Over the past thirteen years, the gap between recruitment targets and actual intake in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines has increased significantly.

While there were years of near-perfect alignment with the goals and actual intake, the overall trend points towards a widening gap between the recruitment goals and the actual number of recruits.

This shortfall has been more pronounced in the Royal Marines compared to the Royal Navy, however.

For the Royal Marines, the shortfall was minimal in the earlier years, with the actual intake nearly matching the targets. However, the gap widened notably after 2016. The largest shortfall occurred in 2023, when the actual intake was 27.37% less than the target.

Royal Marines Recruitment Shortfall
Year EndingRecruitment TargetActual IntakeShortfall (%)
31-Mar-11121812170.08
31-Mar-127587520.79
31-Mar-13123311258.76
31-Mar-141159103011.13
31-Mar-1588375714.27
31-Mar-1699580519.10
31-Mar-1793673421.58
31-Mar-1898375822.89
31-Mar-19117177833.56
31-Mar-20117392621.05
31-Mar-211233105014.84
31-Mar-221389109621.10
31-Mar-23109679627.37

The Royal Navy’s recruitment story is somewhat different. Initially, the shortfall in recruitment was negligible, with actual intake figures closely mirroring the set targets.

However, from 2016 onwards, just like with the Royal Marines, there was a noticeable increase in the shortfall, peaking in 2023 with a 26.94% gap.

Royal Navy Recruitment Shortfall
Year EndingRecruitment TargetActual IntakeShortfall (%)
31-Mar-11133213310.08
31-Mar-12147214640.54
31-Mar-13169216422.96
31-Mar-14227421445.71
31-Mar-15237721768.46
31-Mar-162576219214.91
31-Mar-172779231116.83
31-Mar-182843228419.64
31-Mar-193043236522.29
31-Mar-203009263712.35
31-Mar-21317629257.90
31-Mar-222963249415.84
31-Mar-232738200126.94

While the Royal Navy has generally fared better than the Royal Marines, both forces have seen an increase in recruitment shortfalls over the years.

Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey MP, said:

“The Conservatives have failed in defence for 14 years, not once meeting their recruiting
targets for our Royal Marines and Royal Navy. This is further evidence of the growing Tory
‘crisis’ in Armed Forces recruitment and fuels fears about our ability to fulfil our NATO
obligations in full. The Conservatives have corroded the nation’s moral contract with those who serve. Personnel are living in damp and mouldy housing, satisfaction with service life has fallen to almost 40%, and more people are leaving than joining our Armed Forces. In Government, Labour would renew the country’s commitment those who serve; by fully
incorporate the Armed Forces Covenant into law, tackling the shameful state of military
housing and legislating for an Armed Forces Commissioner.”

Avatar photo
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
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

75 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago

Wages? Numbers? Getting rid of Capita and getting actual serving personnel into AFCOs?
That is what I’d like to hear him vow on this.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

Spot on DM, and dead right! Conservative party fraud and corruption at it’s best.

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Explain?

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

Capita are a major Conservative donor. Pure coincidence that they got rewarded multiple govermement contracts that under perform and have not been removed from the contracts.

Andrew Thorne
Andrew Thorne
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Has outsourcing critical roles like this ever succeeded?

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Thorne

Honestly don’t have the data to say either way. It’s fair to say that a lot of these services were not delivering under public ownership either, so failure of the outsourcer in isolation isn’t that useful without data on how performed before adjusted for changes in between.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Bollocks!!

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Care to provide evidence to support that?

Successive governments have had a vested interest in details not coming out, so that value for money to the tax payer can’t be assesses either way. To my knowledge no independent review has ever been done for it across the various outsourced contracts.

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve public sector procurement does not work like that. You might argue that procurement is long winded, overly bureaucratic, badly managed etc. but politicians have virtually no influence on who the successful supplier might be. That is all down to the procurement process and those (normally civil servants) evaluating the bids against the published criteria.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

Well that has been proven to be completely untrue, not heard of the vip lane or the various court cases that the government has lost over it. On paper the procurement process is there, but in practice MPs can heavily influence and direct it as they control departmental budgets and power over who gets promoted etc in the civil service. The national audit Office was setup to try and stop it, but as their budget is politically driven they are careful what they audit.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Policiticans also set the parameters for any tender (what they are looking for from the outsourcer) and that can easily be tweaked to ensure a preferred supplier wins.

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Nonsense Steve. The PPE issue is quite different. It only came about because traditional suppliers could not supply the product requiring desperate measures which any Government would have attempted in similar circumstances. You are clearly big on conspiracy theories and you can dispute everything with a conspiracy theory however most of the time the simplest answer is normally the correct answer. For the RN you need a specialist recruitment firm.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

glad there are people that still believe in polictics, in spit of everything that indicates otherwise.

