PARENTS have raised concerns over ‘family’ events for Armed Forces Day today, which they believe portray weapons and violence as glamorous and fun. The vast majority of events for Armed Forces Day involve no restriction on the age at which a child can be invited to handle real weapons.

In previous years, the day has seen children as young as six or seven invited to sit at the controls of artillery pieces, tanks and military aircraft. Parents have told the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain’s leading pacifist organisation, that they are worried about children being presented with an unrealistic image of weapons and war as clean and exciting. They fear that it could have a negative effect on children’s emotional wellbeing and encourage them to trust in the use of violence.

Teachers and young people have also spoken with the PPU about their objections to Armed Forces Day celebrations in schools.

Armed Forces Day events will take place across the UK this weekend, with the National Event – which is held in a different place every year – taking place in Falmouth. Concerned locals in Falmouth will stage a Peace Parade to coincide with the military parade in the city this morning.

The Peace Pledge Union is urging local councils to follow the example of Leicester, where local authorities prevent armed forces from inviting children to handle weapons, following a campaign by local residents.

Ed, father of two primary-age children in Cardiff, said: “Parents spend a lot of time and emotional energy reinforcing to children the message that violence isn’t the right way to solve problems. But that message is massively diluted at Armed Forces Day events where they are encouraged to think that violence is the answer to the world’s ills. It flies in the face of everything we should be teaching the next generation.”

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, who is travelling to Falmouth to support local protests, said: “I do not want my five-year-old goddaughter to be exposed to events at which weapons are treated as toys. Every year on Armed Forces Day, I have seen children who are too young to use a kettle unsupervised invited to sit at the controls of guns and tanks. No-one will show them what people look like when these weapons are used against them. While people in Ukraine and Yemen are wounded and killed with deadly weapons, children in the UK will be encouraged to view those weapons as fun and exciting.

“Armed Forces Day promotes war by the back door, with difficult questions about recent wars and the abuse of young recruits swept under the carpet. There are so many better things we could be celebrating this weekend.”

Armed Forces Day in the UK was founded in 2009, in the wake of widespread public opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* Details of planned protests and alternative events in Falmouth here.

* Read the Peace Pledge Union briefing What’s wrong with Armed Forces Day? here.

* Source: Peace Pledge Union