World War 3: What is the military draft age? Can people be drafted for war in the UK?

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World War 3 is a terrifying and unlikely prospect now on the minds of millions of people, with Vladimir Putin allegedly planning to invade Ukraine in a matter of days. Interest has sparked in the draft, a dated concept that sees people of “fighting age” forcibly enlisted to participate in conflict on behalf of their country. has explained the current draft situation in the UK and elsewhere.

What is the military draft?

The military draft, otherwise known as conscription, is an age-old practice of compulsory enlistment into a country’s military.

The draft originates in antiquity and sees people bound to serve in the military unless they have extenuating circumstances.

Draft age varies, but traditionally starts at 18, and few countries still make use of the practice.

Can people be drafted in the UK?

Many people around the world may currently fear the prospect of conscription if a third world war breaks out, however, most need not worry.

The military draft, while once popular in the first two world wars and other military campaigns – namely the Vietnam and Korean wars – has been abandoned by many countries.

Others, however, have chosen to hold on to the tradition.

Thankfully for those in the UK, the military draft is no longer in use.

The UK implemented conscription during two distinct periods when World War I and World War II broke out.

UK men aged 18 to 40 were required to enlist during World War I between 1916 and 1920, in what was known as Military Service.

Conscription came around once again in 1939 when the rise of the Third Reich threatened Europe and was in effect from 1939 to 1960 as National Service.

While there is no forced conscription currently active in the UK, Parliament could pass a law reestablishing it during a time of national crisis.

The same goes for the US, which abandoned the draft in 1973.

However, while the US abolished the draft after the Vietnam War, its remnants became the Selective Service System.

The system requires all men to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday and lists all those who would be potentially subject to the draft.

If the US Congress one day approved a bill which reestablishes forced conscription, the Selective Service System lists who is available.

Selective Service is expected to deliver the first draftees within 193 days of a national crisis.

Other countries never disposed of the military draft, among them the US’ feared opponents Iran and their strategic ally Russia.

Austria, Greece and a selection of other European countries also make use of the practice.

Concerns about the draft last notably hit the Selective Service System particularly hard in January 2020, when inquiries caused the site to crash following the US-led assassination of Iranian general Qasem Solemani.

Speaking via Twitter, the service revealed it was experiencing “unusually high traffic volumes” due to the spread of “misinformation”. 

The service said: “Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time.

“If you are attempting to register or verify registration, please check back later today as we are working to resolve this issue. We appreciate your patience.”

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