News Release 21.6.2016
Peace Pledge Union
Contact Symon Hill - 020 7424 9444
Armed forces accused of misleading children on Armed Forces Day
The armed forces have been accused of whitewashing their image with “family fun” events around the UK this Saturday (25 June) to mark Armed Forces Day. The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) warned that Armed Forces Day events routinely present war and weapons as clean and exciting.
The PPU, a UK-wide pacifist network, said that the armed forces were misleading children about the nature of warfare and armies.
Armed Forces Day comes less than a month after an inquest into the death of an 18-year-old soldier at Deepcut barracks, Cheryl James. The inquest highlighted a culture of bullying and sexual harassment within the army. Events such as Armed Forces Day allow the forces to show themselves in a positive light, despite such evidence of a brutalising culture.
Local events to mark Armed Forces Day are marketed as “family fun” in several towns, including Basingstoke, Mansfield and Stockton-on-Tees. The event in Caerphilly promises “displays of military equipment and military demonstrations”.
The “national event” for Armed Forces Day will this year be held in Cleethorpes, near RAF Waddington, from where the UK government’s drones are operated.
Hundreds of other events for Armed Forces Day include parades and flag-raising ceremonies, many involving the Army Cadets and other military youth organisations.
With the government falling short of its targets for recruitment to the Army Reserves, events such as Armed Forces Day have a slow-burn recruitment effect, making it more likely that young people will enlist when they are old enough. The UK is the only country in Europe to recruit 16-year-olds into the forces, in breach of international agreements.
Armed Forces Day will also coincide with the LGBT Pride parade in London, which will include troops marching in uniform, an RAF flypast and a section of the march featuring BAE Systems. The PPU is part of the No Pride in War campaign, arguing that armed forces and arms companies should not be allowed to misuse a human rights march to improve their image.
Symon Hill, Co-ordinator of the Peace Pledge Union, said:
“In previous years, Armed Forces Day has involved primary age children being invited to hold guns and sit in tanks. At an early age, children are given the message that weapons and uniforms go along with fun and entertainment. War is not fun. Violence is not entertainment. Young people should be allowed to make up their own minds about the moral complexities of war as they grow up.
“No institution should be immune from criticism. With British involvement in wars having less and less public support, the government and the arms industry have ramped up the image of the armed forces with little regard to how they operate in practice. Armed force does not tackle the root causes of insecurity. The armed forces require their members to obey orders to kill without question. This is not something we should be cheering.”
- The PPU is a UK-based pacifist network whose members pledge not to support war and to work instead for the removal of the causes of war. The PPU’s work includes challenging militarism, promoting active nonviolence, providing educational resources on peace and encouraging remembrance for all those killed or injured in war. Founded in 1934, the PPU is the oldest secular pacifist organisation in the UK.
- The PPU is known for its production of the White Poppy, which was worn by around 110,000 people in 2015.
- Armed Forces Day will be marked on Saturday 25 June 2016. Events to mark the day are listed at https://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/find-events.
- The head of the army, Nick Carter (Chief of the General Staff) admitted on 14 June 2016 that the Army had an “overly sexualised” culture. His comments followed revelations of bullying at the inquest into the death of Cheryl James at Deepcut barracks in Surrey, which concluded on 3 June 2016. A survey in 2015 discovered that around half of female recruits had experienced sexual harassment within the army.
- For more information or interviews, please contact Symon Hill on 020 7424 9444.