Children in the 1914-1918 war

Children in the 1914-1918 war

  • The vile hostages.

    POULBOT Francisque (1879 - 1946)

  • We are going to fight.

    POULBOT Francisque (1879 - 1946)

  • Nobody wants to do the boche.

    POULBOT Francisque (1879 - 1946)

© Historical Collection of the Great War - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

We are going to fight.

© Historical Collection of the Great War - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

To close

Title: Nobody wants to do the boche.

Author : POULBOT Francisque (1879 - 1946)

Creation date : 1915

Date shown: 1915

Dimensions: Height 3.81 - Width 2.85

Technique and other indications: lithography

Storage location: Historial of the Great War of Péronne website

Contact copyright: © Historical Collection of the Great War - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

Nobody wants to do the boche.

© Historical Collection of the Great War - Péronne (Somme) - Photo Yazid Medmoun

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Mobilized in August 1914 in the territorial army, the "father of kids", Francisque Poulbot, was reformed a few months later, in February 1915, for medical reasons. The lithographs presented here were made from drawings published during the war.

How does Poulbot's "war of the kids" help reveal a form of children's investment in war?

Image Analysis

The simple and rounded line of the designer reveals a certain tenderness for the world of childhood. But this is not about the gaze of the adult on the child, seen from above in a way; rather, the work shows a keen observation, seen "from below", carried out at level and with children.

Poulbot presents them in small groups in "We are going to fight", "You vile hostages" and "So guys! are we playing war? "Two of these lithographs situate the lands of childhood in Germany, the German children here symbolizing the baseness, the barbarism of Germany as a whole:" We are going to fight "and" You vile hostages. " Children show off their weapons, especially wooden guns and swords, pans replace helmets, but sometimes they even wear the real Prussian helmet. Perhaps even more than drawing, Poulbot attaches great importance to legend. Words from childhood give his drawings a very special flavor, almost unique at the time.

The legends - "We are going to fight, you, Fritz, you are the pig of the French", "You, the vile hostages, you are going to march in front of our army", "So guys! are we playing war? - We can't, no one wants to play the Boche "- testify to the transfer of the warlike event into the sphere of childhood through brutal and one-sided propaganda. They also illustrate the strength of the nationalist feeling which dominated the first months of the war and which touched the juvenile world as well as the adult world.


Indeed, from the first months of the conflict, the child became an essential instrument of propaganda in France as in Germany. The militarization of childhood is reflected in the total appropriation of the facts of war and the complete identification with national combat. Sometimes with a very marked desire to take part in combat, to do battle with the enemy, including among very young children. This also testifies to the transposition of the brutality and the new violence of war on the lands of childhood. The partitions between the adult world and the world of childhood thus tend to disappear. The child's investment in war reaches an extreme point.

The new ferocity of the conflict is evoked here through the theme of the German atrocities committed by the invader during the invasion of Belgium and northern France at the beginning of August and September 1914. This reality is also, of course, a propaganda theme taken up and developed especially at the end of 1914 and the beginning of 1915, but periodically reactivated until 1918, or even beyond. The propaganda insists in particular on the campaign of terror waged against civilians by the Germans, which results in executions, rapes and mutilations, in particular the "severed hands" of children, the taking of hostages, the destruction of buildings. , the murder of the wounded and prisoners.

The integration of the atrocities of conflict into the world of childhood signals the thresholds of investment in struggle crossed during the war.

  • childhood
  • War of 14-18
  • nationalism
  • propaganda
  • representation of the enemy


Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.

Stéphane AUDOUIN-ROUZEAU, The 1914-1918 Children's War, an essay on cultural history, Paris, Armand Colin, 1993.

Zozo POULBOT, Poulbot, my father of kids, Paris, Astrid, 1982.

François ROBICHON, Poulbot, the father of kids, Paris, Hoëbeke, 1994.

To cite this article

Sophie DELAPORTE, "Children in the 1914-1918 war"

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