Frequently Asked Questions
Active Resistance to Metrication (A.R.M.) is a group of people opposed to forced metrication. We have no issue with people choosing to use the metric system, as has been the case for example in describing car engine size in cubic centimetres or wine bottles in litres, centilitres or decilitres. But we are opposed, like millions of you, to having the metric system forced on us by criminal penalties. The system of British weights and measures (sometimes known as ‘Imperial’ or ‘customary’ weights and measures) is, in many key respects, superior to the metric system. To find out why, read the report by the Customary Measures Society: ‘Weights and Measures: Britain’s Way Ahead’ on our Reports and Articles page.
A.R.M. was first set up following a meeting held in June 2001. Its first and current Chairman is Mr Derek Norman of Huntingdon. Its first and current Secretary is Mr Tony Bennett of Harlow. Five members set up the group and it has now grown to dozens.
The initial focus of A.R.M., for which we are best known, was our direct action campaign to tackle the mushrooming of illegal metric road and footpath signs erected by various local and other authorities, including the Highways Agency. We are a membership association; see below for details of how to join.
There is no formal link. We share their main aims, of course, namely the preservation and promotion of a wonderful, very useful, practical and – perhaps above all – human system of measurement. Like them, we oppose all forms of forced metrication. But our methods of achieving those aims are different. Some members of A.R.M. are also members of British Weights and Measures Association.
Over the past 12 years, we have been able to ensure that over 3,000 road and footpath signs, that were illegally signed in metric, have been changed to British units of measurement, such as miles, yards, feet and inches.
Sometimes we have achieved this by patiently explaining to local highways department officials (and other agencies which erect illegal metric signs) that their metric signs are illegal. We much prefer persuasion to direct action.
Where they have refused, we use professional techniques, including professional adhesive labeling, and plates made by sign manufacturers, to replace the illegal signs with signs in British units of measurement.
Where we make amendments to signs which are governed by the strict rules of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016, we use Department of Transport-grade adhesive reflective material – and of course the same size and font style of lettering (Transport Helvetica) used by the Department of Transport, The Highways Agency, and local authority highways departments. You’ll find many examples of our professional amendments, which we’ve carried out in many different parts of the country, on our Photo Gallery and in our Gazetteer of Amended Signs. We update this regularly, and we can send you an updated gazetteer in hard copy or by e-mail.
A.R.M. supporters around the country (A.R.M. ‘spotters’) tell us about any illegal metric signs – and inform us if the authority responsible has agreed to replace them with signs in miles, yards, feet and inches. We log all such changes and update our Gazetteer regularly.
Due to our proactive and direct action campaigning, we have over the years ensured that most highways authorities, and other agencies, are now fully aware of their responsibility to erect all road and footpath distance signs in British units of measurement.
The legal position on bridge height and road width signs, however, is different – for more information see our Campaigns page. Bridge heights and road widths may be signed either in feet and inches, or in both feet and inches and in metric. But bridge height and road width signs only in metres remain illegal.
The government had meticulously planned the wholesale conversion of 2 million British road and footpath signs to metric. Every distance sign, every speed limit on signs (or painted on our roads) and every footpath sign would have had to be changed – at vast cost – as happened in Ireland in the 1990s. The overall cost would probably have been between £1 and £2 billion (£1,000,000,000 to £2,000,000,000).
But on the B.B.C. TV current affairs programme, ‘Question Time’, in February 2006, the then Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, responded to a questioner who asked the ‘Question Time’ panel if Neil Kinnock was right to suggest that Britain would be seen as a backward country if we did not convert all our road signs to metric by the time of the London Olympics, in 2012.
Answering ‘No’, Mr Darling also announced that the long-promised, or should we say ‘long-threatened’, conversion of our road signs to metric would never happen. You can read a transcript of this programme on our Reports & Articles page, in an article titled: “How The Mile Was Saved”. Mr Darling’s announcement was greeted with long and sustained applause and loud cheering.
Mostly by generous donations from those who support our work.
We also sell A.R.M. postcards.
You can buy the postcards or donate by cheque or by PayPal or on Facebook – see below.
In this respect, we acknowledge with gratitude many donations, but especially those from British Weights and Measures Association and from one of our greatest supporters, a modest and generous man in south London, who likes to be known only by his A.R.M. code name of ‘Furlong’ (more about code names below).
7. Apart from preferring British weights and measures to metric, is there any other reason why you pursue this campaign to keep our signs in miles and yards?
