Fareham student credits Finland Navy national service for learning "valuable" life skills but doubts UK policy

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A British-Finnish student who spent a year in national service with Finland’s military said the scheme could “instil discipline” and teach people “valuable life and social skills” but he has doubts about its introduction in the UK.

Daniel Simojoki, a 20-year-old who resides in Fareham and studies history at the University of Cambridge, served with the Finnish Defence Forces in the navy for a year. Son of an English mother and Finnish father, Mr Simojoki was part of the military between July 2022 and June 2023 when he was 18.

He said he felt compelled to step forward after receiving a letter about conscription in the Scandinavian country. Mr Simojoki’s dual nationality meant that service was optional. Prime minister Rishi Sunak wants to introduce a new form of national service for 18-year-olds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Daniel Simojoki, a British-Finnish student spent a year in national service with Finland's military, said the scheme could "instil discipline" and teach people "valuable life and social skills" but he has doubts about its introduction in the UK. Picture: PADaniel Simojoki, a British-Finnish student spent a year in national service with Finland's military, said the scheme could "instil discipline" and teach people "valuable life and social skills" but he has doubts about its introduction in the UK. Picture: PA
Daniel Simojoki, a British-Finnish student spent a year in national service with Finland's military, said the scheme could "instil discipline" and teach people "valuable life and social skills" but he has doubts about its introduction in the UK. Picture: PA | PA

The policy would see people join the armed forces or take part in public service volunteering on weekends over the course of a year. Mr Simojoki said he thought national service could “instil a level of discipline and teach people valuable life and social skills” if it was brought into force in the UK, with the potential to become a rite of passage over a longer period of time.

He added that it could seem “unreasonable and unfair” as he felt a “necessity” to protect his country due to its proximity to Russia but said he couldn’t see an “equivalent necessity” in Britain. He said young men in Finland would volunteer for national service because there is “that sense of purpose”, saying he undertook it “in the sense of patriotism”.

“I saw the necessity and wanted to do my part to protect my country but I don’t see an equivalent necessity in England so being told to do national service would seem unreasonable and unfair,” Mr Simojoki said. “I’ve always said that if they tried to put something similar in Britain there would be riots and I don’t feel that motivation is there – people don’t feel like they have that sense of duty.”

The student was stationed on a ship during his military service, where he was trained in weapon and navigation systems and engaged with combat simulations. Mr Simojoki said the experience was “challenging but positive”. “It’s a massive adjustment from civilian life, you go in one day, you’re handed a uniform and suddenly there’s a whole military culture there,” he added.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There’s a lack of sleep, there’s an expectation to just get on with things and you’re part of an organisation that’s not about you. On the other hand, I made very close friends and you get trusted with responsibilities that give you value and worth. I learnt a lot about myself and new-found limits and at the end of the day, it’s quite good fun.”

Daniel Simojoki studies history at the University of Cambridge, and has always lived in Fareham. Picture: PA.Daniel Simojoki studies history at the University of Cambridge, and has always lived in Fareham. Picture: PA.
Daniel Simojoki studies history at the University of Cambridge, and has always lived in Fareham. Picture: PA. | PA
Daniel Simojoki said he is unsure if the national service policy in the UK will work in the same way as in Finland. Picture: PADaniel Simojoki said he is unsure if the national service policy in the UK will work in the same way as in Finland. Picture: PA
Daniel Simojoki said he is unsure if the national service policy in the UK will work in the same way as in Finland. Picture: PA | PA

Mr Simojoki added there were two types of days in the navy, days at port and days at sea. For the former, he said he would spend time exercising and repairing equipment while for the latter, he would be trained in mine warfare where he would drop practice mines at sea and engage in simulated combat drills.

He added that it “took (him) a while to adjust back” to civilian life after leaving the military with the prospect that he could be called back to fight at any point throughout his life. “After coming out, it sort of hit me, especially with the Ukraine war still going on, the significance of the fact that I could be called back and told to fight,” he said.

“That’s got to me more and that definitely has an effect on my life because I have to keep in the back of my mind that when I get married and have children, I might be called up to war and possibly die. That definitely has an impact and that’s why I don’t think it’s a thing that should be taken lightly, especially when people don’t have a choice – I had a choice, uniquely. If people didn’t have a choice, I think that’s quite a big deal.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

When asked if he would take part in national service in the UK if he was called upon to do so, he said: “I think I would accept some sort of social responsibility but I would question the effectiveness and motives of the scheme. I wouldn’t agree fundamentally with the idea and I would think that quite a big sacrifice was being demanded of me, but at the end of the day the law is the law so I wouldn’t disobey.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.