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Constant manpower and equipment cut’s over the decades by consecutive governments.


So you’re commenting on an article you obviously haven’t read. Or have misunderstood. I’ve done the latter and that’s where the edit button comes in handy.


Fully read the article, fully understood the article, added another angle based upon my experiences and knowledge of the historical cuts. Assumption is the mother of all ignorance.

David MacDonald

A few months ago, passing the tri-service recruiting office in Chelmsford. I noticed that every single photograph in the window was of a woman or an ethnic minority. The subminimal message seemed to be that if you are a white British young man then you are not welcome. Since such people are likely to be those mostly likely to wish join the Armed Services, this seems crazy. The recent problem with RAF recruiting seems to reinforce what I have written above. Of course the armed services should be open to those who wish to join with the right personality and skill set but family tradition still plays a part as it does in all professions.

Before someone attacks me for my supposed prejudices, I should say that I frequently tell my grandson, a bit of a ruffy-tuffy, that he should join the Royal Marines albeit he is only three so time will tell!

David MacDonald

I forgot to explain that my grandson is 50% Canadian Sikh and 25% Japanese.

Last edited 3 months ago by David MacDonald

David, the reason there is a drive to recruit more woman and ethnic minorities is because this is a traditionally untapped market for the navy, unlike the army.

I would like to think that its purely to make the workforce in the RN much more reflective of the general population, but its more likely that, if they can open up recruitment in these groups, they will open the flood gates to an deluge of candidates.

If you want an example of how few ethnic minorities are in the RN. In 27 years, I have served with just 1 british born ethnic minority.

If you compare that to the army, you have whole regiments full of british born ethnic minorities.

Something needs to change.

David MacDonald

Yes OK and I met very few ethnic minorities serving in the RN during my 18 years of service. However my point was that everyone who might wish to join should be encouraged to do so.

Last edited 3 months ago by David MacDonald

Which Army Regiments are full of ‘British born’ minorities ?


I work in RN recruitment and can promise you that there are plenty of people joining that are ethnic minorities. The vast population of this island are white, so if we need more people why are we trying to attract the minority? I literally couldn’t care less what race, gender, sexuality you are, as long as you’re good at your job, but stop advertising to the minority and excluding the majority and maybe we would attract more personnel and be in less of a crisis.


Very good points. But I think there is a misunderstanding about how advertising works all around.
General media ads should be generic with a mixed pool of ‘talent’ shown, the ethnicity shouldn’t even be a ‘thing’ as thats how it works amoung the age group it targets. Sell the sizzle not the sausage

Jack Graham

And yet in 1968 when I joined the RAF, in the north east I actually joined with a Muslim, used to get a lift home on leave from a Hindi in his Wolseley, and on my first posting to a joint Comment in the Gulf their was a guy from Barbados and one from Jamaica on my comms team shift of about 20 people, one RN one RAF. On my first posting overseas and on my return there were several homosexual men across the unit, not being particularly discreet, and this was when it was still illegal in the forces. They were a minority because they are minorities and nothing has changed today. If you want full recruitment in the forces you try and attract the majority population which is by a distance still white hetereosexual.


I’ve served 22 years in the Army. There are no Regiments that are wholly full of ethnic minorities. Some have more than others, but the only entirely non-White British regiments are the Gurkhas, who were born in Nepal.


I don’t think the military is the best place for someone who feels disheartened by a few photos. You’ve basically explained a window display made to encourage minorities and boost the confidence of those who are more likely to feel apprehensive. More so than the young white male. In my experience as a young white male – we don’t have as many barriers and the best of us understand the need to make others feel welcome.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ryan
Supportive Bloke

A lot if the ‘young white males’ I met in RN uniform we’re not that confident to start with.

Ok once they had done a few years that changed.

So, yes – RN must appeal to a broad cross section of society.

David MacDonald

From what you wrote I don’t think you have any experience of the armed services. I do not remember being “made welcome” into the RN but rather, after a time, having a very definite feeling of belonging. 

