PANICKED army top brass have been accused of bribing troops with shopping vouchers in a bid to persuade them to get their friends to sign up.
The move has stunned soldiers and armed forces campaigners in Portsmouth.
This smacks of desperation and panic – the British Army isn’t some buy-one-get-one-free promotion in a supermarketAndy Smith, chief executive of UKNDA
It comes after fresh figures revealed the army’s manpower had plunged to its lowest levels in 200 years.
Troops are now being offered £100 vouchers when a mate enlists in the regular or reserve forces.
Posters advertising the drive have appeared at barracks across the country.
Andy Smith is the chief executive of the Portsmouth-based armed forces campaign group the UK National Defence Association.
He hit out at the poster appeal saying it was a pitiful attempt to try to entice new troops into the fold.
‘This smacks of desperation and panic,’ he said.
‘The British Army isn’t some buy-one-get-one-free promotion in a supermarket.
‘We need a proper strategy for recruitment and retention of personnel which is based on long-term career opportunities and job security.’
But the Ministry of Defence insisted appeals like this were nothing new and have been happening for years.
Daz Dugan is a former Colour Sergeant with the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment – Hampshire’s local army regiment – and served 25 years with the Tigers. But he said similar poster appeals in the 1990s had failed to fill the void left by cuts.
He said: ‘There’s a big gap in the rank structure that they’re desperate to fill.’
Another soldier from Portsmouth added: ‘It’s a travesty. It’s just shocking. You’re trying to get people to join the world’s best fighting force – and you’re giving them Marks and Spencer vouchers. It’s a joke.’
A retired army colonel added that manpower across all the services had been slashed ‘too deeply’ and that ‘clueless’ civil servants and politicians were responsible.
In July, there were 79,550 fully trained soldiers across the army.
Although shy of 82,500 target, the MoD said the trend was reversing and that the UK’s military was conducting more operations than before.
A spokesman said: ‘The army continues to offer exciting opportunities and a fulfilling career to those who serve. Schemes such as these have been used for years, and only play a small part in recruitment for the army.
‘The UK armed forces continues to have the manpower needed to meet its operational commitments.’