Strategies & resources

  • Several groups have organised vigils for peace to coincide with public military events. Others have organised film showings, for example showing the film War School, as a gentle way of inviting people to engage with the issue.
  • Many groups have begun long-term dialogue with stakeholders, from their council to those who own or are responsible for various event spaces, to their local armed forces base commander. If you would like support with this, please contact us.
  • If you want to find out when the military will be holding public events in your local town centre, you can use a Freedom of Information request. Here is an example from campaigners in Leicester.
  • One powerful way of furthering critical debate is to use local and international press to raise concerns. See this letter, entitled War marketed as family entertainment, in the Independent.
  • Are there other local groups you can connect with? Many organisations have local groups or members around the country who may be interested in helping organize, taking part in events or spreading the word.
  • Over 80 local authorities in the UK are part of the global Mayors for Peace network which works for a nuclear-free world. The UK also has its own network of nuclear-free local authorities.
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Why should this be challenged

The armed forces present their careers to young people as a route to personal fulfillment and social mobility ignoring the many risks, difficulties and legal obligations that a military career involves. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to sophisticated marketing messages and to the use of objects of war – weapons and military vehicles – to promote the military. See more in our Selling the Military report.

Seeing weapons and military vehicles in public spaces and community events normalises war and sanitises armed violence. The visible presence of military hardware in public spaces dominates the space with symbols of warfare and military approaches, creating a sense of preparing for the next war and eroding the shared assumption that as communities we are working for peace. Displays of military hardware are more likely to divide communities than unite them as many people do not consider that military activities should be presented as family fun and entertainment.

Local groups have raised concerns about how displays of weapons within their communities may impact refugees from countries that have suffered at the sharp end of armed conflict.

It is vital that children and young people are encouraged to have empathy, awareness and sensitivity towards others within their community or elsewhere in the world.… Read more

Background information

Militarism has been a long-standing part of British politics and society. There has, however, been a ‘new tide of militarism’ in evidence in recent years.

A helpful way of understanding militarism is to see it as:

  • the normalisation of war and war-preparedness
  • the prioritisation of the needs and interests of military institutions
  • the extension of military culture and influence into everyday life (via education, central and local government, businesses, charities, popular culture and more).

We discuss this in more detail here. As discussed in our Warrior Nation report by Paul Dixon, the ‘militarisation offensive’ of recent years is due at least in part to backlash from unpopular wars and to the ‘recruitment crisis’ faced the military.

Examples of this militarisation process include the introduction of Armed Forces Day, Armed Forces Covenants, and increasing military influence in education and youth activities, such as cadet expansion.

These developments are active in local communities and have visible results. While the presence of the military at community events is not new, there is a sense that this is empowered and encouraged by the new formal relationships created by the Armed Forces Covenants between the armed forces and local authorities and many other organisations.… Read more

Chester

Local Quakers in Chester grew concerned about the Armed Forces bringing weapons into the town centre, and children being allowed to play with them, at recruitment events such as ‘Reserves Day’ or at times not particularity coinciding with an event. The Quaker Meeting supported 3 Friends as they worked on this concern on their behalf.

Examples of the weapons and military vehicles from 2017 included:

‘On the last occasion I encountered a stand outside the Town Hall there was a military quad bike, a missile launcher that “took out tanks”, a smaller version for easier targets and a soldier in full camouflage (painted face, netting cover and woven in greenery). The occasion before that there was a Jeep with a long range gun mounted on the back. Children were attracted to this military hardware and encouraged to sit on the quad bike and handle the missile launchers’.

On Reserves Day: ‘I was appalled to see the army in Bridge Street today, allowing small children to play with real guns.  My lasting impression is of a two-year old (or thereabouts) standing on the seat of a land rover, trying to manoeuvre a gun at least twice as long as he was.’

Initially a letter was sent to the company to whom Chester and Cheshire West Council outsource the hiring of public spaces.… Read more

Wrexham

In June 2014, North Wales Armed Forces Day was held in Wrexham. Wrexham Peace and Justice Forum were concerned that they were being asked to ‘celebrate’ and ‘thank’ the Armed Forces ‘without any critical analysis of the recent conflicts they have been involved in’ and that the event would be used for recruitment, particularly aimed at children.

They coordinated an open letter to Wrexham County Borough Council, which was signed by over 100 people and organisations. The letter protested against the council’s promotion, sponsorship and funding of Armed Forces Day,  and specifically the use of a picture of a toddler in military gear to advertise it. It highlighted the terrible effects of war, the inappropriateness of presenting it as entertainment, and the dangers of the recruiting messages at the event. It also raised concerns that the North Wales Armed Forces Day Ambassador (a young veteran) had recommended that under-18s should sign up for the forces.

The letter was also sent to local councillors and the local paper. When the council replied, and following some negative coverage from the media, individuals followed up the initial letter with further letters to the council and local press.

Extracts from the open letter to Wrexham County Borough Council, and from further letters to the council and press from supportive groups and individuals

We note that Wrexham Council is sponsoring and promoting North Wales Armed Forces Day 2014 on Saturday 21 June, and are horrified that a picture of a toddler dressed in military uniform is being used to advertise the event.

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Leicester

Members of Leicester for Peace/Leicester Against War and Civic Leicester have grown concerned in recent years about the presence of Army recruiting stalls in Leicester city centre and with young children encouraged to handle weapons and sit in and play on military vehicles.

For several years, they documented this activity, sharing the photos on social media and with civil society organisations working for peace and social justice. Their Facebook photo albums included links to resources including a report by public health charity Medact on the health impacts of early enlistment and a letter from child and human rights groups to the Ministry of Defence regarding the recruitment of minors.

People in Leicester are aware of the militarisation that is taking place around them and they are responding to it by documenting the militarisation, by questioning it, and by looking to reduce the harms that are caused by the presence of armed men on the streets of the city.It is highly likely that this campaign will continue for as long as the institutions that are driving the militarisation continue to do so because Leicester has a long history of campaigning for peace. For example, there was a significant anti-war movement in the city in the run-up to the First World War.

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