In this chapter World War I acts as a chronological pivot point around which British Protestant settler children’s and young people’s religious identity turned and changed. For four years it dominated the lives of all age groups across British-world societies. Young people were certainly represented in the front-line casualties of those under-aged adolescents who managed to hoodwink recruiting boards, 2 and juvenile casualties resulted from the incursion of war into domestic spaces. On the home front, children’s and young people’s lives were more broadly and pervasively affected, as they were mobilized for total war support from 1914 to 1918. Schools and churches alike were key settings through which this took place, often at the expense of other elements of institutional and community life. The curtailment of new building projects and the redirection of students’ energies into wartime charity at Auckland’s Anglican Diocesan School for Girls (New Zealand), for example, were common experiences that were replicated across the British Empire during World War I. 3
Two recent studies of colonial settler children suggest that the deeper and more abiding impact of the war might be found in the ways that children were caught up in the inter-war preoccupation with memorialization, citizenship and reconstruction. Jeanine Graham notes that, throughout this period in New Zealand, ‘[n] otions of Duty, Responsibility and Sacrifi ce were paramount in the public sphere’, to the extent that children may have been caught up in ‘powerful and collective experiences’ that gave little room for ‘youthful questioning’ both during the war and in its aftermath. 4 Susan Fisher outlines how, in the inter-war years, English-Canadian children were imbued with ‘symbolic power as the representatives of the future’ and as ‘inheritors of the post-war world’. Therefore, ‘protecting the nation’ became a ‘struggle to be waged not only on the battlefi elds but also on the home front, in schools and in Sunday schools’. 5 The good of the nation was simultaneously conceived of in both civic and religious terms, as these societies turned to the next generation for renewed hope and a fresh start. This rhetoric was pervasive as well as potent, and profoundly penetrated both state and religious juvenile institutions, pedagogies and materials after 1918. Young lives were to be lived altruistically and sacrifi cially for a greater good. For those
children and young people caught up more specifi cally in religious contexts, however, the conception of this greater good was not wholly congruent with the way it was framed in wider society. Religious rhetoric emphasized that spiritual or religious allegiance was just as important as – or, indeed, more important than – allegiance to locality, nation or empire.