MoD denies it ‘glamorises war’ to attract young recruits

The armed forces have been accused of glamorising war in a bid to recruit children as young as seven in a critical new report.

After analysing how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) attracts new recruits, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust concluded its literature presents a misleading picture of army life, with the subsequent disillusionment leading to a high number of people dropping out of the armed forces.

The MoD rejected the claims, arguing its recruitment processes are honest but it is forced to compete against private companies in a competitive environment.

Nevertheless, the Joseph Rowntree report claimed MoD campaigns “glamorise warfare, omit vital information and fail to point out the risks and responsibilities associated with a forces career”.

Although the MoD officially does not recruit from schools, the researchers claimed the military effectively targets children as young as seven, while the UK is the only state in the EU that will recruit 16-year-olds to the military.

The MoD maintains it does not target people under the age of 16 and defends the recruitment of 16-year-olds, pointing out this is the legal age people may leave school and seek full-time work.

A department spokeswoman said: “The recruiting process is designed to protect the interests of the applicants at every stage, regardless of age.”

Nevertheless, the report claimed: “The MoD’s youth policy contradicts this, describing military curricula activities in educational establishments as a ‘powerful tool for facilitating recruitment especially if the skills developed through curricular activities have a direct bearing on military requirements’.”

The report, entitled Informed Choice? Armed Forces and Recruitment Practices in the UK, criticises recruitment literature for failing to tell minors they are unable to leave the army for four years, unless they do so within six months of signing up.

Overly optimistic literature is giving new recruits a distorted impression of armed forces life, the researchers continued, with 48 per cent of those surveyed complaining life was worse than expected.

This has led to high levels of drop-outs, with one in every two soldiers aged 16 to 22 years old leaving the army.

The MoD rejected claims its recruitment practices “glamorise war” and refuted any allegations it depicts warfare as “game-like”.

A MoD spokeswoman said: “We welcome any report that contributes to serious debate on the armed forces. However, some of these assertions are incorrect and ill-informed, others are selective in their interpretation of recruitment practices and some of the evidence is out of date.

“A career in the armed forces provides amazing and unique opportunities for a wide range of people from all sectors of society and equips people with skills and qualifications that can be transferred to civilian life.

“The success of our people on operations reflects the standard of our recruitment processes. Joining the services is a life-changing decision and is not taken lightly.”