The Government was today facing more accusations of overstretch in Britain's armed forces after it emerged that nearly half of troops regularly consider quitting.
The first survey to gauge attitudes across the Army, Navy and RAF revealed alarming problems with morale, equipment and pay.
The Ministry of Defence research, which involved more than 24,000 military personnel, found 47% of soldiers and army officers periodically considered handing in their resignation.
The proportion was the same among Royal Navy personnel, while the figure was 37% in the Royal Marines and 44% in the RAF.
The pressures of frequent tours fighting on two fronts, in Afghanistan and Iraq, appears to be taking its toll, with 45% across the services saying they were not happy with the level of separation from friends and family.
Asked whether the short gaps between tours was making them more likely to leave the forces, 38% said it did, while 47% insisted it made no difference.
Although individual personnel claimed to have high morale, their perception of how their colleagues were feeling was more negative.
In the Army, nearly three-fifths of of those questioned rated the level of morale as "low" or "very low". In the Royal Navy it was 64%, and the Royal Marines 38 per cent.
The worst level reported was in the RAF, where nearly three-quarters responded that morale was low.
The survey was carried out between July and October last year - a time when more than 30 personnel died in the two main combat zones.
But since then the casualty rate has remained high, particularly in Afghanistan.
Patrick Mercer, Tory MP for Newark and a former commanding officer, said the findings reflected the strains on military personnel.
"I think the tempo of operations has produced such a level of stress on the families that it is no wonder so many are thinking of leaving," he added.
Armed forces minister Derek Twigg said: "Since the survey was conducted we have already implemented a number of important changes such as the recent pay rise, an adjustment to the operational bonus, and the introduction of childcare vouchers.
"Over the next 10 years, we are also spending £8.4bn on accommodation, an area that is a high priority for our personnel."
But he added that the Government knew there was "always more that can be done", and would be bringing forward more measures to improve conditions later this month.
Previously regular Continuous Attitude Surveys have been carried out separately for each of the services.Reuse content