March 31, 2006

WW2 files show UK schoolgirl VD “menace”

By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - World War Two was at its height and
British officials worried about a menace loose on the streets
of London -- runaway schoolgirls infecting American GIs with
venereal disease.

A yellowing file of records released this week at Britain's
National Archive shows that officials were concerned about a
tide of "semi-delinquent" girls who were escaping from
correctional boarding schools to head for the big city.

Such girls were "a greater danger than the prostitute
proper in regard to spreading venereal disease," a Scotland
Yard police official wrote to the Home Office.

"If all schools would take immediate steps to notify the
Commissioner by telegram or telephone when a girl who may come
to London absconds, we could round up a larger number of them
promptly," the police official wrote.

A Home Office official noted: "Such girls, who were often
suffering from venereal disease, after absconding, made their
way to the West End of London and 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," he

The Home Office kept school-by-school records of the
numbers of girls who ran away. Statistics were kept of those
infected with syphilis, gonorrhea or both.

One school, the Knowle Hill Approved School in
Warwickshire, central England, recorded 88 abscondings in 1942.

The papers show officials describing the girls as "an
immediate menace" and exploring whether they could impose a
special security regime on those with venereal disease to
prevent them from escaping.

But eventually they decided that girls could only be locked
up in hospital wings until their infections were no longer

"Once the girl has ceased to be infectious, there would
seem to be no justification for maintaining this treatment, and
no one has been able to devise any other special security
measures, short of prison bars," one official lamented.

"Inspectors will continue to see that all possible steps
are taken to segregate infectious girls and to make every
effort to cope with the general problem of absconding.

"I think that is the best we can do."