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

ForcesWatch comment

10/07/2017

New evidence confirms that the British Army recruitment marketing deliberately targets working-class young people.

04/07/2017

New findings highlight need to protect young people from harsh military training environments and inadequate safeguards in cadet forces.

24/06/2017

This article was first published in The Morning Star

Local authorities have become the military’s promotional agents and recruiting sergeants. 

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.

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

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

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.

Take Action on Militarism gathering

Want to make a response to militarism in your school or community? Come to an action-orientated day for upskilling, planning, learning and meeting some inspiring people from around the UK.

On Saturday 21 October, we will be launching our new resource pack for individuals and groups to challenge militarism in their communities at Friends House in London. See details here.

Ask your MP to support raising the age of recruitment

Scottish Parliament Petition

ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland 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 being heard by the Scottish Parliament. See more info.

A short film about our work

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Get in touch

We look forward to input from many different individuals and groups and welcome ideas, comments and suggestions. Please use the contact form to email us.

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

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

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

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

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.

13/06/2017 Huffington Post

"Joining at 16 is massively psychologically damaging and issues of PTSD, suicide and depression are major issues for veterans, and more so for teenage recruits. I think it is hugely important the recruitment age is raised. I now work with Veterans for Peace as a volunteer educating young people on the realities of war and support advocacy group Child Soldiers International, who recently launched its Declare18! campaign, to get governments to raise the age to 18."  By Wayne Sharrocks, former British Army officer

23/01/2017 The Independent

The UK is one of few countries that allow minors to enlist. Despite calls to cease the recruitment of under-18s the Army is digging in to hold its ground.

23/01/2017 Bella Caledonia

The new British Army advert is astonishing. Organised violence as antidote to anomie.

09/01/2017 Child Soldiers International

This series of 2-minute films by Child Soldiers International give a powerful insight into the reality of signing up as a young recruit, how training brutalises young soldiers and the long-term harmful effects of training and combat.