Did conkers help win the First World War?

When Britain's war effort was threatened by a shortage of shells, the government exhorted schoolchildren across the country to go on the hunt for horse chestnuts. Historian and broadcaster Saul David explains why...

Boys playing conkers in 1926. Horse chestnuts played an unlikely role in the war effort just a few years earlier. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the November 2011 issue of BBC History Magazine 

In the autumn of 1917, a notice appeared on the walls of classrooms and scout huts across Britain: “Groups of scholars and boy scouts are being organised to collect conkers… This collection is invaluable war work and is very urgent. Please encourage it.”

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