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Arms companies sponsoring 'family entertainment' for Armed Forces Day

BAE Systems stand at Armed Forces Day National Event in Llandudno 2018

Arms companies sponsoring 'family entertainment' for Armed Forces Day

At least eight arms companies are sponsoring the Armed Forces Day National Event this weekend, which includes a range of activities for children. 

The National Event will this year take place in Salisbury from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 June. Other Armed Forces Day events will take place around the UK on Saturday (29 June). 

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) pointed out that arms firms are using the event to promote their image, including to children. They said it further undermined claims that Armed Forces Day is an innocuous or positive event. 

Two of the world’s largest arms companies are among the seven Gold Sponsors for the National Event: BAE Systems and General Dynamics. BAE in particular has drawn criticism for its supply of weapons to the brutal regime of Saudi Arabia, widely accused of killing thousands of civilians in Yemen. 

Arms firms also make up four of the eleven Silver Sponsors: Airbus, Babcock, Boeing and Qinetiq. Another two – Lockheed Martin and Chemring – are listed as “proud supporters”. 

The arms trade is also involved in local events for Armed Forces Day elsewhere in the UK. BAE Systems is sponsoring a “family fun day” in Gillingham in Kent. 

Armed Forces Day takes place on the last Saturday of June every year, with hundreds of events around the UK, often subsidised with taxpayers’ money by local authorities. The National Event takes place in a different location each year. Armed Forces Day was introduced in the UK in 2009. 

Armed Forces Day has a history of presenting children with an image of armed force as glamorous and exciting. At last year's National Event in Llandudno, children as young as seven were invited to handle real weapons

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), said: 

“The fact that at least eight arms companies are sponsoring the Armed Forces Day National Event in Salisbury says a lot about who really benefits from celebrations of armed force. 

“While children are presented with fun activities, arms dealers are making sure that their branding is all over them. Family fun and community celebrations should not involve teaching children to trust in violence or giving arms dealers a chance to improve their repulsive reputations. War is not family entertainment.” 

The Peace Pledge Union describes Armed Forces Day as an example of everyday militarism, by which military organisations and attitudes are involved in ever more areas of civilian life. 

You can read the PPU's briefing on What's wrong with Armed Forces Day?, which includes suggestions for challenging Armed Forces Day in your own area.