In a recent parliamentary inquiry, Labour MP John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) posed a question to the Ministry of Defence regarding the British Army’s recruitment targets and actual numbers each year since 2010.

The response, provided by Andrew Murrison, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, offers a detailed look into the recruitment patterns of the Army, particularly concerning the Other Ranks.

The British Army has consistently fallen short of its recruitment targets for other ranks each year since 2010, as highlighted by the recent Ministry of Defence data. The figures reveal a cumulative deficit of 22,350 in the Basic Training Starts (BTS) Targets for British Army ‘Other Ranks’, compared to the total recruitment goal of 119,530 set over the period from 2010 to 2023.

The first table presented by the Under-Secretary outlines the Basic Training Starts (BTS) Targets for British Army Other Ranks by financial year, with no specific targets set for officers:

Table 1: Basic Training Starts (BTS) Targets for British Army Other Ranks by Financial Year

Financial YearBTS Target (OR)
2010-118,350
2011-1210,530
2012-139,830
2013-149,380
2014-159,370
2015-169,550
2016-1710,200
2017-189,770
2018-199,990
2019-209,400
2020-21*9,870
2021-226,670
2022-238,220

Note: The 2020-21 target was initially set at 9,870 but was later adjusted to 8,270 due to Integrated Review (IR) measures.

The second table reveals the BTS Actuals for both Officers and Other Ranks in the British Army:

Financial YearTotal BTS ActualsOfficer BTS ActualsOther Ranks BTS Actuals
2010-118,5207407,780
2011-1210,89069010,200
2012-1310,0606209,440
2013-146,8105606,250
2014-157,8505007,350
2015-168,1005507,550
2016-177,6206406,980
2017-186,6006205,990
2018-196,5006405,860
2019-209,5806308,960
2020-21*9,3306508,680
2021-227,2306506,580
2022-236,0805205,560

Please note: The figures are for the Regular Army only and exclude Gurkhas, Full Time Reserve Service, Mobilised Reserves, Army Reserve, and other reserves. Figures have been rounded for presentation purposes. Totals and sub-totals have been rounded separately and may not sum exactly due to this rounding.

Several important notes and caveats accompany these figures:

  • The data pertains only to the Regular Army, excluding Gurkhas, Full Time Reserve Service, Mobilised Reserves, Army Reserve, and other reserves. However, it includes personnel transferring from GURTAM to UKTAP.
  • Basic Training Start figures until 2016/17 include both Phase 1 and Phase 2 training entrants. Post-2016, following a change in the definition of trained strength, the figures represent only those entering Phase 1 training. This change in definition means figures from 2017/18 onwards are not directly comparable to previous years.
  • For presentation purposes, figures have been rounded to the nearest 10, and totals may not sum up due to separate rounding of totals and sub-totals.

This comprehensive breakdown of recruitment figures over more than a decade highlights the challenges faced by the British Army in meeting its recruitment targets.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_779896)
5 months ago

It could well be me but the second list number don’t even seem to match the first? Anyone? 2010 first block says 8350. Second is 8520 split then to Off/OR.

BobA
BobA (@guest_779905)
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

second chart you are looking at right hand column only for the comparison – it’s the OR (Other Rank) target and actuals. The second chart also includes officer actuals and a total.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_780080)
5 months ago
Reply to  BobA

O.K. Thanks Bob. So 8350 2010 target but 7780 actual, a shortage of 570.

BobA
BobA (@guest_780083)
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

Spot on

BobA
BobA (@guest_780084)
5 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

Which means that since 2010, there have been more than a unit’s worth of black holes flowing up the manning pyramid. And that’s just if 2010 was in isolation.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_780180)
5 months ago
Reply to  BobA

Makes you cringe, doesn’t it.

DanielMorgan
DanielMorgan (@guest_779903)
5 months ago

There are over 6,000,000 people in the UK ages 15-24 and the Army can’t recruit 8,000?

