resources: veterans' experience

March 2018

Written evidence submitted by ForcesWatch to the Defence Committee's Armed Forces and Veterans Mental Health Inquiry.

We conclude that:

More independent research, in anonymised conditions, needs to be carried out in a number of areas, including:

  • The relationship between early enlistment (especially junior entry), prior vulnerabilities such as socio-economic disadvantage, and short and long-term health impacts.
  • The connection between military training and mental ill-health.
  • Developmental issues that affect adolescents in particular, for example in assessing and appreciating long-term risk and making an informed decision to enlist.
  • Moral injury and how issues of conscience impact mental health.

Steps should be taken to improve legal procedures by which claims of harassment and bullying are investigated and incidents are reported within the military.

In order to avoid mental health risks to young soldiers, junior entry recruitment of those under 18 should end. There needs to be greater understanding about pre-enlistment risk factors for psychological ill-health such as socio-economic disadvantage and childhood adversity, and a consequent shift away from recruitment marketing that targets vulnerable groups.

August 2017

With this new project, the Peace Pledge Union and ForcesWatch will work with local groups around the UK to provide schools with a White Poppies for Schools Pack. The pack includes 100 White Poppies in a display box, alongside an information pack with 10 White Poppy information leaflets and ten Rethinking Remembrance Day resources.

June 2017

This report 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. The findings show that military training and culture combine with pre-existing issues (such as a childhood history of anti-social behaviour) to increase the risk of violence and alcohol misuse. Traumatic war experiences further exacerbate the problem.

The report explains that the main purpose of army training is to mould young civilians as soldiers who will follow orders by reflex and kill on demand. It demands unquestioning obedience, stimulates aggression and antagonism, overpowers a healthy person’s inhibition to killing, and dehumanises the opponent in the recruit’s imagination. Recruits are taught that stressful situations are overcome through dominance.

The First Ambush? Effects of army training and employment (70pp) draws on veterans’ testimony and around 200 studies, mainly from the UK and US, to explore the effects of army employment on recruits, particularly during initial training.

 

January 2017

Army adverts don't tell you what being a soldier is really like.

At 17, Wayne Sharrocks joined the infantry. His training made him obey the army completely, until it had control of how he thought and what he did. He says that by the end of his training he could have killed another person right in front of him 'at the flick of a switch' with ‘an insane amount of aggression’. He now thinks army training is 'massively damaging' to the mind of a young person.

After he turned 18 Wayne was sent to Afghanistan. There he saw a friend’s legs ripped off and another friend killed. He was injured in the face. Nothing in his training could protect him or his friends.

He couldn't just ‘switch off’ his army training after he left, he says, which caused him all sorts of problems.

Now Wayne thinks that the army shouldn’t be recruiting 16 and 17 year-olds. While it still does, he believes it's better to wait until you’re 18 before deciding whether to join up.

Find out about Wayne's time in the army in these 3-minute videos:

November 2016

The Peacemakers organisation, who provide peace education for schools, has produced a useful short summary of the basics of teaching controversial issues with a list of other resources on the subject.

More guidance and resources can be found at The Citizenship Foundation.

November 2016

Veterans for Peace UK is an international chapter of the U.S.network. 

They run workshops in schools and colleges giving an honest view of military life, as well as publish and campaign around military and peace issues. 

November 2013

The Militarisation in Everyday Life in the UK conference was held in London in 2013 and was organised by ForcesWatch. It brought together academics, writers, activists and campaigners concerned about the implications of the militarisation of everyday life in the UK.

12 presentations were filmed. For more details and background reading, see here.

Diana Francis, Looking at everyday militarisation. See more presentations.

28 October 2013

This report from ForcesWatch, shows that young soldiers recruited from disadvantaged backgrounds are substantially more likely than other troops to return from war experiencing problems with their mental health. 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.

Download the full report (PDF 1294kb)

Download the Executive Summary (PDF 268kb)

2013

Watch on YouTube

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

2012

Kevin McSorley

in War and the Body: Militarisation, Practice and Experience, Kevin McSorley (ed), 2012

This book places the body at the centre of critical thinking about war,giving embodiment and bodily issues an analytic recognition they have often been denied in the annals and ontology of conventional war scholarship. The reality of war is not  just politics by any other means but politics incarnate, politics written on and experienced through the thinking, feeling bodies of men and women. From steeled combatants to abject victims, from the grieving relative to the exhausted aid worker, war occupies innumerable bodies in a multitude of ways, profoundly shaping lives and ways of being human.