By Jennifer Popplewell •
Published: 25 Jan 2024 • 11:37
British soldiers in France 1918
National Service was mandatory in Britain from 1947 until 1963, and during that time more than two million men were conscripted into the British Army, Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force.
National service is the mandatory legal obligation to serve in the country’s military. This meant that all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 30 were called up during this time. In Spain, compulsory military service, colloquially known as ‘la mili’ in Spanish, began in the late 18th and 19th centuries and officially ended in December 2001. During the last two decades, military conscription has been abandoned by some European countries in an attempt to shift towards volunteer armies and increase professionalism and specialised training in the defence forces. Specifically, between 1990 and 2013, 24 countries abandoned mandatory conscription, although Ukraine and Lithuania did reintroduce it during the direct aftermath of the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Countries including Ireland and Malta have never enforced a military draft, although others, including Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, and Denmark have never fully abolished it.
However, in 2024, National Service or ‘military conscription’ seems to be experiencing a general comeback in Europe. The country of Latvia passed a law in April 2023 calling for the mandatory reintroduction of military conscription after it was abolished in 2007. Following this move, and amid the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, discussions have arisen on the matter, as other nations in Europe closely watch to see how the war will persist.
An issue that is currently apparent is the overall reduction of the sizes of European armies, which is crucial, especially amid the threat of Russia, which has undoubtedly created a new-found sense of anxiety for the ever present possibility of war.
In France, a law was passed by parliament in 2018 that would require some type of military services for all genders beginning in 2024. Prime Minister Macron stated that he “hoped it would reinvigorate a sense of French civic duty.”
In the new generation of social media and selfies, would a responsibility to one’s country for the young adults of 2024 serve as a form of character building? Perhaps acting as a reminder of the importance of dedication and servitude to their homeland, in addition to aiding in national identity and pride.
Whatever one’s personal verdict, due to the fact that tensions continue to rise around Europe and the world, the answer may just end up being one of a necessity rather than a choice.
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Jennifer is a proud northerner from Sheffield, England, who is currently living in Spain. She loves swimming in rivers, talking to the stars and eating luxurious chocolate.
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