The British Army has seen a fall in size and strength for the ninth consecutive year, according to new figures released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The British Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force (RAF) have all seen their numbers fall over the past year as more recruits leave than are taken on.
The army suffered the biggest fall, with figures showing that the number of full-time personnel was 74,440, down from 76,880 last year — and more than 7,000 below its target figure of 82,000 personnel.
Meanwhile, RAF manpower stood at just 29,930 full-time personnel, down from 30,280 in 2018 and still significantly short of the required 31,840 target, and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines fell from 29,150 to 29,090, against a target of 30,600.
The MoD’s own report stated that “The current deficit against the workforce requirement is 7.6 per cent for the UK armed forces.”
The latest data also shows 13,520 people joined the regular armed forces in the last 12 months, an increase of 1,593 compared to the previous year. However, 14,880 people also left — an increase from 14,860 in 2018.
Use of private firm Capita in recruitment and wider efforts to retain personnel have faced continued criticism. A financial watchdog previously found Capita had consistently failed to meet recruitment targets every year since it got the £495m contract in 2012, while an online system had gone massively over budget and was delivered more than four years late.
Earlier this year, the military faced criticism for a series of posters advertising for millennials to join the armed forces with slogans such as “Snowflakes, Your Army Needs You” — echoing Lord Kitchener’s famous “Your Country Needs You” posters which urged recruits to come forward during the First World War.
The 21st-century posters aimed to twist stereotypes about millenials into supposedly positive qualities that the military would look for — for instance, “Phone Zombies” were praised for having the required focus needed.
In 2018 the military also faced criticism for advertising for non-British citizens who had never lived in the United Kingdom to join the British military in order to combat recruitment shortfalls.