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Army recruitment drive launched amid fall in soldier numbers

Decline in traditional recruitment base and bureaucracy of application process blamed for the decrease.

An Army campaign appealing to potential soldiers from different backgrounds comes amid growing concern about recruitment numbers.

The size of the regular Army has plummeted from 159,100 in 1980 to 83,561 in 2017, official figures show.

A report commissioned by Downing Street published in July also found the Army was running at more than 30% short of its annual recruitment target.

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How the size of the UK army has changed since 1980 (PA Graphics)

The head of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter, said in Britain today there are 25% fewer white 16 to 25-year-old males, who formed the force’s traditional recruitment base.

The changing demographic has forced it to widen its appeal to those from a range of backgrounds.

Sir Nick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What this campaign is about, frankly, is a recognition that we don’t have a fully manned Army at the moment, that the demography of our country has changed and that we need to reach out to a broader community in order to man that Army with the right talent.”

Since 2010, when 108,920 were serving, there has been a steady decline in the number of full-time personnel, according to Ministry of Defence statistics.

Latest figures, from the year to October 2017, reveal the size of the regular Army has dropped further to 82,207.

Sir Nick said applications to join have gone up 30% to 35% in the last nine months after the army updated its advertising strategy to appeal to “new types of applicant”.

He said: “Our traditional cohort would have been white, male, Caucasian 16 to 25-year-olds and there are not as many of those around as there once were, our society is changing, and I think it’s entirely appropriate for us therefore to try and reach out to a much broader base to get the talent we need in order to stay in that combat effectiveness.”

Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, criticised the “almost impenetrable” recruitment process, which he said is contributing towards the low numbers entering the system.

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Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, says part of the problem is the bureaucracy of the recruitment process (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He told BBC Breakfast he has been contacted by people who have tried to join the Army but “can’t get through the system”.

He said: “It’s not because of any shortcomings on them, it’s not because of any concerns they have, it’s because of the horrific bureaucracy, and I think that needs to be addressed.”

Concerns have been raised about recruitment across the armed forces.

In the year to April 2017, 12,950 recruits joined the regular armed forces, but 14,970 service personnel left in the same period.

The Royal Navy and the RAF were also failing to hit their annual recruitment target by about 10%.

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