For those of us who actually “do” rather than just talk, confidence comes with a feeling of competence and ability and it takes time and effort to get there. 

Last edited 3 months ago by David MacDonald
Peter evans

100% correct

Jack Graham

And there lies the problem, your default feeling that some will attack you for your innocent comments.
A young family male had decided to apply to join the RAF just before it all kicked off a few months ago, it then became public they were deliberately discriminating against white males. He immediately decided there was no point joining such an organisation as he felt however good he was, he would never be promoted on merit as he didn’t tick the minority boxes. He is now doing an HND in electronics.

They are now paying the price of discriminating against their traditional majority recruitment base, and are now paying the price. They will never get enough minorities if all shades to join, do they are effectively and rightly stuffed.

David MacDonald

Thank you. I would like to amplify the point that I did not marry my Japanese wife (whom I first met at an official reception on the flight deck of RN frigate on which I was serving) because she was Japanese but because were attracted to each other as individuals. Had I, like most of my friends, married a white British wife and our daughter married a white British husband, my defence against false accusations of racism would not have been available.  I agree that the RN, and the other two services too, will never solve their recruitment problems until and unless they can appeal to all our people and regard potential and actual recruits as individuals rather than members of some or other group.


I know a lot of people (including myself) rejected for medical reasons, being rejected for stuff on medical records leaves a sour taste when reading stuff like this.

Richard Rose

Imagine my surprise that outsourcing recruitment has turned into a complete disaster. I wonder how much Crapita has given in bribes over the years to various governments.


Careers offices and regular military presence, otherwise the armed forces are batting out wicket. Civvie companies, like Capita and the rest don’t gi e a monkeys, they’ve got the money in the bag. And with kids being misdiagnosed with protected ailments, these civvie companies err on the side of caution and bin applications. I also agree with an earlier comment that the recruiting focuses excluding white males


One son serving in the Royal Navy. One daughter rejected on medical grounds – she saw a nutritionalist, and had consultations with. CAHMS over related matters, before she was a teen. She was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, but those childhood consultations were all that Capita needed to reject her. She could appeal but she isn’t inclined to. I have to say, they’ve missed a good ‘un.


Couldn’t agree more , why not recruit time served personnel to recruiting offices . They can advise and encourage prospective recruits far better than some outsourcing company who havnt got a clue what goes on in the military . They will just tick boxes on a form without seeing the potential an individual has

Nick Davis

Very good reply, I wholeheartedly agree.
It’s seems madness having personal never having experienced life in the forces.
I was in the Paras and was the best recruitment officer for my son whom joined the Navy. He did 11 years and has turned out to be a fantastic person and is doing very well. I think if it hadn’t of been joining up, it could have been difficult.
Exactly was the same for me, left school at 15 and joined Jr Para, it completely changed me into a leader and shaped my life.

Si P

Time served personnel are doing the recruiting


It’s one thing for our forces to be suffering from uncompetitive pay and a tight labour market. Which they are. But at least we could hope MoD policy would not make things even worse. The Chief of the Defence staff and the three service chiefs need to go over the heads of MoD main building and speak directly to No 10 about where UK defence is heading unless we address this now. If that doesn’t work they should resign immediately and en masse. Will they ? Of course not.

Last edited 3 months ago by David Steeper
dick van dyke

“last edited 14 hours ago by David Steeper” So will the real Theoden please reveal himself !!!!!


LOL. Spelling autiam i’m afraid !!


Increase Salary.

At least, RFA members asked so by doing their strike. Don’t they?

Commit to what is required.



And what does the PM say (that will help his party electorally) when ask why paying more is the solution to the armed forces personnel shortages but not the NHS’s or the prison service or or or?


If there is a man-power shortage, the pay must rise. Simple.

In defense, it means, reduce the equipment budget and “in place” increase the pay.

No need to increase the basic pay, which may affect all other pays. But, how about “at sea” bonus, “deployment (not necessarily at sea)” bonus, etc.


