Blink and you’ll have missed Britain’s Armed Forces Day this weekend, a flurry of patriotic sign-up and propaganda.
To celebrate Veterans For Peace U.K. released several short, dark, mordant films as part of their campaign against enlisting 16-year-olds into the armed forces. The UK is the only EU member and one of only nineteen countries worldwide, including North Korea and Iran, that still recruits 16-year-olds, a practice that’s been challenged by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and many other human rights groups. Resist Militarism Network and Veterans For Peace UK collaborated by erecting a pop-up cinema in Glasgow city centre to draw attention to the campaign.
The Action Man film, was written by artist Darren Cullen. Cullen said: “Armed Forces Day is designed to capture the imagination of children, with face painting, marches and military vehicles. But the flag waving and grinning photo opportunities conceal the brutal possible outcomes of military service. Our film is intended to counter the recruitment propaganda of Armed Forces Day”.
Whilst the Armed Forces enlist the reality is that army policy is to channel the youngest and poorest to the front line. No other EU country recruits 16 year olds to its armed forces. As Conor McAllister, ex Royal Navy puts it:
“As a young boy leaving school at 16 in 2008, with no qualifications and few opportunities in my home city of Glasgow, I joined the ranks of the armed forces, out of economic necessity and eagerness not make my single mother’s life more difficult. At 17 I was sent to HMS Caledonia in Rosyth for induction training, and was shocked by the relaxed nature of my week stay there, my initial excitement changed to a chillness that never left during my five years service. I joined the warfare department because a careers adviser told me it was a department with many roles and opportunities, these were lies. In hindsight, it was the young who were made to do the jobs others shunned, and were all too eager to pass misinformation to the vulnerable.
Would my decisions have been different If I was 18 when I joined the Royal Navy? I don’t know. But what I do know after five services is that a clear head and time must be taken whilst making the decision to join the armed forces. At 16 we don’t yet hold the knowledge of what military career means, until the careers advisers from the military acknowledge the damage that can be done to the young in our society they must raise the recruitment age to 18, like most other countries throughout the world.”