Most A.R.M. supporters tend to believe that much of our heritage is worth keeping and actively preserving.
At the same time we see certain forces – global big business, internationalist politicians and others – trying to homogenise, to standardise everything. By contrast, we believe we should maintain the best of our traditions, and – just as in nature – maintain a healthy diversity. For example, it might make things easier if we all learned the same language. But do we really want to destroy all living languages in order to achieve that?
A.R.M. members commonly support similar causes such as:
- resisting the European Union (EU)’s attempts transfer ever more of our sovereignty away from the British people – to unelected Commissioners in Brussels
- demanding a fair referendum, without delay, on whether we should remain in the EU
- resisting attempts to replace the pound sterling with the euro
- resisting attempts to dismantle our historic county boundaries and so undermine our sense of loyalty to such counties, which have been part of the fabric of this country over 1,000 years
- resisting attempts to end our long-standing principles of innocent until proven guilty and jury trial, and replace it with the EU’s Corpus Juris system
- resisting the increasing powers being given to central government quangos and local councils over our daily lives.
8. The world has gone metric, and people here are gradually getting used to it. Why bother with your campaign?
First, the world hasn’t completely gone metric. A number of countries have resisted the switch to metric most notably, the United States.
Second, whilst people in Britain have adapted to enforced metrication, such as buying petrol in litres, a moment or two’s thought soon makes you appreciate just how common British weights and measures are in everyday use today. Here are just a few examples:
Most British people:
- announce their height in feet and inches
- think of their weight in terms of stones and pounds
- order pints or half pints of drink in pubs
- think in terms of how many miles it is to, say, the nearest town
- think in terms of how many yards it is to, say, the end of their street
- announce the weight of their babies in pounds and ounces
- describe their fuel consumption in terms of miles per gallon
- describe land area in acres
- describe the length of the room in their house, or the length of their gardens, in feet
- think in terms of heavy rain in inches
- talk about the depth of floods in feet.
- pizzas are sold in inches
- steaks in restaurants are described in ounces
- horse races are run in furlongs
- allotments are rented out in rods, poles or perches
- horses heights are measured in hands.
People find these friendly, human measurements useful.
Why should anyone tell us to get rid of them?
Taking part in one of our direct action events to change an illegal sign to metric is great fun. You can come along to one of these events and either join in or watch.
Training will be given on how to remove illegal metric signs and how to replace them with perfectly legal signs in miles, yards, feet and inches. Equipment will be provided.
This work is neither dangerous, nor illegal. Go to our Campaigns page for further information.
Membership of A.R.M. costs £5.00 for a full year’s membership.
On joining, we will send you a pack of 12 of our entertaining postcards (see our Photo Gallery page).
Or you can become a life member of A.R.M. for a one-off payment of just £10.00.
Please send a cheque or Postal Order made out to County Watch at this address:
9 Station Cottages,
There is one other condition of membership. On joining, we will ask you to adopt a nickname which must include any unit of British weights and measures. This is just for fun, nothing else.
Nicknames already adopted by our members include, for example: Daisy Chain, Furlong, Foot Rule, Wun Tun, Rod Pole, Polly Peck, Yardstick, Hundredweight, Dr. S. Cruple, and many more.
You will be entitled to attend our Annual Meeting and elect our Committee.
9 Station Cottages,
Derek Norman: 01480 435837
Tony Bennett: 01279 635789 or Mobile 07835 716537
A.R.M. would like to warmly thank
Mr Donald Haigh of Dunfermline, Scotland, our illustrator, for designing our logos and for all his support
“Furlong” of London for many generous donations to enable us to remove and amend many illegal metric distance signs
British Weights and Measures Association for practical support and advice ever since we were founded in 2001, as well as financial assistance
“Half Pint” for support, sustenance and sandwiches
“Dr S Cruple” for his assistance on many raids
“Fahrenheit Fanatic” of The Americans for Customary Weight and Measure who helped set up the A.R.M. Facebook and Twitter pages, and has assisted, here, with correcting and updating this page.
“The Grinch” for valuable assistance on website development
“Polly Peck”, “Rod Pole”, “Hundredweight”, and many other members, supporters and spotters who help us to eradicate unwanted metric detritus.
“Yardie” for graphic design
Iain Mackintosh for creating the cartoon featuring the late Steve Thoburn, greengrocer from Sunderland, which we’ve used on one of our postcards.
All our members who have supported us financially or in any other practical way.
And we thank all those councils who have removed their illegal metric signs and have saved us the trouble of doing so.