You didn’t answer the political part of my question.


You undertake a pay rationalisation exercise. The RFA are paid far below the RN, so you subtract some of the RN extra payments, and “equalise” the pay, taking into account the extras for military requirements and end up with the number you first thought of to pay the RFA. This is just ironing out some pay anomolies and not a pay rise at all. It is therefore completely inappropriate to compare it to pay rises for doctors or prison officers.


And you don’t think reducing the “pack” for the RN will come with consequences?


No I didn’t. Because, increasing the pay is political matter, but increasing the “at sea” bonus, “deployment (not necessarily at sea)” bonus, etc. may not be?

I’m afraid MOD just need to abandone some equipment budget and say “modern lean crewing requires higher skill and will when on duty far away from their home. So, we need to increase bonus. From what resource? No problem, we will postpone MRSS, MROSS2, T32 for a decade, because we can anyway not man them”.

One possibility? (not sure).

My point is, affirmative action for man-power incentive is needed, much more than discussing “more escorts, more vessels, more fighters etc”.

Last edited 3 months ago by donald_of_tokyo

Service personnel is 25% of defence budget , civilian personnel is 4.9% [2021-22]
Military operations used to be £4 bill from 2008-2009, its £500 mill
But that may have jumped for Ukraine training support and military equipment


I might be being simplistic but if the armed forces were to increase pay and offer bet career prospects and job security instead of constant cuts it might make it more attractive as a career

David MacDonald

Pay did not concern much me when I joined the RN 60 years ago. OK, I’m 60 years out of date but I doubt that pay is the main driver in recruitment. But pay certainly is crucial for long term retention.

Gary Kaunhoven

Pay is not really the reason to join the services.
The chance of a challenging career, travel, promotion, being part of a select team with esprit de core, and whatever people may think it’s the chance of active service in a war zone.
The big problem especially where the Navy is concerned is lack of warships?
It is an absolute joke ,recruits go through their 10 weeks new entry , then carry out their trade course only to rot away back in shore establishments because there are no ships to send them to!!
This also has a massive issue with later career courses where trained seniors tread water ashore for years causing skill fade leading to morale dropping and older people leaving in droves.
Unless service chiefs put their heads above the parapet and challenge useless politicians who supposedly run this country then it will all end in tears.


And that is exactly why people aren’t joining.

Money is required more than ever to live a life. The private sector offers more travel than the military, promotion, challenging career. This isn’t 1980 anymore, you have to actually compete for people now.

And thanks to modern media, people actually know what a war zone looks like now. It’s not the drummed up dramatic exciting nostalgia of years past. Few people rationally want to experience that now.

Last edited 3 months ago by Chris
Steven Alfred Rake

It is bad enough dealing with HR within a civilian company as they seem to have zero concept of what type of person is needed for a particular role. Then you add into the mix a civilian company with zero concept of what the armed forces actually do and ask then to run your recruitment for you, then you are going to be short of personnel for the foreseeable future.
Get rid of the Civvy company’s taxing the defence budget and put back into the high streets of our towns and city’s the Army/RN/RAF careers offices maned by ex and serving personnel who talk to the young men and women directly off the streets then you will see a serge in recruitment from all walks of life.

Ian Mitchell

An informative but alarming article which is very timely – many congratulations. I was just thinking about this issue the last week or so. I would like to see more articles about the recruitment, training, retention and career management and development of officers and sailors. I would observe that far too much emphasis is placed on kit, platforms and systems in discussions not enough on the one single factor that makes or breaks a naval service – finding, training and keeping talented, motivated people.

The best crewed ships in the world (yes I know about un-crewed ships) are useless without well trained, disciplined and motivated people.

By the way it is not just recruitment that the MOD and Conservative Party wants to privatise. The last 2nd sea Lord as far as a I recall was very keen on privatising all training and has gone down that route. There is a role for the private sector in training usually in a clearly bounded partnership but handing over the crown jewels is idiocy once you outsource you can never insource.

