Leave Our Kids Alone – Part 1

John Boulton Aged 16By John Boulton

If the history books are to be believed, the practice of ‘pressing’ the King’s/Queen’s shilling upon unsuspecting recruits by the Royal Navy and British Army (the most common point of delivery being at the bottom of an ale jug) seems to have been an effective one. I don’t doubt for a minute that today, there are those of you out there who believe that this archaic practice of recruitment, in respect to its level of deceit, is something that has never really gone away and serves as a sound analogy for the modern practice of enticing fresh crops of military recruits, with the lure and promise of education and the acquirement of ‘new skills.’

Well, it’s at least the subject of a documentary in the making that seeks to explore if the military are keeping to their side of the bargain but in particular, the focus being on ex-servicemen/veterans who ‘joined up’ below the age of eighteen and what affects if any, this junior engagement of service has had on them. A recent request for people to take part has prompted me to throw in my own two shillings worth having filled out my paperwork at fifteen years old and subsequently, joining as a  ‘Junior Leader’ in the British Army at sixteen years and four months.

One thing’s for sure; unless things have changed since my day, the Queens shilling is still very much in play and after my attestation in August of 1990, I received the modern equivalent, amounting to something like eleven pounds. With the ceremony complete, I took my father to the nearest pub and spent it buying him his first beers ‘on me.’ As I recall the barman looking me over, wondering probably if I should really have been at school instead of nervously rattling my change in front of his woodwork. That recollection seems ever more pertinent now and indeed, if somewhat, a little telling because if that’s what the barman had been thinking, well, he’d have been right and with hindsight, I’m certain that I should have been at school.

When I signed up I was still a child and to allow one to make such a serious and binding commitment at such a vulnerable and ill-informed age is simply wrong. I served in what was essentially a peace time army and it was not an entirely negative experience. I can’t say I was lied to in any way and in terms of my individual role as an armoured crewman, the army delivered and I was suitably trained and employed. What got me in the end was the boredom factor (such was my mindset back then). Unlike most of today’s young soldiers, I was lucky in that I was not subjected to actual combat and allowed to forgo what at such a tender age, can surely be nothing but a traumatic experience.

I deployed to Afghanistan as a reservist at the age of thirty three. Just five years later, my views on that conflict have turned 180 degrees. So imagine me at fifteen years old, I didn’t know my own mind at all and that for me is clearly the point. Why the MOD does recruit from this age group is obvious and entirely for that reason. The acquisition of young, malleable, and to a large degree, unquestioning minds.

As a supposedly ‘civilised’ society, we really should be encouraging our precious youth to seek the supposed benefits of military service elsewhere and steer them well clear of the morally corrupt ‘Military-Industrial Complex’ which to my mind is nothing more than a tool used to wage war on behalf of the ‘money-men’, Those major financiers and corporations that really have the say in how this world is run. Brigadier-General Smedley Butler (U.S. Marine Corps) once said, “War is a racket!” so lets stop doing it!

In closing, and without hesitation, I would raise the age of recruitment to at least twenty one. When I think about my own two sons signing their lives over to those who couldn’t care less about them (during the expenses scandal the Armed Forces Minister reportedly claimed £7.20 to attend a service of remembrance!) it sends me cold. There’s no chance I’ll be countersigning any such papers and I wouldn’t expect anybody else to do something I wasn’t prepared to do myself. Now that’s something positive that the Army did teach me!

John Boulton served in Afghanistan (Household Cavalry) and is a member of  Veterans For Peace (UK)

1 Comment

  1. STOP National service of the young save the kids from the evils of war and a corrupt government


    This Bill is expected to have its second reading debate on 6 September 2013.

    This Bill was presented to Parliament on 24 June 2013. This is known as the first reading and there was no debate on the Bill at this stage.

    This Bill is a Private Member’s Bill. These are often not printed until close to the second reading debate. If the text is not yet available here and you wish to know more about this bill please contact its sponsor, Mr Philip Hollobone.

    The government are responsible for murder and war crimes, any and all councils supporting government directives and orders are acting against the law and the People.

    The crimes associated with waging aggressive war, laid down in the Nuremberg Principles and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rome_Statute_of_the_International_Criminal_Court are clear.

    The government and the councils are also breaking protocol and going against the will of the people, with many of them being involved directly or indirectly in one way or another with multinationals and corporate.
    Code of Conduct for Members of the House

    Click to access code.pdf

    In the conduct of their parliamentary duties, Members of the House shall base their actions on consideration of the public interest, and shall resolve any conflict between their personal interest and the public interest at once, and in favour of the public interest
    Members of the House:
    (a) must comply with the Code of Conduct;
    (b) should act always on their personal honour; 4 CODE OF CONDUCT AND GUIDE TO THE CODE OF CONDUCT
    (c) must never accept or agree to accept any financial inducement as an incentive or reward for exercising parliamentary influence;
    (d) must not seek to profit from membership of the House by accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other incentive or reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services.
    Misconduct in Public Office

    Also see event

Comments are closed.