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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 01:32 GMT 02:32 UK
WWII schoolgirls 'solicited GIs'
Ministry of Health Poster 1943
The first UK campaign about sexual diseases was launched during WWII
"Feckless" WWII schoolgirls with "lax morals" caused concern in government by skipping class, soliciting GIs - and catching venereal disease, papers show.

Correspondence released at the National Archives in Kew show "a good deal of trouble" was caused by the girls in the West End of London.

Officials wanted to bring the girls, aged 15 to 17 and from approved schools - a type of care home - under control.

A total of 37 were arrested between May 1942 and April 1943, the papers show.

A Home Office letter to police noted that many girls "frequented undesirable cafes where they could strike up acquaintances with American soldiers who had plenty of money.

"These American soldiers passed the girls on to their friends and in a very short time, any one girl could be responsible for infecting a considerable number of people."

'Chronic absconders'

The letters between the Ministry of Health, the Home Office, police and local authorities show there were 116 recorded cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis among the girls.

Girls who picked up venereal diseases - as sexually transmitted infections were then known - found themselves segregated on their return to their schools.

And those over the age of 16 faced terms of detention where they could be restrained to prevent a repeat of their behaviour.

It is almost a matter of routine to examine an absconder for venereal disease on her return to a school

In 1942, there were 528 incidents of girls absconding from approved schools across the country.

"Absconding has increased since the outbreak of war from both boys' and girls' schools owing to the general excitement and unsettled conditions, and, so far as girls are concerned, the ease with which they can find entertainment and keep among the forces," a letter sent by the Home Office Children's Branch noted.

Another letter stated some girls were "driven to immorality as the easiest means of finding maintenance while at large".

It added: "It is almost a matter of routine to examine an absconder for venereal disease on her return to a school."

A Scotland Yard memo said: "Divisions are well aware of the nuisance caused to the police by girls who abscond from approved schools...

"Others go to other parts of London and many go to camps of home and overseas forces."

But some felt the figures could have been inflated by a few "chronic absconders".

A Home Office official wrote in May 1943: "I don't think one should go to the other extreme and regard every approved school absconder who is arrested in the West End as there for the purpose of immoral relations with servicemen.

"A number, no doubt, go there simply to be in the centre of things and to see what other girls have talked about."


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