The British Army is “undermanned” and in need of longer breaks, the force’s top general has claimed.
In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research, general Sir Richard Dannatt called for the Army to be restructured to prevent fatigue and disengagement.
“A gap of one year between operational deployment is not unusual and often soldiers are spending much of the year before a deployment away from home, in training and preparation. This is unacceptable,” Dannatt said.
He also hinted at a possible recruitment campaign in an attempt to emulate recent figures from the US, which have showed growing numbers of military applicants as job vacancies have dwindled.
“The Army should be about 102,000 soldiers. It is currently about 98,500. By definition we are undermanned. There is a very strong argument for the size of our land forces to be larger,” he said.
General Dannatt said he would look at restructuring the Army so that personnel were not sent away on operations for more than six months out of 30 months. One solution he suggested included creating larger brigades with more soldiers, but deploying fewer brigades overall.
Defence secretary John Hutton said he supported Dannatt’s proposals.
“We have accepted that the strain of mounting two major operations – one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – is creating very substantial strain and stress on our military forces,” Hutton said.
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said the restructure would improve enlistment in the army.
“Reducing the number of overseas deployments is a start, but the government must also look at issues of healthcare and veterans’ welfare if it wants to avert a serious crisis in recruitment and retention,” he said.