BobA
BobA (@guest_779909)
5 months ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

or to put it another way, fewer than 8000 of them are willing to join. Or a third way, fewer than 8000 were able to get through the recruitment process… To put this into context, I joined the TA in 2003. 6 weeks after walking in to express interest, I was in uniform, attested and starting training. I joined the regular Army in 2007. I left in 2017. When I decided to give the reserves a go, it took me 9 Months from submission of paperwork to being taken on strength. And that was as a re-joiner (ie within 2… Read more »

SailorBoy
SailorBoy (@guest_779940)
5 months ago
Reply to  BobA

I am myself a young person and most of my friends are young. Not one besides myself is even considering the remote possibility of a military career. Most references to working in defence are followed by variations on “bombing Iraqi children”.
Social media coverage of defence is overwhelmingly negative, most people don’t realise that their armed forces allow them to criticise their armed forces.

Cymbeline
Cymbeline (@guest_779965)
5 months ago
Reply to  BobA

Was Capita doing the recruit program then? If so that’s your answer.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_779930)
5 months ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

…or to put it another way, Capita can’t recruit 8,000.

pete
pete (@guest_779981)
5 months ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Blair’s illegal wars and redundancies while on active duty have tarnished the career option !

Tom
Tom (@guest_780040)
5 months ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

Exactly… what a load of bollocks! Same as “oh we have to mothball or sell ships, as we cannot crew them” bollocks and a load of shite!

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_780081)
5 months ago
Reply to  DanielMorgan

The problem is everywhere. Teachers can’t recruit, NHS either. The police are taking on children. The hospitality sector where my business is…try taking on young people to work shifts or weekends…they don’t want to know. This is where legal immigrants come in. They’ll work where “our” own youngsters won’t.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_779904)
5 months ago

The Gurkha omission is always telling and must be considered when viewing the ORBAT.
The Gurkhas form several sub units from the CS/CSS formations as well as the well known RGR Battalions.

Tom
Tom (@guest_779907)
5 months ago

Nice charts… the columns they left out of course, are the ones showing the ‘savings’ against allocated recruitment and wage budgets for those years.

BobA
BobA (@guest_780284)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tom

That’s not how the budgets work. That gets shown as underspend which can be taken as a ‘saving’ by treasury in subsequent years. That’s why you often get a run to spend at year end. But also a scrabble to cut spend to ’balance the books.’ In year accounting drives really perverse behaviours.

But in the TLB, it’s actually very hard to move money between budgets.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_779928)
5 months ago

Capita took on recruitment in March 2012, pledging to improve recruiting compared to the in-house system.

John
John (@guest_779937)
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

And a total disaster they are.

pete
pete (@guest_779982)
5 months ago
Reply to  John

Corporations have too much influence over Governments , eg . Babcock boasting that the UK armed forces can’t go to war without them !

John Clark
John Clark (@guest_779986)
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Another great joke Graham…..

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780082)
5 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

As an ex-REME officer, I was troubled by Babcocks taking over Base Repair from ABRO (formerly the REME static workshop organisation).

My concern was confirmed when I heard that they had sold or scrapped a lot of useful heavy tools and equipment at the Bovington site without replacement.

I am not sure how good they are at doing BIR (Base Inspection & Repair) for AFVs etc which was the successor to Base Overhaul (BOH). Would be interesting to hear some anecdotal evidence.

pete
pete (@guest_780305)
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

They handed back the Bovington Detachment Building near to the test track against everyone’s advice including Army. This was a purpose built facility easy to service and recover vehicles to. This caused delays repairing training vehicles. There was not enough space or doors in the main workshop over the road for efficient operation. This resulted in heavy machine shop being scrapped, stuff like milling machine and gas cutting machine with 4 meter bed. Many lathes were removed with fork lifts for cheapness which can bend the beds by a few thou’ and left in lean to to go rusty.As for… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780316)
5 months ago
Reply to  pete

Thanks Pete for the info. Shocking. Is the contract due to end soon or has it been extended?

