The army might not be what you think: take two minutes to find out why.



Army adverts don't tell you what being a soldier is really like.

At 17, Wayne Sharrocks joined the infantry. His training made him obey the army completely, until it had control of how he thought and what he did. He says that by the end of his training he could have killed another person right in front of him 'at the flick of a switch' with ‘an insane amount of aggression’. He now thinks army training is 'massively damaging' to the mind of a young person.

After he turned 18 Wayne was sent to Afghanistan. There he saw a friend’s legs ripped off and another friend killed. He was injured in the face. Nothing in his training could protect him or his friends.

He couldn't just ‘switch off’ his army training after he left, he says, which caused him all sorts of problems.

Now Wayne thinks that the army shouldn’t be recruiting 16 and 17 year-olds. While it still does, he believes it's better to wait until you’re 18 before deciding whether to join up.

Find out about Wayne's time in the army in these 3-minute videos:

Are army adverts realistic? What's army training like? How much bullying is there in the army? What’s daily life like in the army?
What’s it like to kill someone? What’s it like to see someone killed? A mum’s point of view. Do soldiers get a good education in the army?
What’s life like after the army? How do veterans deal with how the military has changed them? Rife sexual exploitation and abuse - the experience of young female recruits

Read more about why Wayne believes the army should recruit only adults from age 18.

Listen to Wayne's story in this podcast 'I was a child soldier'.




Soldiers who joined and trained at 16 were twice as likely to be killed or wounded in Afghanistan as soldiers who were adults when they joined. 

This is partly because the youngest recruits are usually given frontline combat jobs, especially the infantry, where the risk of being killed in Afghanistan was six times higher than in the rest of the army. Soldiers can be sent to war when they reach 18.


The army's English and maths courses for the youngest recruits are below GCSE level and so are not good enough for young people today, according to education experts.

Four out of every five 16 year olds from poor backgrounds who don't join the army stay on in school after their GCSEs - either to resit their exams or to move on to BTECs or A Levels.


One in three soldiers who join up at 16 or 17 leaves the army after a few months - they're then out of work and out of education.


If you join the army at 16, then from the day you turn 18 you're locked in until you're 22.


Some young people love the army, but others regret joining up - fewer than half of the army's soldiers would recommend it to a friend, the Ministry of Defence says.


If you stay in school or college at 16 and sign up at 18, then:

  • You get to choose from more army jobs
  • You're less likely to drop out of training
  • You're less likely to be injured in training
  • And you'll have more years of education or other life experience behind you.

All these facts are based on government information. The sources we've used can be found in the briefing paper we give to MPs.

This short BBC clip has more: How young is too young to join the army?



  • If you’re thinking of joining the army, find out as much as you can first. If you watch the army’s videos, watch out for the hype. Watch Wayne’s videos for a reality check.

  • If you’re a parent and your child wants to sign up, you can either sign the consent form or ask your child to decide for themselves once they turn 18.

  • You can find out more about the pros and cons of army life at the independent website,

  • If you believe as we do that the enlistment age should go up to 18, please write to your MP enclosing this briefing and asking them to raise your concern with the minister responsible. Please send us a copy of your letter, to [email protected].

  • If you’re a teacher and are concerned about armed forces visits to your school, you can contact the campaign group ForcesWatch for help and advice.

  • If you’re a veteran and think the army should stop recruiting children, you can support the enlistment age campaign run by Veterans for Peace.

  • Spread the word by sharing this page now on Twitter/Facebook. And please follow us on Twitter @ChildSoldiersIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe on Youtube.

  • If you can, please support us with a donation.

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