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Armed forces recruitment crisis due to Gen Z not joining up, Ben Wallace warns

Ben Wallace, who stepped down last August, says Britain needs to ‘do things differently’ to recruit soldiers and other service members

Archie Mitchell
Friday 05 January 2024 16:08 GMT
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Britain’s armed forces are facing a recruitment crisis because members of Generation Z – a term that refers to those born in the 1990s and early 2000s – are not signing up, the former defence secretary has said.

Ben Wallace, who stepped down last August, said Britain needs to “do things differently” to recruit soldiers and other service members.

The Tory MP was asked questions about a crisis facing the armed forces, with the Royal Navy experiencing a collapse in the number of recruits.

It has been forced to decommission two warships – HMS Westminster and HMS Argyll – in order to maintain new frigates.

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace has been outspoken since leaving office (PA Archive)

Crews will be sent instead to work across a fleet of Type 26 frigates as they come into service. A defence source told The Daily Telegraph: “We will have to take manpower from one area of the navy in order to put into a new area of the force.”

Former first sea lord Admiral Lord West said Britain needs more ships said Britain needs more ships and is currently “really poorly placed” to get involved in any action. “If the government had taken seriously the issue of frigate numbers over the last 10 years, there would be sufficient to meet the requirements of trade protection in the Red Sea,” he said.

LBC host Nick Ferrari put this claim to Mr Wallace on Friday. The former defence secretary said that the armed forces do need more money spent on them, but added that “we also need to do some things differently”.

“Armed forces across the West – not just Britain, [but] across Europe, America – have a recruitment challenge,” he said.

He added: “Generation Z is not joining the armed forces in the way my generation did. And, post-Covid, skill shortages in engineering and all sorts of things are a real challenge.”

Mr Wallace has been outspoken about his former brief since stepping down as defence secretary, saying that he urged Rishi Sunak to plough more money into the war in Ukraine.

The veteran Conservative argued that, with additional weapons supplied by the West, Kyiv could “end” the battle against Russia and expel the invaders.

He has also warned Israel that its “killing rage” risks undermining the legal basis for its action in the Gaza Strip, adding to the growing international pressure on the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over the escalating conflict.

Mr Wallace said: “Netanyahu’s mistake was to miss the [Hamas] attack in the first place. But if he thinks a killing rage will rectify matters, then he is very wrong. His methods will not solve this problem. In fact, I believe his tactics will fuel the conflict for another 50 years.”

On Friday, Mr Wallace told LBC that Israel must “separate Hamas from the oxygen of popular support” in the Gaza Strip.

He defended his earlier comments on the conflict and said that Israel’s current approach risks pushing more Palestinians towards supporting Hamas.

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