LETTER: No thank you to National Service

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I could not disagree more with Peggy Brassett about the re-introduction of National Service, in her letter in last week’s Gazette.

Now nearing 80 years old, I just escaped being conscripted in 1958 by being able to go to university. Thank goodness. I was able to get on with my life, have a career, get married (still going strong after 54 years), contribute to the community and pay all my taxes.

What a waste of two years of my life that would have been, obeying orders without question, learning how to kill a person at a distance with a rifle and learning how to bayonet a person to death whist looking into the whites of his eyes. No thank-you.

It isn’t as if we are facing the threat of a war or invasion by a foreign country. Before the First World War, we did not have a standing army. It was one of this country’s proudest boasts.

We only introduced National Service because of two world wars, the Cold War and having to use the army to police the Empire as the demand for independence grew post-war.

In any case, to what use today could we put all these Armed Forces of yours– a million or so of them? A permanent loan to the UN or NATO peacekeeping forces? Hardly.

In the last couple of years of National Service, I can remember (as it would have concerned me) non-essential jobs were being created by the sergeants in a company just to keep their men busy, as they had no other useful role or purpose for them to perform. The Army chiefs of staff no longer wanted conscripted men who just did not want to be there.

In today’s economic climate, businesses do not want unthinking, unquestioning disciplined men. They use teams whose members contribute ideas in weekly meetings to the benefit and productivity of their employers.

We are constantly hearing of new technology enabling future businesses to arise and thrive and the evidence of that is all around us. The only way that can happen is that people have not been psychologically constrained by discipline and have a free mind.

Could anyone advocating its re-introduction please press Chancellors of the Exchequer George Osborne and Philip Hammond on how they would have had to finance it and then in return, tell them exactly how you would propose to finance all this additional expenditure? By how much would you raise income tax – 5p in the £1? Any form of tax increases is anathema to all political parties and the Tory party in particular.

I don’t know if Peggy Brassett has sons, grandsons, nephews or male cousins – not forgetting now that women are also in the frontline forces – who would have been conscripted and then sent to Afghanistan? There, they may well have lost a leg in one of those land mine explosions. How would you personally then feel? Proud?

More important, how would they feel? There are too many reports in the press about them, suffering from adverse effects such as alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

You could of course compliment them that he had learnt discipline and they would be all the better for it for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, as I know, if you are disabled, then in effect you have to beg from the Government for any sort of benefit, being also subjected to regular questionnaire form and interviews, as we have seen over the last few years as the Government has sought to cut all public expenditure.

Over the years, I have had to listen to quite a few people extolling the virtues of National Service, just as Peggy Brassett does. Funnily enough, they have all been women, the very people who would never have been conscripted at all in peacetime.

Colin Maroney

Highfield Gardens
Rustington

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