Military Life

What is it like to be an Armed Forces child?

New exhibition explores the unique lives of military children.

A new exhibition featuring the stories and personal items of 20 military children is shining a spotlight on what life is like for the kids of Britain's Armed Forces personnel. 

The 'Children and Military Lives' exhibition, running from 2 June to 24 November at the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, will also bring to life the stories of children who become victims of military conflict – from Second World War evacuees to today's refugees and asylum seekers. 

This collaboration between the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust and military charities Little Troopers and War Toys is using personal objects and stories, plus oral histories, art and photography to express what it is like to be the child of serving British Armed Forces personnel and a child whose life is dramatically changed by conflict. 

Charity Little Troopers supports service children whose parent or guardian are serving in the British Armed Forces, regular or reserve, while War Toys magnifies the experiences of children from all cultural backgrounds who have been affected by war and offers them trauma treatment. 

The Woodstock exhibition gives the military children a chance to explain in their own words how they cope while their serving parent or guardian is deployed overseas, how moving house and schools every few years affects their mental health and what it's like to grow up in the British Armed Forces. 

In the exhibition, military child Kayleigh, 15, shares how difficult it can be at times to have both of her parents serving in the Armed Forces, saying: "It is fair to say being a military child is a rollercoaster of emotions." 

Armed Forces child Kayleigh at the 'Children and Military Lives' exhibition (Picture: Colin Morris).
Armed Forces teenager Kayleigh at the 'Children and Military Lives' exhibition (Picture: Colin Morris).

Little Troopers founder Louise Fetigan spoke with Forces News about how important it is to allow military children to express themselves.

She said: "There's over 100,000 military children. It's really important that they're represented and that their stories are told and they're given a voice.

"Every part of the exhibition is real life, lived experience from military children, going through deployment, moving home or school."

Also included in the exhibition is a photo series that brings to life the effects of war on children living in conflict zones around the world.

Not-for-profit organisation War Toys, set up by photographer Brian McCarty in 2019, uses expressive art therapy to safely gather children's accounts of war and help them tell the world their story.

Brian then brings those images to life as photographs using children's toys. 

To prepare for the exhibition, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum also collected the unique accounts from children of the 1950s to 2000s, whose parents served in the UK's Armed Forces. 

Museum director Ursula Corcoran said: "Our partnership with Little Troopers has given us a valuable platform to explore the lived experiences of today's military children compared to those of past generations. 

"With these shared experiences and memories reflected in the exhibition, the children who have contributed have done a fantastic job in bringing their stories to life." 

Military children can visit the exhibition for free when their accompanying adult presents a valid MOD90 card.

Cover image: Little Troopers' founder Louise Fetigan and military children Ben, Kayleigh, Kieran and Lily-May at the 'Children and Military Lives' exhibition (Picture: Colin Morris).