War School - The Battle for Britain’s Children is a documentary film about the increasing militarisation of UK Society. Today, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, its message is more significant than ever. As confusing as the government’s Covid-19 strategy is, if there is one, there is clear evidence to show that their main goal is, as is Trump’s, 'business as usual'.
The 'business' that has been continuing as usual is Military. That this government continues with 19th century Imperialist policies is no surprise - it suits Johnson’s ‘War Leader’ ambitions - but, with large swathes of the population seemingly dispensable, the public must continue to be persuaded to not look too closely at how those policies are achieved or reflect to any serious degree on their consequences. Roll in the troops and strike up the band.
In 2008 the Labour Government published Report of Inquiry into the National Recognition of the Armed Forces. The report was concerned with measures to: Increase the recognition that we give to our Armed Forces – including wearing uniforms in public, the idea of a national Armed Forces Day, greater support for homecoming parades, and an expansion of cadet forces.
A number of organisations, including Forces Watch, Peace Pledge Union, Quakers and Veterans For Peace UK saw this report and its 40 recommendations as a coherent strategy designed to militarise our society. Anti-War demonstrations had been large and widespread since 2003 and by 2013 it was clear that ‘the British public had serious doubts about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan’. Ministers, the MOD and the media were becoming very anxious about the public’s perception of a lack of success in these missions.
By 2015, when research for War School began, the military presence in UK civilian life had perceptibly increased - Armed Forces Day, Uniform to Work Day, Camo Day, National Heroes Day - in the streets, on television, on the web, at sports events, in schools, advertising and fashion – the public, and ever-younger children, appeared to be being groomed to support not just ‘our troops’ but quite blatantly ‘our wars’. This approach is nothing new, as Eric Hobsbawm documents in Age of Empire -
"the colourful street theatre of military display… multiplied for their enjoyment, inspiration and patriotic identification - attempts to institutionalise pride in Imperialism… largely relied for their success in mobilising the captive audience of school children."
Now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, with nationwide public events for Armed Forces Day - effectively ‘Fun Fairs of Military hardware’ - still scheduled for June 27th, it is arguably more threatening than ever. So we will be working hard in the coming weeks to make the public aware of the issues around 'selling the military' to our children.
Based predominantly on the testimonies of veterans of many of Britain’s unbroken century of military interventions, War School exposes the reality behind successive UK governments’ exploitation and neglect of our military personnel. The film exposes the misrepresentation of Army Life to young people and challenges the myth of Britain's benign role in world affairs. We show that the UK is being marched into a more militarised society and we ask if perpetual war is really what we want for future generations?