Anne Diamond - in defence of our forces

PUBLISHED: 09:56 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 10:12 20 December 2013

Soldiers in Action

Soldiers in Action

Archant

We have nothing to be ashamed about by allowing 16-year-olds to sign up for the British Army, Anne declares. They, and their families, deserve our support

Why, oh why does the media in this country so love to misrepresent and ‘do down’ the armed services of which most of us are so proud? I was really fed up recently to hear that Britain should be ashamed to recruit so-called ‘child soldiers’.

As such, said two charities - Child Soldiers International and ForcesWatch, - Britain was one of a group of fewer than 20 states in the world which recruits from age 16. It is out of step, they said, with the prevailing trend towards a global ban on child soldiers.

After that, mainstream papers like the Guardian ran with headlines like: ‘Why do the British armed forces still allow 16-years to enlist?’ as though we were doing something as morally repugnant and vicious as the gunpoint recruitment of small boys into terrorist fighting forces in rebel armies in rogue African states.

True, everyone in the UK is entitled to an opinion, and it’s also fair for many trendy, liberal media voices to point out, ironically, that British 16-year-olds cannot vote, drive a car or drink alcohol, whilst they can join the military and learn how to fight. But they don’t get anywhere near combat until they’re 18, and in the two years until then they’ve learned a whole lot of other skills than just how to be a soldier.

And what’s the alternative for many of them? Hanging around on street corners, suffering from isolation and depression, and getting into trouble? Because that, in many cases, is the only true alternative.

Nothing for us as a country to be proud of – obviously something that needs addressing because there should be many more choices - but true. And what, I want to know, is so wrong with a military training? We talked about this issue recently on The Wright Stuff, and every single phone call from the viewers was supportive of early recruitment. Many of them said they’d been 16 and proud to join the army and later return to Civvy Street with a trade, they’d seen the world, often met their mate, and had a proud history of service.

We british armyhave many armed forces bases in our patch, throughout Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, and I am sure many readers will feel, like me, that whilst we support our serving guys and girls, and the growing numbers of part-time soldiers.

Want to comment on Anne’s view? Go to berksandberks.greatbritishlife.co.uk and have your say. Listen to Anne on BBC Radio Berkshire, 95.4 and 104.1FM, from 10am to 1pm

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