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

ForcesWatch comment

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.

01/07/2014

On Thursday 26 June 2014, we launched our new short documentary film 'Engage: the military and young people', at Friends House in London. A packed and diverse audience watched the film, which was very well-received. Speakers included Ben Griffin, founder of Veterans for Peace UK, Sam Hepworth from Headliners (the youth journalists charity who made the film) and some of the young filmmakers, and Owen Everett, Education Campaign worker at ForcesWatch.

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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.  

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

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

December 2014: Armed Forces Visits to Secondary Schools in Scotland

The report, compiled by ForcesWatch, is based on figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the armed forces on their visits to Scottish schools. It has been co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland which has expressed concerns that some armed forces visits may have a recruitment purpose.

The report discusses the aims of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces’ ‘youth engagement’ programme and 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 by David Gee, published by ForcesWatch 2014
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 and buy the book.

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. 

The book was launched at Housmans Bookshop with ForcesWatch and Veterans for Peace UK on 3 November 2014.

See more detail here      Buy the book

Security for the future: In search of a new vision

September 2014: A group of 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? ForcesWatch have been working with the charity Headliners and a group of young people in London to produce 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 film and see more info here

Sign the petition to raise the age of recruitment in 2014

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

The Grey Line, a photographic project on American and British soldiers who spoke out against the invasion of Iraq.

Public support for raising the army recruitment age

In a July 2014 poll, 78% of respondents who expressed a view thought the minimum army recruitment age should be at least 18. See more

latest news

19/12/2014 Herald Scotland

FOUR out of five of Scotland's state secondary schools had visits by the Armed Forces within a two year period, sparking claims they were related to recruitment.

19/12/2014 ForcesWatch press release

A new report published today shows that the armed forces visited four fifths (83%) of state secondary schools within a two year period, between 2010-2012. The report argues that the purpose of many of the visits is related to recruitment into the armed forces.

10/12/2014 The Telegraph

MoD says cadet forces will keep their funding after warnings reforms would seen dozens of units close.

01/12/2014 Generation C

Did you know that the UK armed forces recruit 16-year-olds? Owen Everett from ForcesWatch explores the UK military’s wide influence in the education system and the concerns that arise from this.

24/11/2014 Support for Britain's Reservists & Employers (SaBRE)

More than 80 schools, colleges and universities have pledged public support for the armed forces Reserves, by implementing a special HR policy for members of staff who are in the Reserves. You can view the list here.

21/11/2014 BBC Atebion

Cymerodd Forces Watch ran mewn trafodaeth ddydd Sul ar raglen Atebion Radio Cymru. Y thema oedd 'Rhyfel', ond tra bod 4 milwr wedi cyfrannu, dim ond 5 munud gafodd Forces Watch. Gan fod un o'r milwyr wedi gwneud ambell honniad reit gamarweiniol, dyma ni'n sgwenni ymateb atynt: (rholiwch at waelod y dudalen).

19/11/2014 Countering the Militarisation of Youth

A report from the first international week of action for military-free education and research held in October 2014. Groups across the world took action to raise awareness, and challenge, the role the military has in education and research in educational institutions.