A question about the strength of the British Armed Forces has once again highlighted a consistent decrease in personnel numbers across the British Army, Royal Navy, and Royal Air Force since the turn of the millennium.

The figures, disclosed in a parliamentary written question by SNP MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, Alan Brown, and answered by Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Defence, Andrew Murrison, paint a concerning picture of the diminishing size of the UK’s military forces.

The statistics indicate that since the year 2000, the British Army has seen its numbers fall from 109,600 to 76,950 in 2023, marking a significant reduction of nearly 30%. Similarly, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have not been spared, with their numbers dwindling from 42,800 to 32,590 in the same period. The Royal Air Force has experienced a similar downward trajectory, with personnel numbers dropping from 54,600 to 31,940.

The percent reduction in personnel for each service since the year 2000 is as follows:

  • British Army: Reduced by approximately 29.79%
  • Royal Navy and Royal Marines: Reduced by approximately 23.86%
  • Royal Air Force: Reduced by approximately 41.50%

The detailed figures are as follows:

YearBritish ArmyRoyal Navy and Royal MarinesRoyal Air Force
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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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Ian (@guest_785777)
4 months ago

The Conservatives know how to cut..
They know how to spend
Legal and Illegal Migration
House of Lords
Net Zero
Green Agender
Virtue Signalling
Please add to either list…..

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_785785)
4 months ago
Reply to  Ian

New nuclear to add to that list. Latest reactor in Somerset price has risen by £10 billion.
Why we can’t go with the RR SMR design and have dozens of compact reactors doing the same job at less than half the price I simply don’t understand.
Seems whenever we try to deliver infrastructure it has to cost billions and billions , be late, over budget and beset with problems.

Malcolm Rich
Malcolm Rich (@guest_785791)
4 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Thankfully the cost rise in Hinkley C is wholly shouldered by EDF, lets just get RR to build the SMR and stop dithering.

Frank62 (@guest_785835)
4 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

One thing nuclear guarantees is higher energy bills.

Expat (@guest_787746)
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank62

Per unit at point of generation yes, but when you add in the additional pylons, addtional storage, fact you need over capacity to allow charging of storage that storage for renewables. I also need to have vessels to protect the offshore renewalbles cuurent 1 so far but inevitably the fleet will need to grow, this also isn’t priced in as its paid by the tax payer. Here’s some numbers run by someone the other side of the pond for PV without inlcuding pylons. Our new reactores are generally going on existoing sites so no addtional pylons are needed. Scenario 1:… Read more »

Frank62 (@guest_785834)
4 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Policing & forensics, so many crimes go scot free & the public feel unsafe. Providing law & order is a very basic duty.

Funding local government so even with council tax rises a raft of esential services wither or are wtithdrawn.

How deperately we need people who are both qualified, talented & care passionately for the welfare of the people & the country, rather than a bunch of reject, dullard, egomaniacs in it for kudos & greed.

Expat (@guest_787751)
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank62

There no point in having policing and forensics if you don’t prosecute. We have shops proviing video of shop lifters to the police and police won’t prosecute its now considered not a crime to steal.

I agree we need ploiticians who care for the people of this country, but we have one party who who won’t fund and the other that think criminals are victims. Neither have any plan to protect law abiding citizens.

John Stevens
John Stevens (@guest_785780)
4 months ago

All rather frustrating! 😠

John Stevens
John Stevens (@guest_785783)
4 months ago
Reply to  John Stevens

Military side of things l mean Being frustrating! The other subjects l will leave you guys to chat about. Enough to talk about, just on the military side of things. eek!

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_785786)
4 months ago
Reply to  John Stevens

It’s frankly crazy. Every other peer nation is now investing in defences and increasing military. Except the UK

John Stevens
John Stevens (@guest_785795)
4 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Really will have to be a new mindset when it comes to our politicians in the future and defence issues. My confidence is not high about this happening anytime soon. 😞 Hope I’m wrong about that.

FormerUSAF (@guest_785990)
4 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Wow, 24-42% reductions w/in 25 yrs! Does not bode well for a particularly auspicious future force estimate. 🤔😳😱

JJ Smallpiece
JJ Smallpiece (@guest_785792)
4 months ago

In the 1980s/90s the RAF was between 80-90k men/ladies (didn’t have ‘other’ back then.

lordtemplar (@guest_785810)
4 months ago

actually surprised that it is not the British Army that has suffered the biggest cuts in terms of percentage but the RAF!

Last edited 4 months ago by lordtemplar
Marked (@guest_785832)
4 months ago
Reply to  lordtemplar

The RAF has been comprehensively butchered. Gone are the pretty recent days of having squadrons of air defence fighters. Squadrons of deep strike bombers. Squadrons of close air support/tactical bombers. Now if we are lucky we can muster 60 to 70 multi role aircraft that in war would be nearly all committed to UK air defence, leaving us with practically zero offensive or tactical air power to support the pitiful ground force we offer to NATO. The brutal fact is our military is not capable of offering much, if anything, to European defence. They offer more to us than we… Read more »

Robert Blay
Robert Blay (@guest_785911)
4 months ago
Reply to  Marked

Err. No. What a load of rubbish.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_786013)
4 months ago
Reply to  Marked

RAF F-35s will be on the carrier(s). We would only commit (nearly) all RAF fighters in defending UK airspace if we did not have a deployed ground force anywhere and the UK was under intense aerial attack.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_786010)
4 months ago
Reply to  lordtemplar