I can speak with a bit of knowledge here having viewed this issue from a range of perspectives in the RNR, RN and then having worked for a outsourcing organisation and tried to manage one (Flagship). I also worked briefly on the RPP bid –I thought it was ill conceived by MOD then and still do now. The main issue was that the Conservatives love outsourcing and the Treasury panders to them. Most important the Treasury is singularly and culturally incapable of requiring evidence about value, quality of a service and how you measure that —it is obsessed with cost not outcomes.

I look forward to good articles about how to approach the most important factor in the RN – leading and managing people in varying different ways that improve retention.


Another illustration of both parties in the U.K. not taking defence seriously. It is very sad. I think Labour in power would be at least as disastrous as the Conservatives have been since Cameron and Osborne.

Crusher 1

Whoever works in marketing these days needs replacing. Current adds, especially those on FB are abismal. Of course there is a retention problem, the RN no longer invests in its people and the middle management don’t seem to have a clue. I wouldn’t advise anyone to join today’s service, there is much much better available in civy street. The RN is no longer the best in Europe never mind the world and I am actually embarrassed to admit to anyone that I am still serving.


My daughter who is now at Southhampton Uni studyinga Masters Degree in ship science eng ,was declined a place on the  Defence STEM Undergraduate Scheme (DSUS),yet she got A in Math,A*Art/Design,B in Physics,A*in3D modelling,all Alevels and better 11 GCSE,scoring over 4×8,1x9and3x7.Not sure what one needs to do to get in!

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Where does she want to go after uni’?


In my day,65 years ago you could more or less pick the ship you wanted.
It says a lot when now you have more admirals than active ships.


Not so much the Admirals , its the 90 or so who are Commodores. How is there even enough to do

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Today the rank of admirals or commodore are rungs on the service’s management ladder. Nothing to do with ship numbers. It is symptom of a society run by a management class.


Yes. Ive seen the First sea lord refer to the Director of Policy and Strategy ( a rear Admiral) on the Naval Board as his ‘chief executive’
No doubt he would have a team of deputy chief executives who do all the work.

Dee Sherratt

The problem lies with Capita.
They have the slowest interaction with potential recruits, who then get so frustrated they drop their application and move on.
The AFCO’s tell recruits that once they’ve passed their medical they’ll be in basic training before they know it. Not true
The process is SO drawn out , months & months go by. Has anyone worked out an average length of time , from a potential recruit walking into an AFCO office to walking into say Raleigh. I’d be interested


You can walk into a civilian enterprise for a job interview & potentially be offered the job before you leave. Military – now takes so long you have to turn down 5 other jobs just on the hope of getting in. Why would you?


Problem isn’t necessary all CAPITA, yes the medical element is the slowest. But GPs are what create the blockage with the time it takes provide information requested. Some are taking 90+ days. Surgeries are busy and the request for information isn’t important business and therefore routine business that gets done when it does.

Also medication treatment the last 4yrs is causing a lot of failures in candidates. Couple that with quite simply not enough people are applying, you have the perfect storm!


A navy rating gets paid £20k vs. 30k for a Police Constable.
Then there is our super generous benefits…
I signed up because there was nothing else. I had 45 minutes in the Bournemouth recruitment centre. Two months later I was at Raleigh.


Who would have thought crapping on the population with an incompetent government has such a negative conscience. Just remember the 160 cases of white males being rejected for being white males. Recruitment should be targeted regardless of British or Gurkha. Sadly, the armed forces want to flick themselves off with quotes.

Last edited 3 months ago by Coll

Edit: Consequence. Oops


This gives me a bit of a wry smile……when I was forced to retire 20 years ago at the age of 50 after 34 years service I asked my CO if I could apply for an extension as I was no where near ready to leave. My CO was very supportive and argued with the office of 2SL that they were putting experienced men, who still had a lot to offer, on the scrap heap. The reply was “he’s 50 he has to go” even though I was a WO and doing similar jobs as junior officer ranks who could serve to 55 yrs old. This was at a time of recruitment shortage and it just didn’t make sense. So here we are again and I do wonder if there is a retention policy for older more experienced men past the age of 50.


