Coffee House

Why the armed forces make young people proud

14 January 2013

2:10 PM

14 January 2013

2:10 PM

The popularity of the armed forces as an icon of British pride among young people shows the value of seeing members of the military out and about in our regular lives.

In a poll for British Future, 16-24 year olds picked the military as the institution that makes them proudest to be British. They rated it at 43 per cent, ahead of Team GB at 39 per cent and the NHS at 37 per cent.

Only a couple of years ago the wider population never saw soldiers and sailors in uniform as they walked to the supermarket or boarded a bus. But the rules  changed and this is a generation which has grown up seeing members of the military around far more regularly than their parents would have done.

Some of the ‘them and us’ barriers have been pulled down, but we have also been reminded of the role the military play just by seeing them close at hand, rather than removed from our daily lives on the television in remote locations.

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Having grown up in the USA, where you have seen soldiers in uniform when off duty for decades, I’ve often felt there was a different relationship between the British public and the military compared to the Americans.

Americans tend to engage soldiers they see in a queue for a bus or plane in conversation, they want to know more about what they do, and also are eager to tell them how proud they are of the services. British society seems to feel far more removed from their forces, partly because they didn’t ever meet anyone involved, and therefore the pride was toned down, or not acknowledged.

In the queues to enter the Olympic stadium, where the armed forces were keeping a watch on security, was the first time I saw something similar in this country. Clearly there were Olympic spectators who had rarely, if ever, come across a member of the military, and were finding it fascinating to just have the chance to chat.

What we saw was a breaking-down of some of the barriers between civilians and the military. While national service was still in place, most families across the nation would have had regular contact with the military in some form.

Post 1963, large sections of society didn’t know anyone in the forces, and weren’t aware of even coming across someone in the forces, due to the code of not wearing uniforms in public.

One of the lessons we should learn from the Olympics is the benefit of having national moments when ordinary members of the armed forces and ordinary members of the public get a chance to exchange thoughts, and make contact. And going forward we ought to find more moments, and opportunities like this, to break down barriers where they still exist.

Rachael Jolley is editorial director of thinktank British Future.

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Show comments
  • Daniel Maris

    I am not surprised given all the brainwashing we’ve had that people admire them so much, but perhaps we should look at the realities, accepting that there are huge numbers of brave and resourceful personnel in our armed forces….

    1. Britain handed Basra to Islamic extremists.

    2. They failed in Helmand in Afghanistan.

    3. In both cases 1 and 2 it was left to the Americans and others to retrieve the situation.

    4. Our patrol tactics in Afghanistan were near suicidal and leadership appalling.

    5. Officers allow a culture of brutality and extreme torture to be applied to detainees in Iraq.

    6. Our armed forces are riddled with class, racism and freemasonry. There is no way someone like Colin Powell could ever have got to head up British armed forces. But there is a way a lot of sub-standard officers who know how to pass the port get to or near the top.

    7. The shambles of defence expenditure cannot be laid enitrely at the door of the Defence Ministry. The armed forces themselves must have some role to play in this.

    • William Haworth

      Daniel, I’m sure you have first-hand experience of points 6 and 7. Don’t you? Otherwise, wind your neck in.

      • Daniel Maris

        You rather prove my point if you are saying that discussion of the record of the armed forces is verboten. It’s never been that brilliant. The Americans beat us. The Prussians saved us at Waterloo. The less said about the Crimean War the better. The Indian Mutiny was a near disaster. General Gordon and his lot were massacred by a bunch of savages. We nearly lost a war against a rag tag army of guerillas in South Africa around 1900. The army leadership was murderous towards its own side in the Great War and only started becoming a proper fighting organisation thanks to leaders like Lloyd George . Singapore fell to a relatively small Japanese force armed mainly with bicycles, despite them being under great pressure. Again the leadership and strategy were appalling. I met some of the survivors of that episode – you should have heard what they had to say about the army leadership. Then a succession of colonial debacles (more the politicians’ fault I would agree but including some eye-watering torture in Kenya let’s not forget). So on, up to the present day. Leaving aside I would say the defence of the nation in 1940, the drive into Western Europe in 1944 and the retaking of the Falklands I don’t think you can say it is a particularly glorious record.

