During Remembrance 2015, The Gravity Youth Project will be publishing a number of stories, biographies and reports that reflect the contribution made by children and young people to our freedom, our communities and society as a whole. Check back daily until 11th November for the latest update and please, share your favourites with your friends online.
We will remember them.
Few would raise objection to the sentiment that children should not be involved in war, conflict or other disasters. In the ideal world, children and young people would be protected from both the physical and mental traumas of these events. They would be allowed to live and grow to in safety and security, indeed dreams many would hold for all of us. But this is not an ideal utopian world.
Children and young people live in the real world along with everyone else. They share our homes, walk in our streets and contribute to our communities and society as a whole. Whether it is war, conflict or natural disaster, they are just as likely to be overtaken by events as anyone else.
Whilst compelling children and young people onto a battlefield against their will is accepted as a leap too far for civilised society, it has not stopped those determined to "do their duty" from taking part. It has also not always been in societies interest to be too thorough in preventing or prohibiting this activity. Though many people are aware of the boys serving underage in World War 1 (The Great War), few know the stories of those that found their way into the conflict quite legitimately or of those actively recruited as children for specific roles. We may also think of this as historic or a problem elsewhere in the world. Yet in the Gulf War of 1991 and Kosovo in 1999 the British Army legally deployed 17 year-old soldiers, soldiers that would have been ordinarily two years too young to legally be deployed in The Great War (WW1). Despite changes to the law, the British Army is now known to have deployed soldiers aged under 18 to both Afghanistan and Iraq as recently as March 2010 during the recent conflicts.
Then there are those that are unfortunate enough to find themselves in the centre of events developing around them. Faced with the stark choice of becoming another victim or being part of the solution, many children and young people have found themselves actively improving the lives of others as well as themselves. The decisions they make and actions they take are not without risk, but their contribution is no less valuable.
During this Remembrance period, it is these contributions on which we focus. Easily dismissed with the assumption that "they shouldn't have been there", sometimes conveniently to avoid our own guilt and the responsibility that we should have done more, the contributions of children and young people deserve to be remembered alongside those of their adult colleagues.
The Gravity Youth Project have collated together a number of stories from newspapers and other sources to provoke thought and consideration at this time. Some local, some from wider afield, they represent a range of contributions by children and young people. We explore the actions of boy soldiers & boy sailors from World War 1 up to more recent examples. In the the spirit of The Poppy Appeal, they remember the service of both the fallen and the living.
- Boy Soldiers of The Great War; Richard Van Emden
- Independent; 24 May 2014 - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-under-fire-for-recruiting-an-army-of-children-9431966.html
- Mail Online; 18 October 2011 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2050684/UK-sent-children-Iraq-Afghanistan-despite-Government-ban.html
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