A Children’s Peace Army was formed in Brisbane on 26 June 1917. Twice monthly afternoons on alternate Saturdays were held at Trades Hall, where children supervised by Margaret Thorp, Kate Sauer and Mrs Carroll, learnt about love and compassion for one’s fellow human. Katherine Louis Sauer (1889-1983) was born in Toowoomba, and was to have a long, hard working life, but during the war she was to find her path. When the war was declared she was twenty-five years old.
It was grim times. Between the two referendums, the Brisbane communities were riven asunder between those who thought the way to peace was through military victory and those who advocated non-militaristic negotiation. The sacrifice of sons and daughters in the name of democratic freedoms continued; and there were those that saw how armed conflicts were used to acquire and increase individual power and wealth. Margaret Thorp had been assaulted when she stood on her chair to oppose a motion that the women of Queensland supported Billy Hughes and compulsory conscription. She looked to the future and found a thread of hope. The work of the CPA was the foundation of ‘reconstruction towards a saner and better world’. The children were being taught ‘self-control, self-reliance, co-operation, and to think for themselves’. They recognised the red flag of international brotherhood and sisterhood. Margaret Thorp avowed ‘the great potentialities of such a movement of the children towards internationalism’, the children had simple stories about economics and ‘ethical fundamentals’. Margaret Thorp’s mentor Emma Miller was dead and even Emma’s youthful Labor offsider Kate Collings had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Margaret Thorp’s own father was ill. In a time when many women were bowed down with grief. It was a time ‘when the whole civilisation so laboriously built up by man is in the melting pot of a world war’, opined the Daily Standard journalist, ‘when bigotry and hatred are liberated from pulpit and teachers’ desk alike, when, men bankrupt in youth and imbecile in sympathy are crying to their josses for blood and yet more blood of human sacrifice on the altars of intolerance and greed—in such a time the Children’s Pence Army is like a rose in a garden of weeds, a well of fresh water in an alkaline desert!’
These Saturday afternoons at the Trades Hall were a real success; the children romped and played and learnt. At Christmas time, 1917, the CPA celebrated with an international Christmas tree; throughout the earlier gatherings sometimes children had dressed in foreign national dress. There were individual presents, Japanese lanterns and bougainvillea, and a six foot two inches Father Christmas. To understand the lives and customs of foreigners, the children sang and danced, recited and listened to talks, based upon ‘the ideals of the international Socialist movement’. Quaker educational methods and the socialist ideals coalesced. If they had listened even harder they may have realised they could learn from the Indigenous custodians about non-violent cultures and how to live without standing armies. Jennie Scott Griffiths and Dorothy Lane, Mabel’s daughter, were among the group of men and women, and parents assisting. At the end of their Christmas party, everyone sang the Red Flag according to Jack Cade [Ernie Lane] who published an account on his page ‘Among the Unions’.
The WPA had been concerned about the alarming rise of jingoism and a patriotism associated with militarism since its very inception, and the subject had been raised at numerous meetings. Led by Margaret Thorp, they had organised a deputation to the state minister of education, joining with members from the Australian Peace Alliance. Earlier Margaret Thorp had made a direct approach to Herbert Hardacre, Minister of Public Instruction, requesting permission to go into the schools to talk to the pupils, and although her request had been dismissed, she was invited to contribute a series of articles to the education gazette. When a blind soldier was allowed to address the school children, the WPA considered it a breach of the minister’s promises to their deputation. It was resolved at the WPA meeting to put ‘an increasing amount of energy and interest into the Children’s Peace Army in order to counter these influences’.
The CPA continued to grow, and in May 1918 the Darra WPO began to organise their own CPA, after talks by Kathleen Hotson and A F Gorman. 80 children and 20 adult residents gathered together. Jennie Scott Griffith was a key figure; she was active in the Australian Peace Alliance. Mesdames A Lack and Hanlon were president and secretary. The office bearers were prepared to counter calls for patriotism in the press, and challenge arguments that the time for peace education was after the war. When the ‘March for Freedom, arrived in Darra, their red flag was pulled down from WPO headquarters with the substitution of a union jack. In 1918 the Darra WPO built a new ‘Victory Hall’.
Later that year, 1918, they held a combined Brisbane Darra birthday party, and over one hundred children pledged ‘I will love and not hate’. There was a delegation of 30 children from Darra, and almost as many adults as children attended the tea served in Wickham Park. Later again, the Brisbane and Darra Children’s Peace Armies joined forces in a joyful afternoon concert at the Trades Hall in October, with songs, recitations, club swinging, dances, and refreshments to fund raise. Margaret Thorp’s God, her Beloved, her consistent source of loving grace more readily found embodiment among the laughter and spirituality of children, than the hostile audiences that she continued to speak to and pray for.
The CPA continued into the twenties in various manifestations becoming the Children’s Socialist School (with Kate Sauer and Dorothy Lane’, Labor Children’s School, and the Labor Girls’s Club. Kate Sauer joined the Religious Society of Friends after the war in 1920, inspired by her association with Margaret Thorp, and was to remain a Quaker until the end of her days.
 ‘Children’s Peace Army Party’, Daily Standard 20 December 1919: 3.
 ‘Children’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 5 July 1918: 4.
 ‘Children’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 20 December 1919: 3.
 ‘Women’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard 18 July 1917: 3.
 ‘Flag Incident at Darra’, Queensland Times, 9 August 1918: 5.
 ‘Children’s Peace Army’, Daily Standard, 23 October 1918: 5.