        • William Haworth

          I was asking for your evidence on your points 6 and 7; you used the present tense, so I assumed you didn’t mean that Wellington’s army in the Peninsula was riddled with class, racism and freemasonry (which was all true, but then they did win, regardless). I’ll grant you points 1-5, but banging on with outdated stereotypes is not helpful or relevant.

          • Daniel Maris

            I’ve got personal experience of some elements of this but the evidence in public is pretty clear:

            There are about 40 lodges defined as “military”.

            *ttp://www.militarymasons.co.uk/History2.html

            The fact that no black people are represented in the higher elechons of the army and that most people of colour in the services are not from the UK but are Fijians or Gurkhas confirms the institutional nature of the racism.

            On class, I think the army has gone backwards since the days of conscription. I don’t have figures to hand – I’m not even sure they are collected, but all I see at the top of the armed forces are people who look and sound like they are from the upper middle classes.

            • d knight

              defined as “military” – conclusive proof.

              There are no astronauts in the higher echelons of the British Army – or as far as I am aware former ice cream salesmen Your point is what? The higher echelons are composed of a very small proportion of the total Army population – BME recruits are a relatively small proportion of that Army, so it is hardly surprising is it?

              Your preconceptions about class are about 40 years out of date. “Look and sound like they are from the upper middle classes” is hardly objective proof is it?

              You seem to deal in stereotypes through a lens of a bitter class warrior

              • Daniel Maris

                Nope.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

              I fail to see the relevance of black senior officers and wonder what is so special about them Colin Powell is not a fighting soldier but a Staff Officer – frankly I would prefer combat-seasoned soldiers in command – we have few enough in senior ranks and not to be too fussed about their pigmentation. A few more Adrian Carton de Wiarts please

        • Colonel Mustard

          Depends how you look at it. Your soundbite on Singapore is about as wrong as wrong could be and manages to impugn not just the Allied defence but the Japanese army too.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            Yes it does tend to ignore the fact the naval base had not been finished because Chancellor of the Exchequer W S Churchill had imposed defence cuts in 1925

            • Colonel Mustard

              The naval base was and is a red herring. As pretty much was what Churchill wrote or said before the war.

          • Daniel Maris

            Well I have read the histories. Most writers I read say that a properly organised defence with the same troops could have prevented the Japanese advance.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

              Yes but they were not there at the time offering advice. Most wargamers think Napoleon should have won at Waterloo but he was clearly not up to the job being a Corsican Corporal.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Not without airpower. One of the most significant and underrated aspects of the campaign was airpower. And it is mostly completely disregarded or marginalised in the ‘military’ books covering the land campaign. Have you read Percival’s own account? It hasn’t been published since 1949 and if you don’t start with that you might as well not bother with anything else.

              • Noa

                What is its title? Is it actually obtainable, do you know? My father having been taken prisoner there, I have a personal interest.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  You can find it on the used book market. It is ‘The War in Malaya’ by Lt Gen A E Percival CB, DSO, OBE, MC, GOC Malaya, 1941-2 and was published by Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1949. It has never been re-published. When I checked this morning I found at least 7 copies available online but it is not cheap. Expect to pay in excess of £50 depending on condition. Try Abebooks.

                  I am not an apologist for Percival by the way but I do believe it is essential to read his own view of the campaign before impugning him and I do think he has been a too easy scapegoat for all that went wrong. ‘Malaya 1941 The Fall of a Fighting Empire’ by Sir Andrew Gilchrist also provides an interesting perspective on the strategic considerations.

                  My main position is that the use of Japanese airpower as a significant strategic and tactical factor in the campaign has been grossly underrated – as indeed was Japanese airpower underrated at the time. Many British unit accounts refer to this in detail but this factor is seldom addressed in any detail in published books on the campaign.

                • Noa

                  Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to be so helpful.

              • Daniel Maris

                You’re taking Perceval as a disinterested historian?

                The air power issue wasn’t helped by having a spy for Japan – a British army officer from the UK – transmitting information about the disposition of forces to the enemy. More “wonderful stuff” from the army.

