SAILORS say there has never been a better time to be in the Royal Navy, despite new figures showing a crisis in military recruitment.
Manpower woes blighting the nation’s armed forces have hit record levels, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has today claimed.
It highlighted ‘significant’ shortfalls in critical roles across all three of the nation’s military wings.
The news comes as fresh figures show the number of naval personnel based in Portsmouth has fallen in the past five years.
But sailors from the city’s naval base have today been standing up for the Senior Service, saying it is a career like no other.
Leading Hand Gib Scott gave up his job with Scottish Power in Glasgow almost eight years ago to chase his dream to join the navy.
Now he is soon to be part of the UK’s carrier strike group, led by Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
A former submariner, he will be part of the team on board the 65,000-tonne leviathan as she deploys to the USA to conduct flight trials of the UK’s new stealth jet, the F-35b, later this year.
He said: ‘Every day is different from the last. I get to travel all round the world and I am paid to do it.
‘My first deployment was my favourite when we had 12 days in Goa – four days of conducting war games and four days back alongside before going back out for four days again. That was my first ever trip and it was a unique experience.’
Today’s report says that despite £664m being pumped into recruitment incentives in the past five years, defence chiefs are still 8,200 people below target – the largest gap in a decade.
Targets to plug voids in the Royal Navy have not worked, the report said, with recruitment targets having been missed three years in a row.
In 2014/15 the Senior Service was eight per cent shy – 277 sailors short of its 3,260 recruitment target.
By 2016/17 this had doubled to 16 per cent short of its increased 3,715 goal, with 3,133 new sailors joining.
The NAO report comes as figures obtained by The News show that between October 2012 and October 2017, the number of naval personnel serving in Portsmouth had dropped from 6,870 to 6,110.
Navy officials said this would soon change, with the arrival of the second aircraft carrier to Portsmouth, HMS Prince of Wales, next year, adding ships were now more advanced and required fewer people to man them.
Reacting to the situation and the NAO report, an MoD spokesman said: ‘Recruiting and retaining talent is one of our top priorities and we have a range of schemes, including retention pay for and direct entry into specialist trades and flexible working to make sure we attract and keep the skilled personnel we need.
‘The military has enough personnel to meet all its operational requirements, including being active on 25 operations in 30 countries throughout the world. In the past year we have recruited over 13,000 people into the armed forces.’