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

ForcesWatch comment

25/05/2016

Are 16 and 17 year olds developmentally mature enough to make rational decisions about enlisting and once they have joined? The Chair of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania says: 16 years olds "may be more prone to being stressed, to maybe malfunctioning under stress and also not using more rational a decision making approach when they are in that split second."

24/05/2016

This week the long-awaited consideration of the UK's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child takes place. There are numerous issues being discussed, including many ways in which the rights of children are compromised or not adequately recognised by UK authorities.

Also under scrutiny is the recruitment of 16 and 17 year olds, who are still legally children, into the UK armed forces, and UK's lack of education provision on peace and human rights. As an open letter to the MoD points out, the youngest recruits are 'actively sought' for frontline roles.

12/05/2016

Lauren Bryden & Poppy Kohner explore the implications of Rosie Kay’s production of 5 Soldiers: The Body Is The Frontline, a dance piece exploring the ‘physicality’ of war and its effect on soldiers' bodies.  While captivating and enlightening, does placing the body at the centre of the narrative of war obscure political comment on what these bodies do and, crucially, why they do it? The support of the production by the British Army and their presence at the event raises important questions about the role of the military in public arts spaces.

24/03/2016

Before the closing date of our petition to the Scottish Parliament on military visits to state schools in Scotland, the ForcesWatch team went on the road to spread the word and raise awareness of the issue.

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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.

our projects

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.

December 2015: 'Commonsense and Understanding': Recommendations from the Defence Committee's Duty of Care report that are still outstanding 10 years on

This report highlights seven recommendations from the Defence Committee’s report Duty of Care (2005) which have not been partially or fully implemented, and around which substantial concerns remain about the welfare of young recruits. The report calls for the age of armed forces recruitment to be raised to 18. See more

June 2016: Government must take urgent action over Deepcut recommendations
With the new inquest verdict into the death of Cheryl James at Deepcut, ForcesWatch is calling on Ministers to implement important recommendations for young recruits made in 2005.

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

This paper, published with Child Soldiers International, 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 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 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 mor

The armed forces visit thousands of UK schools each year, offering careers presentations, free resources and other activities. The Department for Education are integrating activities with a 'military ethos' into Britain's education system. Should the armed forces be given access to children within education? Is the military's agenda and the promotion of 'military ethos' appropriate within schools?

November 2015: Peace Education and the promotion of the armed forces in UK schools

This report highlights that peace education is not being promoted in schools. This is counter to the recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to the UK Government that peace education should be part of the curriculum. This raises concerns particularly with the increased promotion of the military within schools through the Department for Education's 'military ethos' programme and free military-related learning resources, and as the armed forces continue to conduct a substantial 'youth engagement' programme. See more

May 2015: The recruitment agenda behind the UK armed forces’ ‘engagement’ with students in schools and colleges
This briefing is a compilation of evidence challenging the MoD and armed forces' claims that they don’t recruit in schools and that 'engaging' with students does not have a recruitment purpose.  See more

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

This report, published by ForcesWatch in conjunction 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 is a poor quality educational resource, and exposes it as a politically-driven attempt to promote recruitment into the armed forces and “military values” in schools. See more

See our other materials on the military in education here 

ForcesWatch monitor and challenge the promotion of the military 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.

Militarisation in everyday life
This conference brought together academics, writers, activists and campaigners who are researching and campaigning on the implications of militarisation of UK society. See more here.  

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.

Rethinking Security

This report, published by the Ammerdown Group, May 2016, explores how we can best build long-term security for people in the UK and worldwide.

The report outlines concerns about the existing model, and offer a different vision for the future. Read more

Petition to the Scottish Parliament

ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland have submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament to:

  • scrutinise armed forces visits to schools in Scotland
  • provide guidance on how such visits should be conducted
  • ensure that parents are always consulted.

The petition is now closed but see more information here.

A short film about our work

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 prodigious efforts to regain control of the story we tell ourselves about war.  See details & buy book

Events 

 * 'How to Prevent Violence and Create Peaceful Schools' conference - run by Facing History And Ourselves, and Quakers in Britain - at Friends House in London on Thurs 16 June.

* National conference for primary school teachers: 'Learning Through Peace - Developing Whole School Values and Outstanding SMSC', in London on Fri 24 June.

* 'Playing Soldiers': a verbatim school theatre production exploring the armed forces' recruitment of young people, featuring quotes from ForcesWatch, in Edinburgh from 21-29 August. Free preview in London on 30 June - email connor.abbott@ucs.org.uk for info.

* Click here for upcoming Veterans for Peace UK events, including talks.

Watch our 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 explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

See film and more info. With Welsh subtitles.

Watch the film trailer below:

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

Contact us to get a free batch of these cards (or our other free materials) to distribute.

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

Action Man: Battlefield Casualities - watch the film and join the campaign to end armed forces recruitment at 16

The Unseen March - short film with former SAS Ben Griffin, activist Mark Thomas and educationalists on ‘military ethos’ in schools. With briefings, resources and action ideas.

latest news

11/06/2016 Schools Week

The impact of a £50 million grant to boost school cadet forces cannot be scrutinised because the government will not release details – although there are few signs of the 100 units a year needed to meet the ambitious target and new figures show a decline in number of school cadets. ForcesWatch are quoted: “This huge amount of money could have been allocated towards educational resources that do not have a military framework and would have far wider appeal.”

02/06/2016 ForcesWatch press release

With the new inquest verdict into the death of Cheryl James at Deepcut, ForcesWatch is calling on Ministers to implement important recommendations for young recruits made in 2005.

26/05/2016 Child Soldiers International

Figures show that more 16 year olds were recruited in the last year than 17 year olds as the government admits that is intends to increase the number of children it recruits into the armed forces.

23/05/2016 Child Soldiers International

An open letter to the Ministry of Defence from national children’s organisations and rights groups calls on them to stop recruiting 16 and 17 year olds into the armed forces. The letter has been made public on the same day that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child begins its periodic examination of the UK’s record on child rights. In 2008, the UN urged the UK to raise the enlistment age to 18.

30/03/2016 Chatham House

The army's venerable tradition no longer makes financial sense.

30/03/2016 Independent, various
21/03/2016 Writers of Colour - Media Diversified

An excellent blog article on the Writers of Colour (Media Diversified) website, by the young Welsh-Pakistani Yasmin Begum, arguing for the minimum age of UK armed forces recruitment to be raised from 16 to 18. Focuses on the situation in Wales.

10/03/2016 Bella Caledonia

Mairi Campbell-Jack of Quakers in Scotland writes about why armed forces activities in schools is an issue that Scotland should be dealing with and the petition to the Scottish Government launched by Quakers and ForcesWatch.