                *ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Stanley_Vaughan_Heenan

                Percival whingeing about the lack of air power is typical of his defeatist spirit. In Burma the army acquitted itself well without air dominance. The Vietcong survived apocalyptic bombing campaigns in the jungles of Indo China. He wasn’t a dirty or determined enough fighter. He had the troops and the resources to stop the Japanese advance. He failed.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Trust you to jump to wild conclusions about my comment and go off on a ridiculous tangent. Answer the question – have you read Percival’s own account or not? The question of whether he is a “disinterested historian” does not arise because he was the General responsible for the British campaign. His memoir of the campaign is fundamental to understanding his part in it.

                  Do you understand how Japanese airpower was used in the campaign – tactically and strategically – and how British airpower was not? Have you referenced Japanese and British primary sources? I have. The Vietcong and “apocalyptic bombing campaigns in the jungles of Indo-China” are relevant how?

                  The Army was run out of Burma too, whether it “acquitted itself well or not”. You are not very good at this history thing are you?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          General Gordon was not fighting for Britain but for the Khedive of Egypt. He DELIBERATELY let himself be killed to force Gladstone to send a British Army when Gladstone had sought to keep Britain out of The Sudan

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          Yes the torture inflicted by Mau-Mau was evil

          • Daniel Maris

            We don’t normally apply the standards of the enemy do we?

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

              Why not ?

    • Colonel Mustard

      All rubbish.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      (5) was because of undermanning and fact that guards could not enforce control

      • Daniel Maris

        I saw the TV pictures early on of prisoners being taken bound – and blindfolded (strictly against Geneva Convention rules – it is that sort of behaviour which dehumanises the captives for the soldiers and makes brutality easier).

        • d knight

          Wrong again -read the Geneva Conventions

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          What prisoners ? Irregulars ?

          • d knight

            He just doesn’t understand

            If you want the Geneva conventions to apply best you act like a combatant

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      what is so special about Colin Powell. He is black so he must be a divinity in your book Daniel, but he is hardly a titanic figure and has little combat experience being mainly a Staff Officer. http://www.usvetdsp.com/story13.htm He was also instrumental in trying to suppress the truth about My Lai. He would appear to be a careerist

      • Daniel Maris

        I didn’t say he was special. I just said there is no chance of him, as the son of Jamaican immigrants, getting to head up the UK forces.

        • d knight

          No – as he was a US citizen

    • d knight

      1. Much like the rest of Iraq as it turned out
      2. Define ‘failed’
      3. So much in fact that they handed back bits to us (I think you will find the necessary resources were not made available which is why the US stepped in)
      4. Justify that assertion – our tactics were fine and casualty rates on a par or better than others considering the threat
      5. In one case – tens of thousands of British soldiers served in Iraq – I suspect there have been more cases of brutality in the UK police forces
      6. Rubbish, rubbish and rubbish. This smacks of envy. Try not to believe all you read in the Grauniad.
      7. They have their part to admit – problem is if politicians actually said what they wanted from the armed forces and actually kept to it we might have a chance of specifying the correct equipment and support. As it is they say one thing and require th armed forces to do another (over a decade in excess of defence planning assumptions)

      I do wonder sometimes if you get your defence information from the Beano or some such – it certainly seems to find fact checking an inconvenience

      • Daniel Maris

        1. Even more extreme than what they ended up. I’m not here to justify our Iraq policy.

        2. Failed to pacify it in accordance with objectives.

        3. No doubt there are numerous reasons why we didn’t succeed in Basra and I am not blaming individual troops.

        4. Well I am judging mostly from the close up TV documentaries. Among other things we saw a troop of soldiers led into an unoccupied compound, with no checks being made for land mines. A few minutes later one of the mines blew up. An unoccupied compound should be a complete no go zone until it is checked out. If that protocol exists but has not been absorbed by every member of armed forces then that is a failure of leadership.

        The foot patrols undertaken for a few hours in a particular area were of obviously no use in a guerilla war where the enemy returns as soon as you go.

        Casualty rates are not a good guide, an effective aggressive approach to the enemy might bring casualties but it also might bring success.

