their fathers to the fighting. In response American children helped raise money to help the orphans
During WWI, thousands of French children lost their fathers to the fighting. In response American children helped raise money to help the orphans as is illustrated in this drawing by a French school student. From the Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie Le Vieux Montmartre – Paris.

Pignot wrote: “French children saw the men in their families depart: fathers and brothers, cousins and uncles, neighbors and teachers. These massive departures set the stage for an unusual display: tears shed in public, by both men and women. The upheaval of families was thus emotional.”

2018-09-22_2238
“Le Trois Couleurs” comic book was an example of French propaganda aimed at children. By giving meaning to the war and making the sacrifice of fathers heroic magazines such as this prepared the next generation of supporters. Unknown artist: Le Trois Couleurs, 13 dècembre 1914, n. 1; source: Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane: La guerre des enfants 1914-1918, Paris, Armand Colin, 2004 (1993). Image is in the public domain.

Some of the drawings from WWI also show just how much French children were surrounded by death. They also reflected renewed hopes for an end to the fighting when American troops joined the war in 1917. Several middle-school-age boys who attended a school in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, created the drawings you see in this posting. 

170131-wwii-french-children-drawings-01
In this drawing, a French schoolchild depicts two images that show the close relationship between France and America. On the right side, American soldiers parade in the Tuileries Park in Paris. On the left, a rendering of U.S. WWI General John Pershing. From the Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie Le Vieux Montmartre – Paris.

(Sources: 1914-1918 International Encyclopedia of the First World War, Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie Le Vieux Montmartre, WorldWarOneColorPhotos.com)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s