I could never understand contracting this work out. Everyone was happy with the in-house arrangement (18 Base Wksp REME, then ABRO Bovington). With BIR replacing BOH c.2001, the in-house cost was driven down substantially.

pete
pete (@guest_780327)
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

Laughingly they got an extension for up to five years ! They are now back in the BOV DET building as LM contract failed.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780527)
5 months ago
Reply to  pete

Just like Capita got an extension as a reward for poor recruiting?

I don’t understand why a crap firm gets hired to do outsourced services and then re-engaged after awful performance.

LM contract – was that anything to do with WCSP?

Billy
Billy (@guest_779938)
5 months ago

Is there a reason for not recruiting more Gurkhas ??

pete
pete (@guest_779985)
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy

Think the Government doesn’t like they have to pay them properly and give them same pensions !

BobA
BobA (@guest_780285)
5 months ago
Reply to  pete

There is a total quota agreed with the government of Nepal. We can’t go too high against that. And another issue rarely spoken of. The agreement largely persists because retiring Gurkhas returned to Nepal with their pension and are comparatively wealthy – often they use money to the benefit of their community. Now they have the right to remain in the U.K. the cycle is somewhat broken. So the U.K. government is trying to be careful (actually the Army is trying to be careful). Gurkhas also come with restrictions. Eg couldn’t go on SHADER because the agreement with Iraq was… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780318)
5 months ago
Reply to  Billy

There are only so many Gurkha units.

Tim
Tim (@guest_779947)
5 months ago

It’s because they make it so hard to join and it takes ages young people wont wait 10 months to hear back

farouk
farouk (@guest_779974)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim

Tim wrote: <b>”It’s because they make it so hard to join and it takes ages young people wont wait 10 months to hear back”</b> I was actually in Officer recruiting just before we went over to Capita. Before, I had full recourse to the civies who ran the show and if we had any hiccups I could always touch base with them and they would always help me out. Then we went over to Captia and standards fell.  it was so bad that RMAS held a meeting on a Saturday morning at Churchill Hall, I tipped up with 2 Lt… Read more »

Andy P
Andy P (@guest_779988)
5 months ago
Reply to  farouk

A mate of mine who had done about 9 years on submarines then left for a couple of years, went to join back up and was refused because he was ‘too heavy’. The guy was a effin’ ‘unit’, mostly muscle. He got into wild swimming and swam the channel pretty soon after. Another mate who was trying to join the reserves after (at least 22 years) was told because he had been to sickbay with a bad back 5 times he wasn’t fit enough. He pointed out that because he ran Field Gun for a large chunk of that time… Read more »

farouk
farouk (@guest_779998)
5 months ago
Reply to  Andy P

That story reminded me of my own little run in: I was tasked for a MRI and had to attend the military wing of a civy Hospital anyway before anything happened i was weighed by a civy nurse and afterwards she replied you are classed as obese, I started laughing and replied, I gym it 5 times a week, I run 5 miles every other day, I do Karate 3 times a week with the local civy club and I do army PT twice a week, look at me, do i look fat? She replied , the chart says you… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780321)
5 months ago
Reply to  farouk

These idiots seem to rely just on a BMI reading? A true professional would understand the limitations of BMI alone.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_779951)
5 months ago

‘Basic Training Starts’ – new term on me. Presumably means somone who has started Basic Trg ie Ph 1 trg.

As important is how many of those actually finish Basic Trg and then go on to complete Ph2 trg and then join their first unit! Admittedly that is not a recruitment issue but it feeds into actual under-manning in units.

