In the UK, national service refers specifically to the continuation of conscription into the armed forces following the end of World War II, which continued up to 1960, the only peacetime military conscription in British history (if you ignore the press gangs of the 1700s). In this period of Britain's decline as a world power this was more a tool of social control (and keeping the dole queues down) than a response to any military need that could not have been fulfilled better by a volunteer army, navy and air force, a view which was shared by the military leaders of the time; the majority of conscripts wasted time for two years in their late teens on drill and duties of the dig-a-hole-and-then-fill-it-in variety (my father-in-law claimed to have been set the task of weeding the barracks parade ground with a knife and fork), often in an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation.
Although I describe this period as peacetime, this was the era of decolonialization, and the unluckier national servicemen fought and died all over the world in bush wars and counterinsurgency operations in the rump of the empire in places like Aden, Kenya, Palestine (pre-1948), and Malaya as well as the Suez Crisis (the British involvement in the 1956 Arab-Israeli war) and the Korean War.
National service came to an end more or less as youth culture was starting to raise its head, and the gap in experience between those who went through it and those who missed it marks something of a generational cutoff point in British society. A very brief bibliography of the literature of national service follows:
Also of note: the Dennis Potter TV series Lipstick on Your Collar.
There are some others which have momentarily slipped my mind, /msg me ...