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Do I believe in people standing up and offering their services to make the world a better place. Yes I do. Despite the reality that there are some bad actors I believe that the main issues are incompetence & stupidity. The problem is that politicians reflect society – which is how it is supposed to work. Society is full of people with all their faults.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

With so much corruption going on in recent years and more and more cases coming out, i have no faith in polictics anymore. The new government will have to work hard to rebuild the checks and balances that have been broken down /removed over recent years.

Mark B
Mark B
30 days ago
Reply to  Steve

I think the problem is less corruption and more that companies are playing the system. True the system needs changing however different suppliers could well be sucked into that area of defence expenditure as the demand for smaller autonomous systems (in quantity) builds. The trouble with politics is it is the only show in town unless you fancy autocracy.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

Explain??? Only tories could explain why the recruitment process needed to be privatised!

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Tom the recruitment process along with virtually every other process across Government was privatised due to EU procurement rules decades ago. Recruitment companies got themselves onto recruitment frameworks based on the criteria set by civil servants. The RN can take any of the companies on the framework, run a mini competition, or indeed run their own procurement if they need a specific requirement. Politicians have little if anything to do with it.

Simon
Simon
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark B

EU procurement rules do not apply to defence. that just a load rubbish spun out by politicians as an excuse, they are just acting like a lot of big corporations and try to move the cost away from in house .

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

True EU procurement rules are not binding for defence. Does this mean that the MOD has not adapted those rules for it’s own use or does not have access to Government framework contractors if it so wishes?

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
1 month ago

👍Spot on.

Liz King
Liz King
1 month ago

I have one son serving and the other waiting to get in, and has been for 18 months. Capita have caused issues every step of the way and now his application has been handed back to the navy because they’re winding down Capita’s involvement and he’s pretty much had to start the process again. He’s been through 4 TMU’s and one PMU which was upheld by the Navy, but Capita have passed him back as TMU so he’s back to the start again. Many would have given up by now. I’m not surprised they can’t get recruits when all Capita… Read more »

Simon
Simon
1 month ago

Yep the one thing you can draw from all this is that Capita running the recruit process isn’t working

Sooty
Sooty
1 month ago

Spot-on! Blindingly obvious to anyone but the government.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago

Let’s talk about the 8 RAF Typhoons, a Voyager, and a RC135 crew that have deployed to Nellis Air Force base for the first Red Flag of 2024 instead. 🇬🇧🇺🇲

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Positive as usual Robert but we cannot hide away from the facts. Almost every report in the last couple of weeks has shown shortages, undermanning, budget shortfalls and waste. It has to be dealt with.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

All true but it’s worth noting the USA that has a bid enough defence budget to take on god has the exact same problems.

Lots of people wanted to join the military when there was a real chance for combat in Afghanistan, not so many want to be in a peace time force and we are at the highest employment levels ever with lowest unemployment levels since the 60’s.

These are all big factors on military recruitment.

DP
DP
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

…. and wage inflation. I suspect it is/has been particularly poignant in recent times with wage inflation playing its part. I know of some who have taken roles in civi life rather than take a promotion as the money on offer was much higher. The military don’t take ‘industrial action’ for better pay and conditions either!

DP
DP
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Ahh, interesting, well said Robert, I’d like to know more on that too. Hint, hint George!

Richard Beedall
Richard Beedall
1 month ago

The years 2011-2013 are outliers that are distorted by defence cuts downsizing the RN by 5000. In those years recruitment in many areas almost stopped and there were also thousands of redundancies of skilled and experienced personnel (e.g. several dozen FAA Harrier pilots). Of course the downsizing overshot significantly and a decade later the RN hasn’t recovered from that disaster. Entering the RN/RM just doesn’t seem to be an appealing career for young people in the UK. I would also be interested in an unbiased study as to whether policies intended to equalise recruitment across genders and ethnic minorities have… Read more »

Marked
Marked
1 month ago

Who the hell would want to join?

I wanted to many years back when at college until a health issue ruled it out. If I was that age now would I still want to? Hell No!

Everything is a shambles, there’s very little positive news to be seen anywhere, it’s all a run down mess! It would so disheartening compared to how I viewed the prospect back then when I viewed our forces with pride.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Marked

Sad but true. Unfortunately your view, and mine, are in a minority of their own.

