To most younger people today National Service would seem to be an alien concept, but for a generation of young men in post-war Britain, conscription to the armed forces for up to two years, was something they couldn’t avoid. National Service was simply your national duty.

It will seem incredible for many to believe that it’s now 60 years since the final recruits began their basic training, but those important stories of the two million men who served, have been recorded by a North Wales arts organisation.

Ceridwen Hughes, from the SAME BUT DIFFERENT project, based in Mold, has interviewed former conscripts for the National Service Remembered project, who found themselves in frontline roles.

This not for profit organisation is funded by the National Lottery and has pulled together some of the most striking portraits of those who were conscripted during National Service.

Ceridwen told us……

“People assume that the conscripts were just based in the UK or that they didn’t really play an active role but, actually, that’s really far from the truth because quite a few did go to countries like Singapore.

There was the Suez Crisis, Germany and some of them did see active service. They had a breadth of experience.”

National Service began in 1949 as a way of meeting the UK’s security needs. Those of us who have relatives who were ‘called up’ remember varying stories of terror, friendship and the overwhelming to do whatever was needed for the security of our country.

The rules during that 21 year period – 1949 to 1960, were simple. Generally all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 30 were called up. However, it was possible to defer if working as an apprentice or studying, or even be exempted altogether if working in one of the three essential services which were coal mining, farming and the merchant navy. 

After basic training, National Service conscripts served in a variety of roles across the Armed Forces. As well as serving at home, Servicemen were posted to one of Britain’s many garrisons around the world. An overseas posting often meant that the conscripts saw active service. It is hard now to imagine that many of the young men who were conscripted, with minimal training, were expected to fight. Between 1947 and 1963, a total of 395 National Servicemen were killed in active service. Many more experienced things that they will never forget.

National Service Remembered aims to bring to life the stories of those who were conscripted. This exhibition honours the heroic contribution a generation of men gave to their country, capturing their wealth of knowledge and historic experiences for generations to come.

We’ve been speaking to Ceridwen Hughes, creator of National Service Remembered to find out more about the project and how we can all see this important exhibition.


The exhibition tells many real-life stories which are far removed from the old movie Carry On Sergeant, although it’s clear there was plenty of hilarity during National Service. It is an important and fascinating exhibition, which you can see right now, for free. We’ve been glued to it all day and we feel sure you will be too.

For more details and to take a look at this incredible archive, go here, NATIONAL SERVICE.


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