Schools and the First World War

Page 6 – Supporting the war effort

During the war children were encouraged to be ‘cheerful’ and ‘helpful’, to ease the worry and sorrow of the mothers and wives of soldiers. There were also many practical ways in which children could help the war effort.


Schoolchildren were mobilised to raise funds for causes such as the Ambulance Relief Fund and the ‘poor suffering’ children of Belgium and Serbia. Children were encouraged to donate their savings and pocket money. By early 1915 New Zealanders had sent more than £37,000 (equivalent to over $5 million today) to the British and Belgian Relief Fund in London.

On 14 August 1914 the Ohinemuri Gazette reported that Paeroa schoolchildren selling ‘red, white, and blue rosettes’ had raised £7 towards the £20 needed to buy a ‘war horse’ for a trooper in the Hauraki Regiment. As the war dragged on efforts widened to include funds to help wounded soldiers and children orphaned by the war.

Paid in full

Pupils at Wellington College raised £2945 for patriotic funds during the war, in part by growing vegetables. This sum amounts to more than $300,000 in today’s money. Fundraising also began in 1916 for a school memorial hall. This opened in March 1928 thanks to a donation of £6000 from the Old Boys’ Association.

Support was not only financial; 1643 former pupils served overseas. Of these, 222 paid the ultimate price and 350 were wounded.

Schools and teachers organised and directed children into ‘patriotic work’. Towns and cities held patriotic dances, carnivals and concerts to raise money for the war effort. Local schoolchildren sang songs, performed plays and recited patriotic poems, and displayed their expertise in flag and military drills.

Children found increasingly inventive ways to raise money for a range of causes. By 1918 trails of copper pennies were a popular means of fundraising. Auckland and Wellington challenged each other to build a copper trail along the main trunk line to the other city. Schools along the way took part by encouraging each child to bring a penny to school. Progress was reported in newspapers throughout the year. Auckland won the contest.

Children also helped by providing ‘comforts’ for the soldiers. They knitted and sewed socks and scarves to keep soldiers warm at the front. They also wrote letters and sent care packages to ‘lonely’ soldiers, ex-pupils of their school and other local men in service. Many received postcards in return and bonds were created between the classroom and the front line.

How to cite this page

'Supporting the war effort', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 28-Aug-2014