An Alternative Message in Glasgow on Armed Forces Day

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.”

Comments (8)

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  1. Robin Stevenson says:

    Hmm ..16 or 18 is there really that much of a difference? Do those 2 years extra alter dramatically our intended course? Do we go into those things and make those choices any the wiser? We can marry and pay tax at sixteen and there is now a call for 16-17 year olds to get the vote. Surely, if they’re old enough to make life changing decisions [like choosing your government] then it stands to reason that those individuals are capable of whether or not to choose a career in the armed forces?

    Information is key and I applaud Darren for showing the “flip side” of the shiny face presented by the Armed forces spin, however, are 16 year olds any “less” aware of the potential dangers of possibly having to deal with a war situation, or perhaps that’s the initial attraction for many?

    “Would my decisions have been different If I was 18 when I joined the Royal Navy? I don’t know”.

    Perhaps a reintroduction of National service for all 16/17 yr olds may have answered that question without the threat of having to go off to a war zone to find out? [just like some of our Nordic friends]

    1. jak... says:

      If im honest its not summin ive actuall thought about in any kinda detail until reading this and now when i thiink of it and look at my daughter whos just turned 16yrs a cpl wks back i cant but now be of the opinion nahhh 16yrs is too young, they are still babies never start training for 2yrs to prepare them for entering a war zone at the tender age of 18yrs…god bless s all in this horrible position xx

  2. Bleat says:

    You can’t go to war or be sent abroad until eighteen and most army/ navy ‘tours’ or contracts are 2 years. So enough time to reconsider.

  3. Bill Fraser says:

    I see no harm in 16 year olds(who are not nowadays regarded as just children)enlisting.We allow them to vote and it gives the 16y.o. training and further education to enable them to have a good start in adult life.If they do not wish to make a full time career of service life they no doubt have the option to leave .

  4. Moira MacDonald says:

    I am a teacher of 15-18 year olds the majority of whom go on to tertiary education. It horrifies me the thought of any of them going into the brutal world of the armed services at all. If we require to have armed forces then young people should have a period of at least five years after school before they are eligible to join. For those who are forced in by poverty of lack of opportunity, let’s provide them with alternatives, a society that can offer apprenticeships and training schemes.

  5. Jean says:

    Really glad to see that there is an alternative to the flag waving, military idolatry that the British are so good at. Making the sending of our children or grandchildren as in my case, off to kill or be killed in the name of a country or political idea is inhuman.

    This is presented in the form of heroism, tradition, history (not something the British really should be too proud of, in my opinion).

    Our young people are beginning to see through the fluffy bits. They are better educated now, they are questioning the status quo. We need to encourage this and blanket them with more of this alternative thought…….keep it up and thank you.

  6. barakabe says:

    These pages are being trolled more & more by reactionary right-wing types that I never actually meet in the real world-where are all these people coming from? Do they get paid to advance views that normal people just don’t speak of in public? “What’s the difference between a 16 year old & an 18 year old?” A reintroduction of national service? “I see no harm in 16 year olds(who are not nowadays regarded as just children)enlisting”- Jesus save us in our hour of need.

  7. Fearchar says:

    Although the rules do prevent youngsters in the armed forces from being sent to battle zones, the rules are not always adhered to, particularly when budgets are being hoovered up by the nuclear fantasy. Come to think of it, both tactical nuclear weapons and under-18s were deployed to the Falklands during the war there, although, of course, the UK media would not have dared to report those events.

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