Sue, a Royal Parks in the First World War volunteer, discovers how the Parks provided welcome respite for children in WW1:
Everyone was expected to ‘do their bit’ for the war effort - including children, who were kept busy with a variety of tasks. Kids were sent to join long queues for food in the shops and tended vegetables in allotments when food supplies were running short. Boys helped to make sandbags and girls knitted socks and scarves to help the soldiers at the front keep warm. They collected scrap materials that could be recycled or used for the war effort.
Schools coordinated fundraising activities such as concerts and on ‘flag days’, children sold little flags or badges that people could pin to their coats in order to raise money for various charities, including St Dunstan’s Hospital for blinded ex-servicemen and local military hospitals such as St Katharine’s Hospital, both of which were in Regent’s Park. Some children gave part of their pocket money to war savings campaigns and were expected to encourage their adult relations to do the same.
Girl Guides helped MI5 by delivering messages within the building. Originally, Boy Scouts had been MI5’s first choice for this work but, allegedly, they turned out to be too naughty and too noisy! The Girl Guides proved to be a more reliable alternative.
But it wasn’t all hard work. In the early years of the war London Transport commissioned a series of posters that encouraged passengers to visit famous London parks and other attractions. These posters show the sort of activities that children would have enjoyed in the central London parks.
Riding tricycles, playing hoop, sailing model boats and feeding the ducks: all activities for a hard earned break in the Parks.