I think the baseline for the stats in this article should have been immediately post-Options for Change Defence Review, rather than the year 2000. Under ‘Options’, the army was reduced from 160k to 120k Regs which was the figure which had reasonably carefully worked out as being required for the post-Cold War army – ie no Russian threat to Europe! On that basis the army has been cut by 40% from its required figure. With an army of 73k Regs, we will not be able to conduct an enduring operation at Brigade group strength ie an Op HERRICK, without being… Read more »

Jonno (@guest_785830)
4 months ago

This is a timely reminder from the USA that we are living in cloud cuckoo land. Here we are with our head well above the parapit telling the Russians, the Houthis and everyone it seem we have a Big Bad Stick we are coming to beat them with but in reality we are an Emperor with only his jockstrap on! Question is does anyone in the Government realise this? If they do how can they sleep at night? I think the truth is they are asleep at the wheel! Get with it! There is a real risk that because they… Read more »

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_786011)
4 months ago
Reply to  Jonno

What has King Charles got to do with Defence? How does his reign make the nation weak? He is a figurehead Commander-in-Chief.

I don’t think anyone should be living in the 90s, let alone the 60s.

But I agree that we need to spend 5% on Defence in this ‘pre-war world’. A funny term from Shapps given that there are at least 30 armed conflicts going on in the world right now, including a rather large war in Europe.

DeeBee (@guest_785850)
4 months ago

Absolute madness, sleepwalking to disaster/defeat, numbers/ mass still very much matter and we don’t have them, it will all end in tears.

DC647 (@guest_785853)
4 months ago

This most be the only plan the Conservatives has managed to fulfil cutting the military to its bare bones. Even though its the most stupid plan on earth. Rishi will be able to put on his CV how he destroyed the best military in the world to save a few pounds…..

Andy Gass
Andy Gass (@guest_788260)
4 months ago
Reply to  DC647

Correct, under labour Army down from 109,000 to 107,000 (loss of 2,000) under the Tories, down to 70,000 (loss of 37,000)

Jon (@guest_785871)
4 months ago

This is one of the most depressing articles I’ve read. So not Friday evening fodder.

farouk (@guest_785881)
4 months ago

There’s a very interesting article in the jan issue of ‘Warships international fleet review ‘ Titled: Former UK Prime Minister returns to Govt’ by Dr Gary Blackburn In a nutshell the article is about the reinstatement of Former British PM David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary. A PM who presided over 2 (disastrous) defence reviews which saw the Harrier fleet axed, the carrier Illustrious axed  cut the frigate fleet numbers , get rid of the Nimrod, sold an RFA and whilst he (well Osborne) was forced to continue with the building of the two carriers due to contractual issues ,… Read more »

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_785993)
4 months ago
Reply to  farouk

The only way to remove the self-serving egocentric Lord is to vote these muppets out. We live in a democracy, we have to send the Tories a very loud and clear message. They are not fit to govern and will be out of power for a generation at least. Its time for a change of approach and a change of leadership. I can only hope that Labour under Starmer is going to deliver that change, but it is going to take more than one parliamentary term in office, such is the depth of disastrous policies that need to be fixed.… Read more »

Expat (@guest_787777)
4 months ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Ah nope, There’s essentailly a fag paper between Tories and Labour. Its shocking that only 20% of the political class have ever worked in the private sector which is the only part of the economy that provides wealth through taxation it pays. So 80% have never experienced the real economy where most of us spend our lives, pay our bills and put food on the table. 79% of the working polution work in the private sector. This reveals explain why our political class are broken. I won’t be voting Tory but I won’t vote Labour either, there’s nothing in their… Read more »

Frank (@guest_786077)
4 months ago

But looking on the plus side, Diversity targets are being smashed left right and centre. 😐

Expat (@guest_787722)
4 months ago
Reply to  Frank

And whilst the service numbers shrink the MoD civil service has actual added 8% more people since 2016.

Grizzler (@guest_796990)
3 months ago
Reply to  Expat

Not all bad then….

Martin (@guest_786352)
4 months ago

The in power people do not care, they shout a lot but are military is a paper tiger. We have NO AWACS, No long range ground based air defence, No currant IVF, NO ship mounted land attack system, No ship mounted anti ship missile. Our tube Arty is out ranged,No special forces aircraft. No defense surpresion aircraft. etc etc, what a joke. More leave the military than join it and we are for ever await spares for 40 year old kit.

Tom (@guest_786479)
4 months ago

Would anyone know where these figures come from? British Army in 2023, 76,950. Sorry, but I cant help but use flowery language… that’s utter bollocks!

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_787828)
4 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom, why do you challenge that figure? Its in the ballpark of where I would expect it to be.
Reg Army is in the middle of downsizing from 83,000 to 73,000 established posts, so strength will be i that bracket but somewhat down on that as we know army is not fully recruited. c77k sounds right. Not saying I like that figure – we should have an army of 120k – but it seems accurate.

Expat (@guest_787726)
4 months ago

Well its not all cuts the MoD civil service has increased in size by 8% since 2016. And what exceptional value we’re see for that increase 😀. Thats 4000 added or enough to man 40 T32 frigates. Happy days!!!! And if that’s not bad enoguh roll on a Labour government who have such a great track record in slashing the civil service.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_787826)
4 months ago

Any sign of the number of MPs shrinking by 30% since 2000? They are seemingly immune to cuts elsewhere in the public sector.