The Labour manifesto has made an incorrect claim regarding the size of the British Army.

This article is part of a series looking at the manifesto claims made by the main parties in the run up to the 2019 General Election.

The Claim: “Trained army personnel have been cut from 102,000 to just over 74,000.”

The Reality: The British Army aims for a strength of 81,500 trained Regulars and 27,000 Army Reservists. Retention and recruitment issues mean that this figure isn’t currently being reached.

Verdict: The figure provide by Labour in their manifesto refers to the current size of the British Army which is having problems with retention and recruitment, the Army however has not actually been cut to that size.

What’s the background here?

Following the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 and the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 the British Army adopted an evolving structure (known as Army 2020 Refine) that would see the number of Regular personnel set at 82,000 and see an increase in the number of Reservists to 30,000.

This would bring the ratio of regular to part-time personnel in line with the US and Canada and better integrate the Army Reserve into the Regular Army.

While many argue that this is too small, the drawbacks or advantages of the current size of the British Army is outwith the scope of this fact checking article.

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Daniele Mandelli

81,500 trained regulars?

That figure should include those in Phase 1 and Phase 2 training.

David Barry

There’s the rub. Under recruitment, horrific retention, just passed phase 1 being counted and the elephant in the room: medically downgraded circa 10K.

So circa 60K effective troops.


Why would we want more numbers than that? From the moment Labour procured the 2 carriers and the Tory Lib coalition decided to stick to them, we moved to a more maritime strategy. We have moved away from major Iraq and Afghanistan fighting. ISIS is effectively destroyed, the remnants are bottled up. Air power contains our interests in the region. Terrorism is not going to beat tanks. And what ever troops we gave must need air cover and superiority. An enemy is not going to move against us with F35s over us. Isn’t the issue that we should have a… Read more »

Harry Bulpit

Until we find are selfies back in an afghan like scenario as we suddenly did in 2001 with no spare troops to commit to any new conflict that cant be resolved by an armoured division.


Afghanistan in 2001 was immediately after 911 and our involvement was IIRC limited. We then later chose to join in to Iraq and after that we went back to Afghanistan. Both were things we chose to do and which led us into a quagmire. And all were via allies and UN resolutions. My point is we could have been involved in all these things, rightly or wrongly, but all within the limits of what we chose to be able to do. Above all such things now could be done mostly with air power. We can do great things with and… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli



Air power can only be guaranteed in a non-peer conflict. In a near-peer or peer conflict, and especially if it was just us (we might have our allies in most scenarios, but planning assumptions should always be to support ourselves), we can’t guarantee uncontested air superiority.

It’s why tanks and artillery have been brought to the fore again, because when both sides are denying reliable air cover, you can only depend on what you have physically available. You also need to make sure you have enough of a trained manpower pool that you can absorb the occasional tragedy.


So who are we going to go to war with, alone, against our peers?

Steve H

Trevor…..Have you forgotten about the Falklands conflict that just popped up from nowhere or are you too young to know about it?
You never know what could happen, it is indeed a dangerous World and literally…. anything can go t£ts up at any time. The thing about “would we go anywhere without an Ally or two is wrong as well, we were good friends with the US back in ’82 but the US didn’t jump in and commit assets to the fight. You have to be prepared mate……


If you read my short comment it was saying about going to war with our peers. The likes of Argentina are not our “peers. France is currently involved in Mali, and indeed we are assisting them.

Daniele Mandelli

Agree with Trevor. Size wise we can live with an Army around this size. It is how it’s structured and equipped.


Wasn’t it 35,000 army reserves now and we are looking for 120,000 trained army personnel in army 2020 including serving reserves?. And why have we stopped counting a huge part of our millitary reserves? If a major war broke out the ex army regular reserves 40,000 personnel would be called up again if under contract to, then there’s other reserves that have no fixed contract that we don’t count now but used to were again tens of thousands!, but reserves not including serving reserves used to number hundred odd thousand combined in old figures. But I doubt we would have… Read more »


MoD evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee in 2016 gave the Regular Reserve strength as 8,300 officers and 20,040 soldiers based on responses to the annual reporting letter. See Q3 in the evidence.


At risk of repeating sentiment, but in fairness to Labour, if we can only muster 74 and a bit K troops, that’s what the numbers have been cut to!

On a personal (and not as genned up on Land as other areas) note, I wouldn’t mind a Regular Army of 75k, with 25k Reserve…so long as the blustering of ‘people being our number one priority’ materialises with a focus on infrastructure and equipment. Smaller but fully supplied/equipped/looked after would make a nice change.


(And the posts released for a combined strength of 75k + 25k reserve in the RAF and RN)

Steve H

The Labour Party lying? I don’t see them doing that, do you?? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha…… With the Labour Party being pretty unpopular pretty much everywhere in this Country, trying to lie about our Armed Forces numbers won’t go down well with service personnel and the Country as a whole. Commissar Corbynov has already said, and he firmly believes this by the way, that he thinks we shouldn’t have an military at all. We “should be like Costa Rica” apparently… What a great way to alienate pretty much all 3 services personnel, both serving and ex men and… Read more »