Resist Militarism Network andVeterans For Peace UK have collaborated today in erecting a pop-up cinema in Glasgow city centre to draw attention to a campaign to raise the British Army recruitment age from 16 to 18.
(photo: Darren Cullen and Veterans for Peace)
The cinema screened Action Man: Battlefield Casualties,which has been viewed over 400,000 times in just 36 hours. The series of dark, satirical adverts showing three toy soldiers complete with anti-depressants, wheelchairs and body-bags has received wide praise from veterans and civilians alike, who have commented on its brutal honesty.
The Action Man film, written by artist Darren Cullen, has been released this week to counterArmed Forces Day, a marketing push by the Ministry of Defence focused on children and their parents in operation since 2009. 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”.
By the Duke of Wellington statue (famous in Glasgow for the traffic cone on his head), opposite the military recruitment office and just a street away from the City Council’s festivities for Armed Forces Day, Saturday afternoon shoppers, as well as veterans and service-members who had just left a civic reception held in the City Chambers, watched the videos inside an ex-Army tent.
(photo: Resist Militarism Network)
Veterans For Peace UK are using the film to build support for the campaign to raise the recruitment age of the British Army. The UK is the only country in the EU who recruit 16 year old children, and astudy by human rights groups ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International in 2013 found that soldiers who enlisted at 16 and completed training are twice as likely to die in Afghanistan as those who enlisted aged 18 or above.
Veterans for Peace member, John Boulton, who joined the army at 16 and went on to serve in Afghanistan commented, “The UK is one of only nineteen countries worldwide still recruiting 16 year olds into the Army. We want to put pressure on the government to bring UK recruitment policy into line with the rest of the world.”
(photo: Resist Militarism Network)
The pop-up cinema also screened The Unseen March, a new film developed by Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) about the increasing influence that the military have in schools nation-wide. According to a report from Forces Watch, on 2 September 2014 the Prime Minister’s office and the Ministry of Defence launchedThe British Armed Forces: Learning Resource 2014. The document is framed as a History, English and Citizenship resource for Key Stages 1-4 (5-16 year-olds) ‘to educate children about the work of the UK armed forces’1
Former head of the Army’s recruitment strategy Colonel David Allfrey has said that, “Our new model is about raising awareness, and that takes a ten-year span. It starts with a seven-year-old boy seeing a parachutist at an air-show and thinking, “That looks great” From then the army is trying to build interest by drip, drip, drip.”
Helen Croxton from Resist Militarism Network commented “The military have ramped up their efforts in schools – along with the North of England, Scotland is their favourite recruitment catchment area. The glorification of the Armed Forces in George Square today is part of a dampening of critical thinking and a worrying trend of militarisation across the UK. There needs to be alternative messages out there for our youth.”
Veterans For Peace and Resist Militarism Network are calling for the recruitment age in the UK to be raised to 18 in line with most countries worldwide. The video as well as details about the campaign are on the Vets For Peace website:www.battlefieldcasualties.co.uk
1Prime Minister’s Office (2014), The British Armed Forces Learning Resource 2014,http://www.armedforceslearningresources.co.uk; press release from Ministry of Defence, Anna Soubry MP, Department for Education and Prime Minister’s Office (2 September 2014), Armed forces learning,http://www.gov.uk/government/news/armed-forces-learning