Both the Navy and Air Force should have had a similar scheme to the Army, where as a WO, you did say 4 to 5 years in rank, then had to go for commissioning. Having been in a similar position, long term WOs do hold up the promotion ladder. Their experience is also too important to just kick out.


They do have the WO to Lieutenant scheme now

Jack Graham

Joining the forces certainly the RAF was once simple. Go to your local recruitment office, complete a form. A couple of weeks later an invitation to attend a trade evaluation session at an RAF base arrives with a travel warrant. Attend, fitness checked, trade evaluated and then go back home. A letter arrives shortly offering trade opportunities they deem you are suitable for. Pick one, and then a few weeks later off to training camp you go. All seamlessly in house, after the first visit to the recruitment office, the whole process was neat automatic, run by efficient serving military, not disinterested civilian keyboard warriors.

Peter (Irate Taxpayer)


First of all, lots and lots of very good points have been made here in these posts.


Firstly, throughout the UK, and especially when compared to forty years ago, all three of the armed services are nowadays all too often “out of sight and also out of mind”. For example, it now almost unheard of for a youngster to see a serviceman in uniform on the streets. All three of our armed services now keep a very low profile. That simply means that all types of recruitment, from all of the many possible sources, is inherently made very much harder than it once was. Therefore, today, far too many youngsters are simply not aware of the huge variety of opportunities’ that are still on offer (Incidentally, the same comment could apply to many other industries).Thus word-of-mouth from close relatives plays a very big part…..whilst a huge talent pool simply goes and looks elsewhere…

Secondly, in this increasingly digital era, many youngsters get their information via their umbilical cord to their ever-present smartphone. Therefore qwerty warriors are here to saty .. However, there really needs to be digital multi-media channel created, one to entice potential recruits into the forces….swipe right to join us.. swipe left if you want to stay at home and be bored!

Thirdly, returning to the subject of keeping a low-profile…. ..when the Navy does have a golden opportunity, it all too often blows it! For a recent example, Iron Duke was brought up the Thames to be at DSEI in September………. however it was only open to invited guests. All, too often, when a warship visits a city, the taxpaying public are not allowed on. It would have cost absolutely nothing for Iron Duke to been tied up alongside at Excel over that long weekend. There the Navy could have run a weekend event, specifically targeted at potential recruits: “If you are thinking of joining the Navy and you live in London and the South-East, book now to visit this warship”. That event would have cost nowt. It would have generated a lot of goodwill and also really excited many potential recruits. However, and it now has to be said, not for the first time = yet another big missed opportunity.. …..

Fourthly, whilst I would agree with many others that Capita have a very well-earned (and very appropriate) nickname. However, the buzz-words “Privatisation” and “Politicians” and “Penny-Pinching” are not they key problem here. The core issue is excessive bureaucracy. that is all generated by the MOD’s own in-house civil servants. Therefore, whoever does the recruitment, the whole process needs to be massively rationalized and simplified (from end-to-end). Therefore, simply bringing recruitment back in house into the Navy will not solve the underlying problem.

Lastly, for that vitally important training: the critical “first-time-out-at-sea training time”. We all know that it is only by going to sea that it all suddenly clicks-into place. Sea time essential to teach the youngsters all of their basic sea skills (basic boat handling, navigation, avoiding bigger ships, teamwork, cleanness, seasickness, getting drunk on a run ashore etc etc). I reckon that about 80% of the naval training course does not need to be on a warship. Therefore:

  • Using a few small ribs, why not teach ALL naval recruits the RYA two-day powerboat level 2 course? It would cost only a few hundred pounds per person. However it would impart a hell of a lot of very-good all-round nautical knowledge very quickly. It would also help the trainers identify a trainees key skill set(s).
  • Nothing winds me up more that seeing a fleet of very useful training boats, which are called the P2000’s, languishing at the quayside all week. Why are these only used for university / officer training? Why not use them continually, seven days a week for 300 day a year, to train all ranks?
  • I have always been baffled as to why RN has never brought a small fleet of COTS ships, say 40m long, on which to teach and train their recruits their basic at-sea skills. Adopting that innovative approach would be far far cheaper than waiting for a big, complex and very expensive warship to leave the dockyard (and only then to start to training its crew out at sea).

