Army Reservists in South West Scotland during OBUA training (Picture: MOD).
Picture: MOD.

Number of people joining UK military falls by nearly a quarter in past year

Army Reservists in South West Scotland during OBUA training (Picture: MOD).
Picture: MOD.

The number of people joining the UK regular Armed Forces has fallen by nearly a quarter over the past year – compared to the previous 12-month period.

The data, from the Quarterly Service Personnel Statistics, shows a decrease of 3,570 (23.6%) from 1 January to 31 December 2022.

The figures reveal that the strength of the UK forces service personnel is down – by 6,970 (3.5%) over the same period.

The statistics also show the number of people who have left the UK regular Armed Forces increased, by 2,060 (14.6%).

More than 14,000 men and women have left the UK Armed Forces in the past two years and employers in other sectors are looking to harness the experience of veterans.

Further drops were seen in the strength of the Trained Future Reserves 2020, which decreased by 1,350 (4.2%), and people joining the Future Reserves 2020 fell by 1,810 (33.5%).

However, the military had always planned to reduce intake as part of the restructuring of the forces following the Integrated Review in 2021.

The military saw an increase in recruitment during the Covid-19 pandemic and it is thought recruitment numbers have now returned to pre-pandemic levels and are sufficient for defence to meet its operational requirements. 

Equipment also prompting concerns

A major concern among defence analysts and politicians is that the troops who do remain in the military are not being properly equipped.

Earlier this year, a US general reportedly told Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that the British Army is no longer considered to be among the world's top-tier fighting forces, according to a Sky News report. 

Defence sources, reported by Sky News, revealed that the unnamed general reportedly warned Mr Wallace about the status of the Army, and sources also claimed the UK's Armed Forces were "a service unable to protect the UK and its allies".

Chair of the Defence Select Committee Tobias Ellwood said many of the key components of the British Army's land warfare are now 20 to 50 years old, which is "unacceptable".

The former Army captain and now reserve officer in the Army's 77th Brigade, Mr Ellwood said: "The Army is in a dire state."

Watch: What does the Integrated Review Refresh mean for defence?

He went on to say that the capability of the Army has been whittled down, adding: "We had 900 tanks a couple of decades [ago], we are now looking at going down to 148 and, as we see in Ukraine, tanks are still required on the modern battlefield."

Downing Street acknowledged that there had been "underfunding" of the military but insisted that billions of pounds had been committed to equipment.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We certainly agree there has been underfunding and it's right that we are putting billions more into our Armed Forces."

He added: "We recognise that the Armed Forces have not received the money needed in successive years.

"That's why we put into place the £242bn 10-year equipment plan and it's why we raised the defence budget, so we continue to be the largest defence budget in Europe.

"That investment is the biggest in the UK defence industry since the Cold War."

Integrated Review: How could the military blueprint change?

Is the Integrated Review Refresh 2023 expected to help bolster battlefield resources?

The Chancellor has said the Government will add £11bn to the defence budget over the next five years – £6m more than was announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before he launched the updated Integrated Review.

Former British Army General Richard Barrons says "only a tiny difference" has been made in terms of money following the refresh of the Integrated Review.

The former head of Joint Forces Command spoke to Forces News after the "long-awaited refresh of the Integrated Review", with a particular interest in any big shifts following the invasion and war in Ukraine.

He said: "Many of us were looking to see what difference that made. And, certainly, in terms of money, it's made only a tiny difference, with essentially the big decisions about how to rebuild the Army, and to make the Navy and Air Force more resilient have all been shoved out to about 2025 and another review."

"The Army at current rates of investment needs at least five years, and more likely 10 years, to be rebuilt in terms of a deployable division, with the people, the equipment, the training and the stocks, to be effective in the face of a confrontation with Russia."

The former British Army general also told Forces News that the military needs billions of pounds to stop what is been dubbed the "hollowing out" of Britain's Armed Forces.

"I think all three of the Armed Forces are in the same boat, in that they find themselves in big handfuls at the bottom of a trajectory of more decline and hollowing out which you can track back for 30 years."

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