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

ForcesWatch comment

20/03/2018

Members of the Scottish Parliament have agreed to produce a report into military visits in Scotland’s schools in a response to our petition on the issue.

19/03/2018

Three cases involving over 40 claimants and 16 Army instructors have collapsed, raising a number of serious concerns about failings within the military justice system. As a result, serious allegations of abuse against very young recruits have not been tested. We call for changes to the system and question whether a military environment where aggression is fostered will ever be condusive to the wellbeing of young recruits.

12/02/2018

Today is the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers. Today also sees the start of a court martial of 16 instructors at Army Foundation College Harrogate which trains young recruits aged under 18. They are charged with numerous counts of bullying and abuse.

06/02/2018

We report on a recent meeting in Parliament with a range of speakers on the urgent need to raise the age of recruitment to the armed forces in the UK.

our projects

The armed forces visit thousands of UK schools each year, offering careers presentations, curriculum 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?

ForcesWatch raises concerns about 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.

May 2017: Does the military give young people a 'leg-up'? The armed forces and social mobility

This briefing explores claims that the armed forces are a sure route to social mobility and outlines ways in which enlisting in the armed forces can have a negative impact, particularly for very young recruits. See more

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.

Book: confronting a culture of 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

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 security' competition for schools & teaching resources

Our security image

We are working with the Rethinking Security nework and Quakers in Britain to develop school resources on 'our security'.

Take Action on Militarism: new website & resource pack

From the Take Action on Militarism event

 

Also see our longer film with speakers from the event on their work taking action on militarism.

Ask your MP to support raising the age of recruitment

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Support our work

Make a donation to our work or find out more about how you can help.

Donate £36 or more for a FREE COPY of our book 'Spectacle, Reality, Resistance: Confronting a culture of militarism' See here for details


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

Before You Sign Up

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

Watch this series of short fims on YouTube
16 or 17 and want to be a soldier? Watch this first.

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


Watch on YouTube
A 4 part investigation into 'the soldier myth' - talking to front-line soldiers about recruitment, training, fighting and coming home

Talks about militarism by David Gee and Ben Griffin from the Creeping Militarisation of Everyday Life conference. 

A very short film about our work

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.

Teenagers voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives. See film and more info. With Welsh subtitles

latest news

20/03/2018

On the day that the Harrogate abuse court martials were dropped and the press was allowed to comment after reporting restrictions were lifted, there was coverage in almost all the major news outlets. Our comments, and those of partner organisations, were also reported.

08/11/2017 STV

Scottish TV report on armed forces visits to schools in Scotland.

09/10/2017 Various


A passionate debate was held on Sunday 8 October at the SNP Conference on Raising the Minimum Age of Military Recruitment to 18. The motion was passed!

26/09/2017 The Conversation

This article by Jonathan Parry. Lecturer in Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham, explores the dangers involved in miltary activity in schools and for the youngest recruits. It emphasises the moral risks and the 'moral exploitation' involved.

12/09/2017 Various

A letter to the Guardian (12/09/17) from more than 50 academics has called for the age of recruitment ot the UK armed forces to be raised to 18. It backs a conference motion from SNP Youth in support of this.

10/07/2017 The Guardian and The Independent

The Army's latest recruitment campaign focuses on low income families from cities with high deprivation levels.

04/07/2017 Veterans For Peace UK

A new report out today from Veterans For Peace UK details how the Army's training process has a 'forceful impact' on attitudes, health, and behaviour even before recruits are sent to war. 

04/07/2017 BBC News

BBC Panorama has uncovered evidence of repeated cover-ups of historical sex abuse in Britain's cadet forces.