Last edited 5 months ago by Graham Moore
farouk
farouk (@guest_779966)
5 months ago

From Parliament 2019: Capita’s contracts with the Ministry of Defence Inquiry Scope of inquiryThe British Army needs to continually recruit new soldiers and officers to replace those who leave or retire from service. In July 2018, the Army was 5,600 regular soldiers and officers (7%) below its required strength and will not meet its 2020 target of 82,000 regulars. It has significant skill shortages in specific trades. The failure to meet its recruitment requirements can affect the Army’s ability to meet operational demands and new threats. In 2012, the Army contracted with Capita to transform its recruitment approach. The Army… Read more »

Cymbeline
Cymbeline (@guest_779969)
5 months ago

No surprise really. The Army doesn’t have a lot of positives going for it these days sadly. Lots of news of poor accommodation, equipment delays. No figurehead or national engagement. Really a poor shit show.

rattman
rattman (@guest_780018)
5 months ago
Reply to  Cymbeline

I was involved in surveys here in AUS (that no one ever read) about this. So note this is australia but we suffer from a lot of the same issue. The interesting this was retaining people. Less than 20% would recommend the military for their children. That number did vary by service. RAAF highest, navy lowest. But if you take out the number 1, military has a bad rep after time in Afghanistan and Iraq The major other reason and I was quite surprised when I heard this several times and going to use what I remember someone said to… Read more »

Cymbeline
Cymbeline (@guest_780035)
5 months ago
Reply to  rattman

I’m sure there’s a lot there that would translate to young people here. When I was young it was “Join the Army and See the World” also getting a trade along the way. Moving round never bothered me, in fact new locations was a good way to learn about your own country not to mention the rest of the world. I think the UK issue is also down to money. Imagine the money the government is saving in wages and future pensions. I think they are happy to starve our forces of manpower. I also think unless the UK is… Read more »

rattman
rattman (@guest_780043)
5 months ago
Reply to  Cymbeline

Pay wasn’t an issue in the survey because ADF are well paid. I think a corporal in the UK makes about 37 000 pound (70K AUD) but base salary for a pte just out of IET is 71K AUD. That doesn’t take into account accomadation and allowances which are also better in the ADF

A corporal in the ADF depending on exact band is close to or over 100k. Also ADF pensions dont come out of the defence budget unlike the UK

Mickey
Mickey (@guest_780127)
5 months ago
Reply to  rattman

My cousin’s son joined the Canadian Army right out of high school and the covid isolation. Pay was not an issue for him, it was just to get out of the lockdown, although pay in the Canadian armed forces has improved which is an added bonus for him.

There are 16,000 vacant positions in the forces currently.

He is definitely not cooped up anymore. lol

Last edited 5 months ago by Mickey
Cymbeline
Cymbeline (@guest_780168)
5 months ago
Reply to  rattman

I’m not sure what the rates of pay are these days. It was poor when I joined, but I never joined for the money. Things improved when the Conservatives got into power in the later 70s and the armed forces got a 28% pay rise (over 3 years) to bring us into line with the other emergency services. My original comment though was how much the country is saving by not having those posts filled.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780325)
5 months ago
Reply to  rattman

I am sure you know that living-in British soldiers pay for food, accomodation, Council Tax (CILOCT) etc

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780323)
5 months ago
Reply to  Cymbeline

….and no real active service.

Peter S
Peter S (@guest_779970)
5 months ago

Isn’t it now blindingly obvious that the Capita contract needs to be cancelled and recruitment taken back in house.
That might not solve all the problems but the pre Capita years showed much smaller shortfalls against targets. The conversion rate of applications to appointments is pathetically low.

Frank62
Frank62 (@guest_780299)
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter S

The greatest mistake in all the privatising is that the focus shifts from delivering the product or service to maximising the mark up for profits. All about greed & plundering the system rather than serving the nation best.

pete
pete (@guest_779979)
5 months ago

Number of ex-forces living on the streets is not a good advert for recruitment , saw one recently with a sign saying ex -Royal Engineers looking for work !

Andrew D
Andrew D (@guest_780008)
5 months ago
Reply to  pete

Bloody sad 😕

David Barry
David Barry (@guest_780012)
5 months ago

It’s all Labour’s fault!

