- Local and national organisations are uniting to show their opposition to Armed Forces Day, due to be held in Falmouth on 24th June. Groups involved include Campaign Against Arms Trade, the Peace Pledge Union, ForcesWatch, Demilitarise Education, Cornwall Resists and local and national Quaker organisations. All groups say that we should be giving peace a chance rather than glorifying the military. Events planned include talks, stalls, street theatre, banners, protests and more.
- Campaigners reject the notion that Armed Forces Day is family entertainment, and are particularly concerned about the targeting of children during the event. The UK is one of only 17 countries, and the only one in Europe, which allows for the military recruitment of children. The United Nations Child Rights Committee recently called on the UK government to raise the age of recruitment to 18 and prohibit the targeting of children in military advertising. Since 2008, there has been a concerted push by the armed forces to engage with school children, especially those in deprived areas, with visits to 10,000 schools a year.
- Groups are also highlighting the fact that BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest arms companies, is sponsoring the event. Arms companies profit from conflict and it is not in the interest of their shareholders to look for alternatives to increased militarism and global instability.
- Armed Forces Day has cost Cornwall Council at least £300,000 during a cost of living crisis. Local groups are appalled that this money has been spent promoting militarism when local services have been cut to the bone.
- The day is also taking place at the same time the Bibby Stockholm refugee prison ship is likely to still be in Falmouth. It is currently in the dry docks to double its capacity to house 500 refugees and asylum seekers in accommodation the size of parking spaces. This ship is a wider manifestation of the border violence that is enacted on people seeking sanctuary, many of whom are fleeing conflicts either caused by the British military, or the devastation caused by bombs made by British arms companies such as BAE.
ForcesWatch coordinator Luke Starr said:
“While presented as a celebration of veterans and service personnel, Armed Forces Day is also a huge opportunity to normalise military action and run recruitment activities. We are particularly concerned with the weaponry used to attract children and young people that goes unchallenged at these events.
“The armed forces outreach teams are also offering visits to schools, including Navy activities for children as young as 10 and Army and RAF careers activities for young people aged 14 or more. With local schools also invited to the event, the armed forces are leaving no stone unturned in reaching kids despite the council’s own assessment that there are people and groups in the community that do not support the event.”
Emily Apple, CAAT’s media spokesperson stated:
“BAE’s sponsorship of Armed Forces Day tells you everything you need to know about the event. This is an event that is about promoting conflict and attempting to sanitise the death and destruction caused by the arms trade. Between 2015 to 2022, BAE received £22.4 billion from arms sales to the Saudi regime for its use in its war with Yemen. War crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition include the bombings of hospitals, funerals and schools, causing one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. BAE always has, and always will, prioritise the wallets of shareholders over human lives.”
A spokesperson for Cornwall Resists, a network of radical local groups stated:
“The publicity and hype from the council and local media over Armed Forces day is utterly sickening. The event is happening at the same time, and in the same place, that the Bibby Stockholm refugee prison ship is being refitted, and we are being asked to celebrate the military and arms trade that’s caused so many people to flee and face racist border violence and this government’s hostile environment in the first place. We say no. We say Armed Forces Day does not represent us or Falmouth. Falmouth is a diverse and welcoming place. We will not be complicit in border violence or glorifying the colonial past or present of the British military.”
Paul Parker, recording clerk, Quakers in Britain said:
“Quakers believe that all life is precious. We have always tried to ‘live in that life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars.’
“Instead of pretending that Armed Forces Day is a family-friendly celebration of their peace-keeping work, the British government should stop recruiting children into the military and stop recruiting the wider society to be war ready. We should be investing in education for peace, not war.”
Demilitarise Education Co-Founder and Executive Director Jinsella said:
“Universities currently support the global arms trade mainly through investments, careers links, and research collaborations, which in turn fuels war and has a devastating impact on human rights around the world.
“The militarism of our society and institutions is being perpetuated through events like Armed Forces Day and through these continued unethical partnerships. Universities should use their resources to advance peace by focusing on innovation that serves sustainability and peace, not war.”
Notes to editors:
- Extracts from the film War School, alongside a discussion will take place at the Poly in Falmouth on 22nd June, 6pm War School: Film Extracts & Discussion with Ellis Brooks (15) – Talks – What’s On – The Poly at Falmouth