Too many people think that the RN, (and RAF and Army’s) problem is a lack of money. It isn’t. It is just that a awful lot of money is far too often being spent in all of the wrong places.

regards Peter The Irate Taxpayer


I have to agree with Peter. Give all recruits the inexpensive basic RYA boathandling skills, and use small craft for at-sea training — so they have all learnt to ‘ride a bike’ before they step aboard expensive grey ships for further training. RALEIGH used to run RYA courses from Jupiter Point.


Why does an Engineer, Chef, Stores have to learn boat handling? Waste of money and resource. Not a skill required when serving at sea or ashore

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

The lack of a training ship(s) has been a glaring gap for an age. Many navies have them. The Japanese have a submarine for training too. Even the Italian custom’s service the Guardia di Finanza has a training ship and three sail training ships.
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There is TS Tenacious, not exclusive to RN but they do take some of the crew places

dick van dyke

And TS Sir Tristran, used for training special forces, currently moored in Portland next to HMS Hood.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Yes. Moving around a ship is a specific skill. So the SBS, RM, and others have TV Tristram.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

That’s the sort of thing. Lots of examples.

Marina Militare’s Aemerigo Vespucci

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John Randle

When I joined the RN in 1975 99% of recruits were white lads. So why should it be any different now. If I recall there was an intake of around 100 recruits every Tuesday. I suppose the recruitment pictures have to portray the changing times we live in.

dick van dyke

Skin Colour should never come into it, neither should Gender.


I know that we like to hammer external service providers, but it seems like the Navy is making enough of a mess of their own part of this as well. Probably one of the best recruitment/advertising campaigns I’ve seen for the armed forces, yet let down by the onboarding phase.
Ignoring retention for a minute, this is serious- no point in increasing escort numbers if there aren’t crews for them. Potentially a case for having civilian specialists in the senior organisational positions supporting uniformed staff, even if they’re directly contracted to the RN. Leave the uniformed personnel for specifically “Navy stuff”.

Supportive Bloke

This isn’t an issue if pay – except for RFA – but of pure incompetence in the organisation of the recruitment workflows and the inability to find relatively small budgets to fix this.

Wasting £n x M on unfilled training is crazy when the costs of fixing this will be far less.

Never mind the crisis it is cussing that will be on the scale of the 90s recruiting freeze except this time worse as there simply isn’t the mass to absorb it and regenerate.

This is more concerning than anything. If we have a full and hopefully growing fleet in the early 2030’s we need crews to match. As the new ships will all be worked hard that means multiple crews…..which we don’t now have…..this is as silly as the RAF pilot training fiasco.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

I don’t think the problem will ever be solved within the current political paradigm.

The sabre rattling towards Russia is all about political management academic class looking for a diversion than anything at all strategic. They don’t seem to know what a navy is for beyond evacuating British passport holders and silly stunts like we have seen in the Black Sea.

You can’t conscript into a modern navy.

The RAF in the 1930s faced a recruiting problem and they raised entry requirements which solved their short fall. I don’t think that would work alone. Pay increases aren’t going to happen.

The modern RN reflects the modern UK.

Last edited 3 months ago by The Whale Island Zoo Keeper
Peter S

Back to the press gang? Lots of fit young men with sailing experience arriving daily


The RN, Army and RAF also need to sort out retention. Particularly for those with technical trades.