Andrew D
Andrew D (@guest_780013)
5 months ago

Just like the other post I put on for the navy ,shutting down recruitment officers in towns and cities don’t help .Remember the day when you had TA centres in town’s cities even in villages all over the UK .Ok only part time but it all help in interest for the forces . 🇬🇧

Steve
Steve (@guest_780025)
5 months ago

Out of curiosity how is this worked out? At any time any organisation has a certain number of people leaving and a certain number joining, if roles can’t be filled until someone leaves there will always be gaps or people leave unexpectly etc. Same happens with the company i work for there is a headcount and budget which makes it hard to ensure overlaps that don’t result in open vacancies in every report. A turnover rate of around 8-10% is pretty common in the private sector which these figures seem to indicate. Whether the target is right is a whole… Read more »

Tom
Tom (@guest_780041)
5 months ago

A couple of months back, I made claims that the Army were making redundancies on the sly, by reducing the number of soldiers in their Battalion MT sections, and returning them to infantry companies, or ‘easing them out the door’ on other ways.(redundancy) That has now actually happened. So to the mealy mouthed punks who rock up here and add their ‘two pennorth’ now and again, I ******* “*”* “*”* “*! The work that the MT sections did, will now be carried out by private companies. Bean counters/accountants, private companies and Gov departments have been running the Armed Forces for… Read more »

Andrew D
Andrew D (@guest_780048)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tom

IT’S outrageous 👍

James Bussey
James Bussey (@guest_780092)
5 months ago

What the army is up against here is the British government’s and public’s consistent anti-militarism: UK defence policy has always been to reduce the armed forces down to the lowest possible level it can get away with, whilst having someone else do our country’s fighting for us. Right now it’s Ukraine, since the end of the Cold War it has been the USA, in WWII the Soviet Union, in WWI the French and Russians, in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars it was central European nations, and so on. We only pull our weight as a nation with large properly… Read more »

Ian Skinner
Ian Skinner (@guest_780118)
5 months ago

Capita have been failing for 13 years and yet still keep the contract, no private company would tolerate such incompetence from a supplier: They have recently been giving the contract for carrying out medical assessments for Royal Navy recruits; a backlog is now developing.

Phil C
Phil C (@guest_780313)
5 months ago

As an outsider, I do wonder whether the pay and perks aren’t enough, but that the biggest issue is the media coverage that really highlights questionable interventions, the severe injuries sustained in Afghanistan and the attention on PTSD. Late Cold War the armed forces was about training for a conflict that likely wouldn’t happen and a lot of playing sports and foreign travel. Now it seems more about limb amputations and insufficient psychological support. And anyone who is following closer is probably aware of the trend of cutbacks and toward unmanned systems. A difficult time to recruit, especially when left… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_780617)
5 months ago
Reply to  Phil C

Good points. I think a lot of parents will put off their son/daughter from joining the forces for such reasons and also girlfriends/boyfriends will influence too.

Why join the forces now? There is virtually no active service. Little fun travel (ie sunshine postings). Discipline is tough. Postings and detachments (Estonia, Poland etc) can be very far from home town/friends/boyfriend/girlfriend. Personal freedoms are curtailed. Accomodation can be poor. Sport opportunities reduced. Equipment is often older than the new recruit – depressing. Some of the work can be ‘not as expected’ – helping with national crises such as pandemic, flood relief etc.

Neil Young
Neil Young (@guest_781247)
5 months ago

Is anyone surprised when there are government lawyers spying on injured veterans to see if they are really injured. That along with chasing us NI vets whilst giving the IRA a pass. Who would want to join when you are treated like dirt when you get out?

Michael Brigg
Michael Brigg (@guest_781266)
5 months ago

What might be putting off people joining is how they are put on the scrapheap after finishing their service, while illegal migrants are treated better than ex-soldiers.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_781449)
5 months ago

The Daily Telegraph today reports that 30% of service personnel are unfit to fight, with the army being the worst hit. In my day it was just 10%.

Ian
Ian (@guest_781741)
5 months ago

Yet another privatisation that’s failed… like so many others….