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Marked

I always wanted to join but the money was just nothing like what I could earn else where and the life is torture for anyone that wants to get married and have kids. I did 3 years in the TA and hated it, total waste of time, we were treated like an equipment reserve for the regulars who would always pinched our kit whenever we were on exercise. This was in the early 2000’s when the army treated the TA with distain because it thought it would not need it post Cold War and the standard equipment issued to British… Read more »

RK
RK
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

The RN needs to take a leaf out the Army’s books, perhaps if Jack was to buy his own boats, we’d get a bigger navy.

JK
JK
1 month ago

Couldn’t agree more.

Jon
Jon
1 month ago

I was just listening to Grant Shapps declare the era of the Peace Dividend is over. Not that he was actually promising more money, just that we would strive to reach 2.5% as soon as possible, but if there is some going, recruitment and retention is a good place to start.

2.5%, “as soon as possible” or not, is still peace dividend era spending. John Major’s government reduced it from 4% to 2.5% of GDP. That was the peace dividend. What Prime Minister Cameron did in 2010 wasn’t so much taking the peace….

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon

In the 30’s it was 2%.

Spending 4% long term is actually pretty high historically.

Overspending long term is a good way to loose long term.

1% of GDP over a 40 year life cycle period would equate to 50% debt to GDP

Imagine what 1% of GDP around £25 billion a year would do for infrastructure

2.5% spending on the core military budget excluding foreign aid and operations which was outlined in the last real defence review we did in 98 is affordable and sufficient.

Jon
Jon
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

We have to agree to disagree. It dropped below 3% in the first half on the 1930s, and somewhere between 1.9% and 2.5% during 1933 depending which source you take, but I can’t find any estimates that suggest it dropped as low as it has been over the last decade. And it was just one year that it dropped so low, not the whole of the 1930s. “Starting at 2.9 percent of GDP in 1936 it reached 3.75 percent in 1938, and 9 percent in 1939” UK Public Spending. The COW project has us at 3.6% in 1936 and 30%… Read more »

BobA
BobA
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon

Did GDP in the 30s include the Empire?

Ian
Ian
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

In the ’30’s the country was struggling with the Depression, and the public and HMG had no appetite for war- since they all remembered how well the last one went. If they were rationally appraising the deteriorating security situation they would have increased the budget and capability anyway, but fell into the same trap as the current lot of hoping that avoiding escalation would somehow make the problem go away. Instead they ended up having to spend at a level that bankrupted the country because they failed to nip the Hitler problem in the bud. 4% is high historically, because… Read more »

JJ Smallpiece
JJ Smallpiece
1 month ago

Why would a young lad join – poor wages, away from home for months at a time, seeing the world is no longer the big sales point it used to be.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ Smallpiece

Plus the trips ashore are rare these days. When I was in the RN (80s) I did deployments to Africa, South America, Continental Europe, central America, North America, Antarctica, the Artic region, all over the Caribbean and lots of fascinating places in between. And that was normal for every matelot pretty much. These days they hardly go anywhere, MOD can’t afford it and there is hardly any fleet left anyway.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rob
Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

👍

Farouk
Farouk
1 month ago

So after 13 years of Tory rule we have : Not enough Ship’s, not enough sailors , not enough missiles, Not enough Airmen, too many white pilots , not enough planes, Not enough Soldiers , Not enough Tanks, Self propelled Guns, Helicopters But we do have enough MPs, who almost all to the letter, subscribe to the point of view that we spend far too much money on the military, we have some who wanted members of the IRA to receive medals, some openly support Islamic terrorism, and some see British servicemen as the terrorists, we put up people with… Read more »

Grizzler
Grizzler
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

In the words of Father Ted…” careful now”…

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Grizzler

He’s right. Putting ones head in the sand isn’t working anymore.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Not sure it’s political. The American woke disease infecting UK knows no political boundaries.

In 13 years? It will be fourth rate and a mostly muslim country.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rob
Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago
Reply to  Farouk

Please don’t even go there 😕

Tom
Tom
1 month ago

To be fair, I believe the tory scum are ridiculing and trashing todays ‘younger generation’, in their attempts to deflect what they have done to Armed Forces recruitment.

Uk… population of 65+ million people, and we cannot recruit a 1000 people to crew a few warships? Utter bollocks!!

RK
RK
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

**population of 65+ million people, and we cannot recruit a 1000 people to crew a few warships? Utter bollocks!! **

Exactly this. It doesn’t add up.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Its nothing to do with Conservatives and everything to do with Gen Z youth not interested in serving their country, compared to other generations. And who can blame them? The BBC, other mass media and UK education institutions regularly tell our young people that Britain is rubbish and everyone should be ashamed of their colonial heritage. People are told the union jack as an anachronism, an indicator of evil conservative thinking and colonial brutality.

