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

ForcesWatch comment

09/12/2016

A history teacher from Coventry got in touch with ForcesWatch to share her experience of teaching Remembrance to year nine classes this year after reading the resource Rethinking Remembrance in Schools: 'Teaching about Remembrance this year was a vastly different experience for me than previous years'.

30/11/2016

Members of the Scottish Parliament have agreed to seek further evidence on our joint petition – with Quakers in Scotland – calling for greater scrutiny and guidance around military visits to schools.

12/11/2016

The Royal British Legion is asking the public to 'Rethink Remembrance'. Can we remember without obscuring the realities of war and overlaying this important act with militarism?

18/10/2016

This article was first published in the Morning Star.

The Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, recently announced that 25 out of 150 proposed new school cadet units would soon be opening. Despite the presentation of this development as new policy, the Cadet Expansion Programme promoting cadet forces in state schools, was first announced in 2012. While the Government heralds the cadets as a silver bullet in terms of improving pupil attainment and development, the sight of ranks of pupils as young as 12 in military gear and handling weapons will ring alarm bells for many. That this is happening within education raises additional concerns.

21/09/2016

Back in March we asked Holyrood to ensure ‘guidance is provided to schools', ‘information is collected to provide public monitoring’ and ‘parents/guardians are consulted’ when it comes to visits by the military. Last week we gave evidence to the Public Petitions Committee.

23/06/2016

This letter from ForcesWatch staff member Douglas Beattie was first published in the Camden New Journal on 23 June 2016 in response to Camden Council's support of Armed Forces Day.

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our projects

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.

December 2015: 'Commonsense and Understanding': Recommendations from the Defence Committee's Duty of Care report that are still outstanding 10 years on

This report highlights seven recommendations from the Defence Committee’s report Duty of Care (2005) which have not been partially or fully implemented, and around which substantial concerns remain about the welfare of young recruits. The report calls for the age of armed forces recruitment to be raised to 18. See more

June 2016: Government must take urgent action over Deepcut recommendations
With the new inquest verdict into the death of Cheryl James at Deepcut, ForcesWatch is calling on Ministers to implement important recommendations for young recruits made in 2005.

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

November 2015: Peace Education and the promotion of the armed forces in UK schools

This report highlights that peace education is not being promoted in schools, counter to the recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to the UK Government. This raises concerns particularly with the increased promotion of the military within schools through the Department for Education's 'military ethos' programme and free military-related learning resources, and as the armed forces continue to conduct a substantial 'youth engagement' programme. See more

May 2015: The recruitment agenda behind the UK armed forces’ ‘engagement’ with students in schools and colleges
This briefing challenges the MoD and armed forces' claims that they don’t recruit in schools and that 'engaging' with students does not have a recruitment purpose.  See more

See our other materials on the military in education

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.

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 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.

Ask your MP and MSP to sign

Ask your MP to sign an Early Day Motion on The Recruitment of Minors into the UK Armed Forces.

If you are in Scotland, ask your MSP to sign a similar motion on the Medact Report on British Armed Forces Recruitment.

See more info and sample texts to use here

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.

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

Events

Edinburgh Peace and Justice are hosting a meeting of the Countering Militarisation of Young People Working Group on 12 December 2016, 6-8pm. Anyone interested in getting involved in countering military visits to schools and recruitment of under 18s is invited. See more

Watch our 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? This short film explores these questions and gives teenagers the opportunity to voice their reaction to the military’s interest in their lives.

See film and more info. With Welsh subtitles.

Watch the film trailer below:

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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

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.

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

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.

latest news

24/11/2016 Child Soldiers International press release

Figures released today reveal that the British Army has increased its intake of 16-year-olds in the past 12 months, defying calls from the UN, children’s rights organisations and others campaigning for an end to the recruitment of minors.

23/11/2016

Ask your MP to sign an Early Day Motion on The Recruitment of Minors into the UK Armed Forces. If you are in Scotland, ask your MSP to sign a similar motion on the Medact Report on British Armed Forces Recruitment.

23/11/2016 ForcesWatch press release

MSPs will consider what further action to take on a petition from ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland calling for increased transparency and scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools this Thursday (24 November).

22/11/2016 various

Coverage highlights the Scottish Children's Commissioner concerns about the age of recruitment and armed forces visits to schools, and the motion in the Scottish Parliament about the vulnerabilities of young recruits, as discussed in the recent Medact report.

18/10/2016 Guardian

Recruiting children aged 16 and 17 into the British army places them at greater risk of death, injury and long-term mental health problems than those recruited as adults, according to a new report.

17/10/2016 Various

The Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, choose the Conservative Party conference to announce the next phase of the Cadet Expansion Programme with 25 new cadet units being set up in state schools.

16/09/2016 various

On Thursday 15 September, ForcesWatch and Quakers in Scotland went to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence to the Public Petitions Committee about armed forces visits to schools.

13/09/2016 ForcesWatch press release

A petition calling for increased transparency and scrutiny of armed forces visits to schools in Scotland comes before Holyrood this Thursday 15 September.