        5. From below: “The judge found that the “savagery meted out to Mr. Mousa and fellow detainees in Basra in 2003 were not the actions of a few ‘bad apples,’” but were, instead, “the result of systemic, ‘corporate’ failures that meant neither the abusive soldiers, nor their superiors, were aware that forcing detainees to wear hoods and adopt excruciating stress positions contravened both British law and the Geneva Convention.” ”

        *ttp://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2011/09/09/the-baha-mousa-inquiry-a-good-day-for-british-justice-a-bleak-day-for-the-british-army-and-their-us-mentors/

        See below, page 74 – it was policy to blindfold prisoners before September 2004.

        *ttp://books.google.co.uk/books?id=NSyVtEKLHHcC&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq=blindfolding+of+prisoners+Geneva+Convention&source=bl&ots=DuCdlvOV6C&sig=YO5_TYo2zkCckvakkGyNbF7s2Yw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=TXv0UMmgHrGk0AXC3oGYCw&ved=0CF4Q6AEwBzgK#v=onepage&q=blindfolding%20of%20prisoners%20Geneva%20Convention&f=false

        6 . 40 Military Freemasons Lodges are rubbish are they?

        7. Well, I made clear blame was to be shared around on that one.

        I think I’ve done fairly well in justifying my comments.

        • d knight

          Well, in your mind maybe

          I will let others judge

    • MirthaTidville

      Another loonie leftie with the guts of a louse.No danger of ever seeing the likes of you putting yourself in danger.Thankfully there are many,who have courage and display it on our behalf….now STFU

  • Edward Sutherland

    Have a chat with one quick, because Messrs Cameron and Hammond have ensured the forces’ role as dying species.

  • coffeehousewall.co.uk

    Lets remind ourselves that British Future does not envisage a future that most of us would welcome but is a Fabian socialist organisation. Most of those involved are socialists, Lib Dems and immigration rights activists.

    If we think of the various parades by the armed forces through English towns we might remember which groups were shouting hatred and displaying obscene banners. It was not the indigenous British people. Who was it?

    • EJ

      The way things are going the British future is a nightmare – and it’s anything but British. Outnumbered, overwhelmed, threatened, frightened, culturally displaced.

    • Daniel Maris

      Well said. British Future are using the armed forces as deep cover to advance an agenda of multiculturalism and political correctness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    “ordinary members of the armed forces and ordinary members of the public
    get a chance to exchange thoughts,” and then watch The Official Secrets Act intrude. It is a fact Rachael that when you have family in the Armed Forces they are held to a different level of accountability in this country than the general public which is very different from the USA which has a completely different culture.

  • Austin Barry

    Well, I guess we can all chat with ex-servicemen as they queue at the Job Centre.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      a large part of the homeless are former soldiers

  • William Haworth

    Don’t forget WHY the forces couldn’t wear their uniforms in public. It wasn’t some artificial code imposed by civil servants; it was so the IRA wouldn’t follow them home and blow them up, next to their families. This is another little benefit from the NI Peace Process.

    • telemachus

      While lauding our forces let us not forget that peaceful relations—rather than belligerent ones or violence—should be the governing force surrounding all human interrelations. Disputes should be resolved through arbitration, surrender, or migration. Although most people accept that war is necessary in certain circumstances, conscientious objectors to military conflict have always been recognized for their moral bravery in refusing to take up arms against another human being.

      Tell that to the bellicose Mali French
      And Cameron

      • William Haworth

        Being able to turn the other cheek is always a preferable option, although it’s very hard when your friends or family are being attacked. Personally I don’t have a problem with malleting religiously-motivated barbarians in Mali or elsewhere, but then I’m not a particularly good Christian.

        • telemachus

          Yes and you must ask why the French feel they need to go in to Mali

          Is it not that Sarkosi and Cameron drove these well armed Islamists from Libya worth to create the mayhem

          You see
          No war is justified

          • William Haworth

            No, plenty or wars are justified, but plenty more should have been avoided.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          If you had any theological grasp you would know the significanve of being hit on the right cheek and why the left cheek has such major significance

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        You should be our ambassador to Taliban and persuade them to surrender

      • Daniel Maris

        You seem to have taken a turn for the worse, if that were possible, Telemachus…

      • Noa

        And the tedious Tapeworm attaches itself predictably to the first post. Then generates the bone brained Party line.

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