The boys were traveling from their boarding school to a safe location to avoid the approaching war in England. However, the plane was attacked or otherwise compromised, forcing the pilot to eject the body of the plane in which the children were riding. There are no adults because there were no adults in the pod where the children were riding. In the first days on the island, the children gather, evaluate their situation, and choose a leader. They do this partially out of habit for the way in which they have grown up in society and partly to provide some sense of security.