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British Army Minimum Recruitment Age Should Be Raised, Survey Suggests

Three-quarters of respondents felt that it should be raised to 18.

Anonymous British soldiers

Three-quarters of respondents to a nationwide survey felt that the minimum recruitment age to the British Army should be raised from 16 to 18.

According to the ICM survey, 72% of those who expressed a preference believed young people should have to wait until they are 18 to join the British Army, and around 10% said they believed 21 should be the minimum enlistment age.

The survey was commissioned by Child Soldiers International, ForcesWatch, Medact and Saville Roberts, and surveyed 2,010 adults across the UK.

In the UK, you can apply to be in the Army at 15 years and seven months old, being able to join at 16.

The British Army is the only army in Europe that recruits soldiers at 16, and the Guardian reports that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has challenged this position. In the US the minimum age is 17.

Rachel Taylor, the Head of Campaigns at Child Soldiers International, said: “It is evident that public opinion is that the minimum age for army recruitment should be 18 or higher.

"The British army’s pursuit of 16- and 17-year-olds is out of sync with the majority of the world and this survey shows that large swathes of the public think enlistment should start from adulthood.”

Respondents to the questionnaire from the north of England, an important region for Army recruitment, were more likely to be in favour of increasing the minimum recruitment age to 18, with 75% of those who expressed a preference being in favour of an increase.

Young people were also more likely than older respondents to feel that 16 is too young to join up. 75% of 18-24-year-olds who expressed a preference believed the minimum recruitment age should be 18 or higher.

Taylor said: “This poll shows that the communities which are heavily targeted with recruitment advertising, and which typically provide the youngest recruits, are among those most in favour of a higher enlistment age.

“It is also notable how strong the support is among 18- to 24-year-olds for a higher minimum age. They are acutely aware of the huge leaps in maturity which occurred during their recent adolescence, and recognise how much their interests and ambitions have changed.”

The Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “Despite the Ministry of Defence’s desperate attempts to make the armed forces as attractive to young people as it can, it is clear that the public, and in particular young people, do not believe the armed forces is the right environment for under-18s.

"It is now time for the UK government to take note of this and bring its policy on recruitment of under-18s in line with the majority of countries around the world.”

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said: "Joining the Armed Forces gives young people the opportunity for a great career and we are proud of the opportunities we can offer to recruits.

"We take our duty of care for all personnel extremely seriously and ensure under-18s are not deployed on operations that would expose them to hostilities.”

This latest survey by the ICM is reflective of previous polls. In 2013, 70% of those who expressed a view thought that the minimum enlistment age should be 18. In 2014, the figure was at 78%.