Boys’ and girls’ Defense Service Training in Swedish Schools during WW II
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
This paper deals with the Defense service training that both boys and girls received in Swedish secondary schools during World War II. Like many other Western European countries Sweden had a tradition of weapon drills in school. In Sweden these exercises were stopped in 1917, but in 1940 the question of defense service training for children and youth surfaced again due to the escalating world war. After the issue had been investigated, an act was passed by the Swedish Parliament in thesummer of 1941 and compulsory defense service training in Swedish secondary schools could commence that same autumn. The training proceeded in varying degrees at different schools until the spring of 1945 when the Parliament decided to end it.That children and youth were involved in the defense efforts in connection with World War II has previously been highlighted in British research, which has shown that World War II contributed tochanges in the perception of child labor (Mayall & Morrow 2011). In this paper Swedish defense training programs for school children will be studied. The fact that the defense service training that was introduced in Sweden during World War II was intended for both boys and girls makes it possible not only to study the perception of children in relation to military activities, but also enables a study of differences according to gender. The latter is in this context a most interesting question in light of current Swedish research on the role of women in Swedish defense efforts during World War II (Sundevall 2011).As it turned out there was no consensus in society regarding how far reaching the defense training for children and youth should be. The committee investigation preceding the decision to introduce defense service training proposed a very extensive training program. It proposed that boys should betrained in shooting and grenade throwing as early as the age of 12, and at the age of 14 they wouldbe allowed to practice shooting under field conditions. The girls’ exercises were mainly in the areas of camp service, health and childcare, but, like the boys, they should also be trained in target reconnaissance, reporting and courier service. In the act passed by the Parliament, the scope of activities was decreased significantly, however. The defense service training was not to start until the pupils were 16 years of age, and shooting practice was made optional. Studies of individual schools’ activities show that defense service training in some places had begun even before the fall of 1941,and some schools organized exercises that were more extensive than what the act later would require. In other schools they chose instead to downplay the purely military exercises. This was particularly evident when it came to girls’ defense service training, which met resistance from some schools.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-286759OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-286759DiVA: diva2:921983
War and Childhood in the Age of the World Wars: Local and Global Perspectives, Washington DC, USA, 5–7 juni 2014