A GROAN, a gasp of amazement and a shudder went through me when I heard of Rishi Sunak’s plan to bring back national service for young people. It sounded to me like turning back the clock to an old, played out discussion as to whether such a scheme would be beneficial.

To my enormous relief I just missed national service in 1960. It was just being phased out. I came from something of a military family. My grandfather, who I never knew, served in the army in the Boer war, caught malaria and died young. My father served in WW1, was wounded twice but survived to return, raise a family and cope with nightmares but then watched with dread as his oldest son went off to serve in the army in WW2. My earliest memory is of lying in my mother’s arms in the darkness of an air raid shelter. Another brother later did two years national service, spending much of it as captain of the camp football team.

When the time came for me to be called up, I dreaded it. The claim that it would broaden my life experience and give me comradeship did not impress me. I was already getting these from membership of a church youth club which led to a choice of a lifelong career. Cutting into this progression, for compulsory square-bashing and other militaristic training would have been seriously disruptive.

I feel sure that my relief of not having to serve would be echoed by most young people today. Does Rishi Sunak really believe that there are millions of young boys (and girls too?) who feel so disaffected with their prospects they think this kind of nonsense scheme is just what they need? I don’t believe it.

Much better would be to focus funding on good youth provision and economic growth offering good employment prospects. A range of apprenticeships and further and higher education opportunities to broaden their vision and enhance their life chances. Let’s hope that Sunak’s outdated and nonsensical national service scheme never comes into being.

John Midgley