Posted: 16 January 2015

We will remember them

Last year, poignant commemorations were held across the nation to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War. The Children’s Society played its own role in this costly conflict  – many of the boys once in our children’s homes joined the military and were injured, or lost their lives fighting for their country.

We opened our first children’s home in Dulwich, London, in 1882, and by 1918 we had offered care for children in 175 homes in England and Wales. When the war broke out in August 1914, many of the ‘Old Boys’ from these homes joined the army and the navy.

In December 1914, our supporter magazine, then called Our Waifs And Strays, published the first instalment of the Society’s Roll of Honour. This commemorated the Old Boys who were serving and listed their regiments or ships, stating whether they had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

Our roll of honour

The magazine also featured letters sent home by the boys in the Old Boys’ Letter Bag. In the January 1915 issue, a boy called John Thompson was listed in the Roll of Honour alongside a picture of him ‘in all the pride of his new uniform’ and a letter sent home. Sadly, this was the last letter John wrote. He died while serving in India and his sergeant posted the letter.

John Thompson


John Thompson

In towns and villages where we ran children's homes, our Old Boys can be found listed on parish war memorials, including boys from St Mark's Home in Natland, Cumbria and St Mary's Church in Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire, which has a plaque dedicated to the young men of Hedgerley Court Farm Home who died in the war.


An Important part of history

Pamela Cox

Pamela Cox, a professor at the University of Essex and presenter of BBC2 series Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs, explains why our archive is of national importance.

The Children's Society has kept track of every child that came through its doors, which makes its archive an incredibly important resource for my work.

My latest research project traces the lives of children who were in care in the 19th century. We've discovered that many boys joined the army and died during the First World War, while the girls were often trained as maids.

a maid

At the time, girls were finding other employment, so the girls in care filled a gap in that market. There's a record of a girl called Amelia who was abused and neglected by her stepfather so badly that her growth was stunted. She was sent to train as a servant at Hampshire's Connaught House for Girls, and her life turned out well. She held many service positions, the last one for 40 years. 

Now part of the archive is online, it has opened up the possibilities of finding out what happened to these children after they left The Children's Society's care.


By Matt Summers-Sparks - Digital team

Read more

Welcome to the Spring 2015 issue of Voice magazine

Posted: 15 January 2015