Woke and identity politicking constantly rammed down the throats of Gen Z has worked.

SailorBoy
SailorBoy
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

While not quite agreeing with some of the points you make, the overall message is correct. I grew up with news of Afghanistan and terrorism. Most people my age have just decided “all fighting is bad” and stopped there. We are so connected globally that patriotism is equated with nationalism, which is only okay if you have a greater power oppressing you. The Mass media is not the problem, it is social media. It is very hard to try to stay on the straight and narrow politically online (look up studies on it, they mostly relate to self-harm but the… Read more »

Bringer of facts
Bringer of facts
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

I also think that wokeness mentality and probably some “equality, diversity, and inclusion” madness is filtering out perfectly good recruits too.

Louis G
Louis G
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

It just comes down to money, the military has to compete with the private sector, and in an era of low unemployment, piss poor management of recruitment (thanks Capita!) and shockingly low wages the military doesn’t stand a chance.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

100% agreed. Britain has picked up the American identity politics woke disease. Group think, collectism or socialism portrayed as superior to indiviidual rights or empowerment. It’s killing the country.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob

There it is. Exactly.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago

Of more interest would be the intakes for the RN by Branch. In past years info on gapping per branch was open source…then it wasn’t and you only got the overall numbers picture. The issues with the Engineering branches was dire and from speaking to RN Engineering Branch members its hasn’t improved. This is despite increases in pay, bonuses, retention payments, reintroducing the equivalent of “Tiffs” pay, Branch rework. The damage was done decades ago from a combination of the recruitment black hole of the 90s, Pay 2000, Warfare Branch Development, Tiffs being disbanded, Pension changes, CLS contracts and numerous… Read more »

Craig
Craig
1 month ago

Why the age limit? I’m an electrician with years of experience but I’m 38. Yet still fit.

Ian
Ian
1 month ago

The retention rate is missing from this data- and is very important. Even if your intake met the target it wouldn’t do much good if the new intake leaves at the earliest opportunity.

Andrew D
Andrew D
1 month ago

Well Gurkhas for the Army ,how about the Navy .I know guys but still sure there be up for severing HMG Armed forces. 🤔

RK
RK
1 month ago

The RN need to give young people reasons to join, or they won’t, it’s that simple. Training/qualifications, leave, pay and travel would seem to be the main carrots that the RN could dangle in front of the target age group. They need to up their game in all of those. If the RN gave out qualifications that civvy street wanted or post service education (like the US GI Bill) aligned with degrees of mimimum service for the size of post service carrot, we might get somewhere. The young matelots of today also want better living conditions – afloat and ashore… Read more »

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  George Allison

Thanj you George for replying. That is odd; in the past ,though rare, I think I received an e-mail to say ‘your comment has been approved’.I think moderation is there for a good reason.Best Wishes

Last edited 1 month ago by Barry Larking
Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

‘Thank you’. Opticians! I need one!

Brian Carral
Brian Carral
1 month ago

Lots of noise regarding not enough manpower to keep ships at sea if so why are we persisting with the 2 crew system used on ships deployed overseas? 3 month on 3 month off, understand the use on nuclear deterrent boats but seams totally wasteful us of available bodies.

harryb
harryb
1 month ago

As a young person, 24 who often works with even younger people on a regular bases and who is very familiar with the military. Young people on the whole are not apposed to military service, in fact even some of the most liberal and woke people I know have considered it at one point or another. For a lot of those that do apply they simply drop out as the application process takes too long. Additionally gone are the days of the local factory employing everyone in the town. for young people with even an ounce of determination there are… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

Couldn’t agree more on that one thing that has reared its head of late is DEI people who want too join up and serve their country are being crippled by Quotas not being reached or overfilled DEI practices should be ignored

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Treat everyone equally.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

That’s how it should be but its box ticking got to be Diverse and Inclusive which is stopping people who want too join the RAF got caught out on that one

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

God I miss the days of a good old Press Gang run ashore and bring back on-board somme willing volunteers

Asker of Questions
Asker of Questions
1 month ago

Does anyone know how much of the Mod yearly budget is spent on paying armed forces personnel and how much a 15/25% pay rise would dent this?

Ian
Ian
1 month ago

Total MOD budget ca. £70 billion. Service personnel account for about a quarter of that (and civilians about 5%), so you’re talking about an increase in staff costs roughly in the range £2.6 – 4.4 billion, assuming a uniform uplift across all roles.

Asker of questions
Asker of questions
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian

I don’t know what would be easier trying to convince the treasury you want £4 billion a year for 5 type 26 or a massive pay rise.
Probably the pay rise

Albion
Albion
1 month ago

Careers Service?