World War I: Youth Groups

Figure 1.--Here we see American Boy Scouts, we think during World War I (1914-18). We are not sure if it was before or after America enterd the War. The American Girl Scouts were founded (1912). They were not as well established or as popular as Boy Scouting during the War. The American Red Cross played a najor role in the War and quite a numbr of American girls were active in the Junior Auxilery.

We begin to see uniformed youth groups in the late-19th century. The Boys' Brigade in Britain and Wandevogel in Germany were the first. The bigstep, however, was the the foundation of the Boy Scouts by Baden Powell (1906) and soon after the Girl Scouts (1910). And both groups especially the Boy Scouts quickly spread to countries around the world, especially Europe and North America. The American Boy Scouts were founded (1910) and quickly became the largest youth group in the world. As a reslt when World War I erupted in Europe (1914) there were youth groups active in all of the belligerant powers. As the War contrary to expectations was not ended quickly in a few decisive battles, it became a long war of attrition and the the civilan populations in each country was mobilized in varios ways to support the caticysmic struggle. And because of the various youth groups, there was a role for boys and girls. It is not unique that boys wre involved in warfare. Boys until World War I had military conbat roles. This was not the case in World War I. There were no pre-teen drummer boys. But because of the youth groups here was an expanded non-military role for children.

Country Groups

All of the World War II combatants had youth groups. They were for the most part in an early stage of their developmnt, but they existed, especially the Boy Scouts which ws by far the largest organization and the only one with active associtions in all the belligerant countries. Britain had the most developed youth grop program with Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Boys Brigade, and others. And the vaious grouo pitched in, probably to a greater extent than any other country. France had a smallrr, but active Boy Scout program. Belgium also had an active Boy Scout program, but also all of the country s occupid by the Germans in the first year of the War. We know less about German youth groups duringbthe War. Our geberal assessmnt is that thy were less important than in Britain. Russia had only a very small youth movement. These groups were primarily middle-class orgnizations and Russia had a small, albeit growing middle-class. America on the otherhand had the largest middle-class in the world avery qickly after the fonding of the Boy Scouts (1909), he largest youth movemnt in the world.


The overiding event during the 1910s was World War I (1914-18). It was the greatest war in histotry and dominted the decade. With the surge of patriotism surrounding the War effort, support and membership in the Scouts grew in most countries. World War I was the first major war since the founding of youth groups and the first opportunity for these groups to organize young people on the home front to support the war effort. World war I was totl waras never before expereienced In Europe. And the Hme Front became an important part of the War. The Boy Scouts and other youth groups in combatent countries were mobilized during World War I to suport the war effort. This varied from country to country. The British Scout and Guide movement was esoeciallyactive. The couts were less important in Germany. France had a very ctive Scouting movement. We do not yet extensive information on the effort in individual countries. The United States finally entered the War (April 1917). The Boy Scouts of America after the entry of America in World War I, began home-front service in 1917 with the "Help win the war". The Scout motto, "Be prepared" was put into action. The Scouts persued many home-front activities. Scouts planted "war gardens" with the slogan, "Every Scout to feed a soldier". They sold over 2 million war bonds. Another project was to collect peach pits which were used to make charcoal for gas masks. These patriotic prjects helped to make the Boy Scouts enormously popular.


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Created: February 4, 2001
Last updated: 4:33 AM 8/18/2005