Peter (Irate Taxpayer)


It is not only the retention of technical trades that needs reforming. All of these key personnel issues all seem to me to go right back to the very start of the whole recruitment process.

So, using your example:

IF an eighteen year old, with a decent (but not top-class) set of A-levels wants to get a proper engineering job (with prospects) maintaining aircraft, preferably helicopters

= This is the range of possible choice that are being offered in the armed service (across all of their websites):

  • Navy
  • RAF
  • Army

Three very different roles and many – all very different – careers and training schemes are being described…it is not called even the same job role!!!!!

  • Then, within these three, does the 18 year old apply as a rate OR a technical trade OR an Officer (as having a few A-levels can make it “borderline)

That is is at least six major / different permutations = before even getting into the “how do they start off their job application(s)”


  • All three armed services seem to have different entrance requirements for this role, despite these engineering trades (and officers) all doing what one would imagine is a very similar task (I image the nuts on an Army helicopter rotate the same direction as on navy helicopters)
  • Then all three of the armed service have different aviation engineering training schemes.
  • Then, depending ONLY on which one of the six key permutations is chosen: that enthusiastic 18 year old’s future career prospects become very very different.

Thus, before they even apply, the recruit has to decide whether they want career either “cruising” or “tenting” – when all they really really wanted to do as job was to be a helicopter engineer..

Does a qualified, talented and motivated eighteen year old wade through all the dirge on the three armed forces websites = or do they soon get very ******* off with being mucked about, then walk to their nearest civil airport?

I know what I would do if I was eighteen…..

The UK armed services employ thousands of aircraft technicians. It is a really vital skilled trade. However the RN / RAF / Army seemingly do not know where to start to recruit the youngsters.

Thus I am really not surprised that, within the above listed omnishambles, also they cannot retain the right people (i.e. once they have actually managed to recruit and train them).

Regards Peter The Irate Taxpayer

The Gemmell

Peter, how right you are.
For all those criticising Capita on wasting good potential at the recruiting stage, as the (5 yrs) ex Chief Medical Officer to Capita RPP (Army) I saw my role as constantly challenging the ever more stringent medical rules for recruitment – which ultimately diminish numbers. Why does an aircraft engineer have three possible standards to meet?

The rules are set by a tri-service committee and In my three years in post as CMO I was never invited to attend a review of the standards despite my active challenges of said standards.

When in uniform (pongo) over 19 years service, I ran the Army recruiting medical programme in 2000 and I found we lost 25% of applicants for medical reasons. By 2016 as Capita CMO that had risen to 35% of applicants – for medical rules we had no control over. Why?

Previous posts have talked of Capita screwing the MoD. You are totally misinformed and you assume private enterprise is out for the fast buck without considering the terms of a contract. You are naive in the extreme. With numerous financial penalties in place for failing to meet recruitment numbers (despite a predicted background demographic trough of 17-24 yr olds) and medical standards not open for discussion, I am confident you will find Capita is the partner who has been totally screwed over by its client.

It is a fact that RN is struggling to regain the expertise it handed over in 2012. I’m afraid with 10+ yrs out of the game, it will not succeed in regaining control within 5 years – it will fail in its data processing, its marketing and its overall delivery. The Navy Times article demonstrates this.

Retention is and always will be key to delivering a deliverable Armed Forces whatever the colour of uniform or indeed its personnel. Why do people leave in their prime – check out the April 2002 edition of Soldier magazine and you’ll see why I left.

Peter (Irate Taxpayer)

The Gemmell,

In reply to your last post, can I please make it 100% clear that in neither of my two posts did I:

  • Criticise Capita
  • Nor did I criticise any of its employees, including yourself, who work in recruitment for the armed services.
  • Nor did I accuse Capita of making a fast buck from this contact (however others on NL did said exactly that).

I have no inside knowledge of the detail of the ongoing MOD/Capita contract. However, if you are now telling me that Capita are now, in your words, “being screwed over”, that really does not come as a big surprise.

