ForcesWatch scrutinises the ethics of armed forces recruitment practices and challenges efforts to embed militarist values in civilian society.

ForcesWatch comment

22/04/2015

Here we provide two sample questions that you can ask candidates as well as key points and further sources of information. You can find your candidates contact details using https://yournextmp.com/. Let us know if you get any responses!

Do you agree that the UK should raise its age of recruitment to 18 in line with the international human rights standards established by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child?

Is the promotion of the armed forces and 'military ethos' appropriate within education? Should parents be consulted about the involvement of the military at their school?

See here for key points to make and sources of information

10/12/2014

On 7 December 2014, Michael Gove’s successor as Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan made her support for the Military Ethos in Schools programme clear by pledging a further £4.8 million to eight ‘alternative provision with a military ethos’ schemes. This follows previous funding between 2012 and 2014 that amounted to £8.2 million. The Quakers have written a letter with their concerns about the new announcement to Nicky Morgan, which can be read here. Below are our key initial concerns.

22/10/2014

This year over 550 schools around the country have had a Red, White and Blue Day on 11th October, which involves pupils raising money for three military charities by wearing red, white and blue clothing (the colours of the Union flag), or holding another fundraising event.

19/08/2014

This article was originally published in Red Pepper

Vron Ware reports on how the Armed Forced Community Covenant is a crucial part of the creeping militarisation of UK society.

As politicians have sought to prove their own commitment to the troops in an effort to control ‘the message’ about the wars, they have effectively turned this public concern into a political instrument. One consequence has been that, within the last two or three years, local authorities up and down the country, from borough to county level, urban, metropolitan and rural, have been ushered into an unprecedented programme of support for the armed forces in their areas. This development is symptomatic of a wider process of integrating military work into civil society, but it also reveals the social costs of maintaining a professional military force at home.

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The armed forces visit thousands of UK schools each year, offering presentation teams, free resources such as lessons plans and other activities that lead to recruitment. The Department for Education are further integrating military-led activities into Britain's education system as the 'military ethos' is presented as a solution to educational problems. Should the armed forces by given access to children within education? Is the military's agenda and the development of a 'military ethos' appropriate within schools?

March 2015: A critical response to The British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014

This report, published by ForcesWatch in confunction with the video The British Armed Forces: Propaganda in the classroom? produced by Quaker Peace & Social Witness, explains why the British Armed Forces Learning Resource (published in September 2014 by the Prime Minister's Office) is a poor quality educational resource, and exposes the resource as a politically-driven attempt to promote recruitment into the armed forces and “military values” in schools.  See more

December 2014: Armed Forces Visits to Secondary Schools in Scotland

The report, published by ForcesWatch and co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland, is based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The report concludes that: “Despite assurances by the Ministry of Defence and the three armed services that the armed forces do not recruit in schools, it is evident that many of the activities provided by members of the armed forces in schools are recruitment-related and the recruitment potential of visits is a key purpose of many, if not most, of their visits to schools.” See more

See our other materials on the military in education here 

ForcesWatch observe and respond to ways in which the military is being promoted as a normal part of everyday life. We believe that uncritical support for the armed forces stifles concerns about how young people are recruited and limits debate on alternatives to war.

Conference: Militarisation in everyday life in the UK
An event in 2013 which brought together academics, writers, activists and campaigners who are researching, writing, campaigning on the implications of militarisation of UK society. See more here.  

Book: Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism
This book takes a fresh look at a culture of militarism in Britain, public resistance to it, and the government's increasingly prodigious efforts to regain control of the story we tell ourselves about war. See more and buy the book.

ForcesWatch has been working with others to raise concerns, including the recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds into the armed forces, the lack of recognition of conscientious objection and restrictive and unclear terms of service.  

September 2014: Army Recruitment: Comparative cost-effectiveness of recruiting from age 16 versus age 18

This paper, published by Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch, finds that approximately £50 million would be saved annually if the minimum age of recruitment were raised to 18. It argues for a full, independent review of the policy of recruiting under-18s, with a view to phasing it out as an unnecessary, cost-ineffective, and fundamentally unethical practice. See more

28 October 2013: The Last Ambush? Aspects of mental health in the British armed forces
This ForcesWatch report, shows that post-war mental health problems are most common in young soldiers from disadvantaged backgrounds; also in veterans who left the forces in the last decade. It draws on over 150 sources, including 41 British military mental health studies, as well as testimony from veterans. It calls for the policy of recruiting from age 16 to be reviewed so that the greatest burden of risk is not left to the youngest, most vulnerable recruits to shoulder. See more

August 2013: Young age at Army enlistment is associated with greater war zone risks: An analysis of British Army fatalities in Afghanistan
This paper, published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, indicates that the risk of fatality in Afghanistan for British Army recruits aged 16 who have completed training has been twice as high as it has for those enlisting at 18 or above. This increased risk reflects the disproportionately high number of 16 year olds who join front-line Infantry roles. This is mainly the result of recruitment policies which drive the youngest recruits into the Army’s most dangerous roles. See more

our new book on militarism

At a comfortable distance from warfare, our culture easily passes over its horrific reality in favour of an appealing, even romantic, spectacle of war. Yet, over the last decade, most Britons have opposed Western military ventures abroad. This book takes a fresh look at a culture of militarism in Britain, public resistance to it, and the government's increasingly prodigious efforts to regain control of the story we tell ourselves about war. 

