Only 10 16-year-olds have joined Royal Navy in the last year
THE number of 16-year-olds joining the Royal Navy has plummeted with only 10 signing up in the last year.
The new figures reveal that though recruitment targets have been met, the number of youngsters joining the armed forces is a fraction of what it was ten years ago.
The Ministry of Defence said a raw recruit’s ability and enthusiasm was more important than their age.
However, some commentators have suggested that the scything Strategic Defence Spending Review (SDSR) cuts and perceptions of low morale, have reduced the attractiveness of joining the armed forces.
Mike Critchley, a Liskeard based ex Royal Navy officer who publishes Warship World, said: “The SDSR has obviously had an effect.”
“The whole world knows that the armed forces in the UK are getting smaller.”
According to figures revealed by defence minister Mark Francois, following a parliamentary question, just 10 16-year-olds enlisted in each of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. In the army however, some 1,475 16-year-olds joined up in 2011-12.
In total, only 1,495 16-year-olds signed up across the three services in 2011-12, compared with 4,430 in 2002-03.
The fall was most dramatic for the Royal Navy, which saw 585 new recruits join in 2003-04.
The youngest age new recruits can join the armed forces is 16, although they have to be 18 to be deployed in front line operations.
Mr Critchley said that times had changed and many parents believed 16 was too young to join the army, navy or air force.
“The bottom line is that kids in general are staying at school longer.
“As a parent I would want my child to stay in education until they are 18 rather than rushing off to join up at 16.”
The changes in recruitment figures come as cuts under the SDSR continue with Devonport Naval Base stripped of four warships and around one-third of the first 1,000 naval redundancies issued in the Westcountry.
An official survey by the MoD among servicemen and women last year revealed morale to be at its lowest for decades.
However the MoD said the forces had hit their manning targets and recruitment was buoyant: “It would be completely misleading to make assumptions about the popularity of our Armed Forces based on the recruitment of 16 year olds.
“As we re-configure our Armed Forces to become a more balanced, capable and adaptable military power, slowing recruitment is just one of the ways to reach our required manning numbers. “There is also a wider government push for young people to stay in education until they are 18 which has raised the average age at which people join the Services.”
The spokesman added that recruitment continued “unabated” to fill “challenging roles” in the armed forces.