I would add that the “Crapita” nickname was originally coined elsewhere (Note. It originally dates back to the first Privatisation of a small part of the prison service, which was being commented upon by Private Eye magazine)

In my view, this mess inside MOD recruitment was conceived, incubated and hatched within the bowels’ of the MOD. Therefore I think you are agreeing with what I said originally in my first post:

“The core issue is excessive bureaucracy. That is all generated by the MOD’s own in-house civil servants. Therefore, whoever does the recruitment, the whole process needs to be massively rationalized and simplified (from end-to-end).

I fully agree with your key point that all of the contractors (outsourcers) who work for the MOD always have to – very religiously – follow all of the terms and conditions that are within the MOD-imposed contract. However, far too often, the detailed requirements contained in the small print – within these MOD contractual t & c’s – are all-too-often nonsensical……

Thus, if there is to be criticism of Capita in this particular case, it is simply because they agreed to, then signed-up to on the dotted line, all of the MOD’s contractual terms………..

Then, to take your own point: – why oh why are the “core/basic” medical requirements for a new recruit different between all three services? That meant that you only had responsibility for Army recruits! Why did you not have medical oversight of all three?

In my own experience, the only type of outsourcer who always do very well out of the MOD (and therefore screw over us taxpayers) is the management consultancies (Mckinsey KPMG; Price Waterhouse, Bain, Boston etc). These firms consistently get paid top dollar for producing DRIVAL. The amount spent by MOD on these companies annually is simply eyewatering (Back in 2020-21 = over £100M). I bet one of these bandit’s was involved somewhere along the line…

However I really wonder whether – with all that is going on in the world (Gaza, Ukraine, Taiwan etc) – whether it will get sorted within five years…..

OR paraphrasing what a Mr D Rumsfeld of the US of A once said = whether the UK will soon have to go to war with what we have = not what we might wish to go to war with..

regards Peter The Irate Taxpayer

John doe

I’m really not surprised the DIs treat people like the RN training is really out dated and it seems most of the DIs are end of service people that just didn’t make it that fare in their career and been a Di at HMS Raleigh is the only time they can scream and shout at people. I joined in 2022 and so many left because they didn’t like how they was treated by the DIs. I unfortunately didn’t make it as I couldn’t keep up with the kit musters they expect you to have perfect kit freshly ironed but half of the sockets in the ironing rooms don work and if you report the issue you get a warning and told to just get on with it. I spent my whole life wanting to join as I’ve heard all the stories of how it was a really good place but if I’m honest HMS Raleigh is falling apart and the DIs are on a power trip and really don’t care.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

What do you do now?

dr no

a solution could be to look at selection boards and see if they can put people through with a lower medical clearance


Is the lower medical clearance rate because they are trying to widen the recruitment pool but surprised when the pool is shallow. Maybe the mental fitness is now a barrier where once only the most anti social excluded ?

Steve Donnelly

My eldest daughter is currently undergoing basic training having recently joined the RM Band Service. That she remained committed to joining and fulfilling an ambition she’s held since being about 12 is commendable given the appalling experience of the recruitment process which I can only describe as shambolic. I wonder how many capable and genuinely interested candidates simply give up due to negative experiences with the recruitment process. My experience of going through the recruitment process in the late 80s when all 3 services ran their own recruitment was totally incomparable. Unfortunately like so many public service disasters, outsourcing was a totally foreseeable car crash driven by the treasury


can anyone explain why my daughter did really well at interview and was identified as someone smart enough for the fast track engineering apprentice but ‘failed’ her eyesight requirements. As I’m also her optician she was category 2 (there are 3 categories). when asked if she could appeal was told she could but not to bother as she would be rejected again…. now I know lots of people in the navy that wear specs….


My son is currently trying to join one of the RN Officer schemes and has experienced nothing but delay by the recruitment team. He has left numerous voicemail messages with the assigned recruiter but not received a single callback. No wonder they can’t recruit. The process is a shambles.