Strength of British military falls for ninth year

A soldier taking part in a military exerciseImage source, Getty Images

The size of Britain's armed forces has fallen for the ninth consecutive year, new Ministry of Defence figures show.

The Army, the RAF and the Royal Navy have all seen a decline in the number of fully-trained personnel - with the Army experiencing the biggest fall.

Labour said the government was "running down" the UK military - calling it a "crisis" in recruitment and retention.

The Ministry of Defence said the armed forces continued to meet all their operational requirements.

The latest figures showed the Army was more than 7,000 troops short of the government's target of 82,000.

In July there were 74,440 full-time and fully-trained troops, down from 76,880 last year.

There were smaller declines for the RAF and navy but they also failed to meet their target strength.

The RAF total stood at 29,930 of the required 31,840, while the Royal Navy and Royal Marines dropped to 29,090 of the required 30,600.

The MoD said it has been working hard to improve recruitment, adding that applications to join the Army were at a five-year high.

The Army raised eyebrows with its recruitment campaign at the start of the year, which used stereotypical images of millennials, including "snowflake", and "selfie addicts", on its posters.

Media caption,

Army recruiting "snowflakes": What do people think?

The latest data showed 13,520 people had 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 - up from 14,860 in 2018.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the government was running down the armed forces "year after year" and the numbers were "well below their own targets".

She said: "Ministers are either in complete denial about this crisis in recruitment and retention, or they are actively in favour of cutting the armed forces to these historically low levels."

MPs have repeatedly raised concerns over the use of private firm Capita in recruitment and wider efforts to retain personnel.

Capita was awarded the £495m contract for Army recruitment in 2012 - but has failed to hit soldier recruitment targets every year since.

In December last year, a National Audit Office report found that the Army's £113m recruitment website was 52 months late.

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