The Army mainly recruits within the United Kingdom, it normally has a recruitment target of around 25,000 soldiers per year.
Low unemployment in Britain has resulted in the Army having difficulty in meeting its target, in the early years of the 21st century there has been a marked increase in the number of recruits from other (mostly Commonwealth) countries. In 2008 Commonwealth origin volunteers comprised approximately 6.7% of the Army’s total strength. In total 6,600 foreign soldiers from 42 countries were represented in the Army, not including Gurkhas. After the Gurkhas (who are from Nepal), the nation with most citizens in the British Army is Fiji, with 2,185, followed by Jamaica and Ghana with 600 each; many soldiers also come from more prosperous countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and the Republic of Ireland.
The Ministry of Defence now caps the number of recruits from Commonwealth countries, although this will not affect the Gurkhas. If the trend continues 10% of the army will be from Commonwealth countries before 2012. The cap is in place as some fear the army’s British character is being diluted, and employing too many could make the army seen as employing mercenaries.
The minimum recruitment age is 16 years (after the end of GCSEs), although soldiers may not serve on operations below 18 years; the maximum recruitment age was raised in January 2007 from 26 to 33 years. The normal term of engagement is 22 years, and, once enlisted, soldiers are not normally permitted to leave until they have served at least 4 years.
There has been a strong and continuing tradition of recruiting from Ireland including what is now the Republic of Ireland. Almost 150,000 Irish soldiers fought in the First World War; 49,000 died. More than 60,000 Irishmen, more than fromNorthern Ireland, also saw action in the Second World War; like their compatriots in the Great War, all were volunteers. There were more than 400 men serving from the Republic in 2003.
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