See more detail here      Buy the book

Events

Challenging the Militarisation of Youth in Scotland

Public meeting: 28 April 2015, 6.30-8.30pm, Glasgow; workshop: 29 April, 6.00-8.30pm, Glasgow

With Owen Everett (ForcesWatch) giving a report on armed forces visits to schools in Scotland and Ben Griffin, ex-SAS soldier from Veterans For Peace UK speaking on recruitment and the militarisation of youth. For details and to register for the Tuesday event, click here. For details on the Wednesday workshop, click here.

Inaugural Peace Agenda discussion event

Organised by Conscience, Emma Sangster (ForcesWatch) will be speaking along with Natalie Bennet, leader of the Green Party, and Marigold Bentley, Quaker Peace & Social Witness, on challenges for peace builders.
Thursday 21 May, 7pm, London, see here

Militarism in Education

Peace Pledge Union conference with Sam Walton (Quaker Peace & Social Witness) and Emma Sangster (ForcesWatch)
Saturday 6 June, London, see here

Security for the future: In search of a new vision

2014: UK peacebuilding professionals invite you to participate in a new civic conversation about alternatives to the current approach to national security.

Here they outline their concerns about the existing model, and offer a different vision for the future, welcoming input from anyone who wishes to engage in this debate. Read more

Watch our new film - Engage: the military and young people

Why does the military have a 'youth engagement' policy and why is the government promoting 'military ethos' within education? What is the impact of military activities taking place in schools? This short film which explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

Watch the full film and see more info

Watch the film trailer below:

Watch with Welsh subtitles here

Sign the petition to raise the age of recruitment

We call on the UK Government to stop its policy of allowing 15 year olds to apply and 16 and 17 year olds to be recruited into the Armed Forces.
sign petition   download paper version   
sign here if not in the UK

your questions

whats the problem with military recruitment?

ForcesWatch believes that armed forces recruitment practices in the UK are largely unethical. The military are reaching out to children and young people using sophisticated strategies to interest and involve them in military activities which do not deal adequately with the risks of an armed forces career but tend to glamorise and sanitise war. The military also fail to adequately inform young people of the legal obligations of an armed forces career.

See here for more.

what are your other concerns?

Taking an active part in conflict involves serious ethical questions regarding the justification of killing and the political purposes of military action. The armed forces fail to adequately address these concerns during recruitment and for serving personnel.

The more government and national initiatives which are created to show support for the armed forces, the more difficult it will become for individuals and society to reflect on the ethics of conflict and peaceful alternatives. See here for more

what should I think about before I join up?

There are ethical questions and questions about why you really want to join up and about what risks you face and what happens if you decide you want to leave. There are some very useful independent sources of advice about your legal situation as a member of the armed forces and other issues. We also have a selection of materials looking at some aspects of what it is like to serve. See here for more.

what can I do about military recruitment activity in my school or community?

The military make visits to many schools and colleges and are also active at local events. If you are unhappy about the presence of the military in your community, here are some ideas of how to address it and some materials to use. See here for more.

what have other people said about their experiences?

Very often the most useful insights into what it is like to be involved in anything is to hear directly from other people about what they have experienced. Here are some accounts of both what it is like to serve in the armed forces and what it is like to challenge the presence of the military in a community. See here for more.

how do you respond to those who don't agree with you?

We don't expect everyone to agree with us but we think there is significant cause for concern about military recruitment practices and about the way that a climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces is being fostered which makes debate about the activities of the armed forces difficult to question. We think there should be more room for that debate. See more here.

A funny short film by a young boy on The Militarization of Boys

Raise the age to join the army to 18
By William and Noah

Before You Sign Up

British army: one young recruit's story, The Guardian 2013

A 4 part investigation of 'the soldier myth' - talking to soldiers about recruitment, training, fighting and coming home

latest news

02/04/2015 Army, Navy, and RAF

All three of the UK armed forces offer sponsorship to students in the sixth form or equivalent, in return for a minimum of . The Army have recently reformed their 'Sixth Form Scholarship Scheme'. It is now called the 'Army Officer Scholarship Scheme', and the updated overview document notes two major changes. Firstly, from 2015, the scheme 'will automatically include a provisional award of an Army Undergraduate bursary, so you won't have to apply for it separately.'...

31/03/2015 RT

Experts warn the “floodgates” of post-traumatic stress are about to open, as a top armed forces charity claims mental health issues among military personnel have risen 26 percent over the last year.

03/03/2015 The Independent

"Militarism has no place in classrooms. This resource is ideologically driven and should be withdrawn."

The Government has been accused of helping indoctrinate children with pro-military values through a new schools pack aimed at promoting the armed forces.

03/03/2015 ForcesWatch / Quakers in Britain press release

The Government's material for schools about the armed forces has been criticised today by the human rights group ForcesWatch and Quakers in Britain.

25/02/2015 Young Quakers in Canada

'Youth in Canada - particularly young people of faith - are increasingly concerned about militarism in our society; and how this affects them...'

25/02/2015 Central England Quakers; Peace Education Network

The interactive theatre production, 'Over The Top', created by and featuring the experienced writers and performers of issue-based theatre Lynn and David Morris, which looks at the opposing views of a pro-military head teacher and a peace activist parent regarding the military's influence in the school, is to be performed in London on 24 March 2015.

25/02/2015 Times Education Supplement; UK Government; Academies Week

The Troops to Teachers scheme is being extended until the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, despite the fact that only 41 veterans started in the first cohort in January 2014, and only 54 in the second cohort in September 2014. The move has been criticised by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers...