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Teachers and parents contact PPU over Armed Forces Day fears

A small child handling a machine gun on Armed Forces Day 2018, Llandudno

Teachers and parents contact PPU over Armed Forces Day fears

Teachers and parents have been sharing their fears that children will be presented with a glamorised image of war on Armed Forces Day. 

Armed Forces Day will take place on Saturday 29 June 2019. The annual event was introduced ten years ago as the UK government sought to whip up support for the armed forces in the wake of public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

In recent years, Armed Forces Day events have involved children as young as seven being invited to handle real weapons and presented with an image of armed force as exciting and heroic. 

Hundreds of Armed Forces Day celebrations are planned around the UK, many of them subsidised by local councils with taxpayers' money. The "national event" will this year take place in Salisbury.  They include "fun days" and other events billed as "family" entertainment. A number of schools are expected to hold related events in the week leading up to Armed Forces Day. 

The Peace Pledge Union urged schools, local councils and other agencies not to glamorise war or present children and young people with a one-sided view of complex political and ethical issues around war and peace. 

However, the PPU is already worried after hearing from a number of members of the public who are worried about plans for Armed Forces Day. They include teachers who feel pressurised to accept Armed Forces Day events in their area, and parents who are considering keeping their children off school rather than letting them be subjected to military propaganda.

Several are now asking their schools or local councils to rule out inviting children to handle weapons. This issue proved controversial last year, when the "national event" for Armed Forces Day, then in Llandudno, saw primary school-aged children being encouraged to handle weapons so big that they could barely reach the controls (pictured above). 

Not all local authorities are going along with this. In Leicester, the authorities have prevented armed forces from allowing anyone under 16 to handle weapons, following a campaign by the group Leicester for Peace, supported by the PPU. Members of Leicester for Peace will be watching closely to ensure that this principle is observed when the city hosts its Armed Forces Day celebration, a week early on Saturday 22 June. 

Armed Forces Day is one of several initiatives in the last 10-15 years that have seen militarism creep into more and more areas of everyday life. Others include the doubling of cadet forces and the promotion of "military ethos" projects in schools

The PPU described the government's claim that the day is partly about "supporting veterans" as hollow rhetoric. They pointed out that the government is spending thousands on promoting militarism through Armed Forces Day while cutting the welfare state on which veterans - and everyone else - should be able to rely. The UK has the seventh highest military expenditure in the world. 

The PPU added that Armed Forces Day is about celebrating the armed forces as institutions, not meeting people's needs. They pointed out that for all the government's talk of respecting troops, there are an estimated 13,000 homeless veterans in the UK. 

Protests and vigils are planned in several towns and cities, and in others small groups of PPU supproters are expected to hand out flyers challenging Armed Forces Day and encouraging their communities to promote values of peace and active nonviolence, while addressing the real needs of veterans and others affected by war. 

The PPU can provide flyers and postcards if you want to hand them out, or stage other nonviolent protests, in your community. We can also provide advice if you want to challenge your local council, school, workplace or other organisation about Armed Forces Day and everyday militarism. The PPU offers suggestions for challenging Armed Forces Day in your own area

And we also want to hear about the protests, vigils and alternative events that are already planned - so that we can promote them to others.

Please get in touch if you you would like:

  • To hand out PPU flyers in your area on Armed Forces Day.
     
  • To receive support or advice from the PPU in approaching your local council or school.
     
  • To give us information about a protest or alternative event you are planning.

You can reach us at mail@ppu.org.uk or on 020 7424 9444. We will do what we can to help!