October 31, 2017

1941. Youth Conduct in Air Raid Shelters Worries Londoners

Officials Fret About "Lack of Moral Guidance" Among Youth
A gang of "Dead End Kids" gather in an air raid shelter in London in April 1941 (Getty)
United Press story printed in the Kansas City Kansan, 1941:
Adolescent Morals New British Worry
"Dead Enders" Sent to Country Profit But Air Raid Shelter Conduct of Youth Is Problem
United Press Staff Correspondent

London. — (UP) Two phases of the problem of bringing up children in the midst of war were receiving public attention today.

One concerned the 17 and 18-year-old adolescents of both sexes who are together night after night in the air raid shelters.

The other concerned the "dead end" kids of the cities, finding a new life in the country.

Watson Boyce, probation officer of the Southwark juvenile court, called public attention to the first.

"There are few boys and girls aged 17 and 18 living in present conditions for whose chastity I would be prepared to vouch," he said.

Often he has seen adolescents of different sexes refuse to spend the night in the same shelter their parents were using, and make up a common bed in another. He saw two adolescent girls appear at one shelter "wearing raincoats and little else."

Londoners were becoming more conscious of this problem. A group of prominent social workers wrote The Times calling attention to the lack of moral guidance for adolescents in air raid shelters.  They said, "another winter in shelters under present conditions would have a gravely demoralizing effect upon the coming generation."

The Times, commenting editorially, urged authorities to act quickly and effectively while there was yet time.

The other phase was encouraging to those concerned for the new generation of British men and women. It told of the happiness of "dead end" kids, who are learning to milk cows, and the little beribboned girls from the cities, who are learning from whence come eggs.

Herwold Ramsbotham, president of the board of education, said that 600,000 school children in the country now have greater practical education facilities than they ever had before.

"I dare say some folk have conjured up pictures of schooling abandoned and children largely left uncared for and running wild," Ramsbotham said. "I am glad to say, however, that such a picture has no relation to the actual position."

Ramsbotham admitted that education facilities had suffered by the move through loss of facilities for special work in science, handicraft and related subjects.