British Armed Forces relaxing citizenship requirements in drive for more Commonwealth recruits
Britain’s Armed Forces are struggling to fill recruitment needs from within the United Kingdom. (Ahmad Masood: Reuters)
Australians and citizens of other Commonwealth countries could soon be fighting wars and risking their lives for the British military, despite never having set foot in the UK.
- More than 4,500 Commonwealth citizens already in the ranks of the British Armed Forces
- UK-residency requirement is being dropped as local recruitment falls
- Minister says UK has always relied on soldiers from Commonwealth
Britain’s Armed Forces are loosening the rules for entry and are aiming to lure more than 1,000 troops from Commonwealth nations, under a program announced yesterday.
In the past, citizens from Commonwealth countries could only apply to join Britain’s military after they had resided there for five years.
But the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have struggled to recruit sufficient numbers from within the UK and by next year all roles and ranks are open to citizens — older than 18 — from all Commonwealth countries.
Military leaders hope to recruit from nations including Australia, Canada and Fiji. (Reuters: Steve Lewis)
British Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster said the Commonwealth recruits would bring key skills and dedicated service.
“Britain has always counted on the dedicated service of our friends from the Commonwealth to keep this country safe,” he said.
In December 2008, Australian soldier Stuart Nash was killed in Afghanistan while fighting as a member of Gloucestershire-based 1st Battalion, The Rifles.
The 21-year-old was born in Sydney and moved to the UK, enlisting in the British Army just nine months before he was killed.
Rifleman Nash was hit as he lay on the roof of a compound as part of a squad firing on an insurgent target in Helmand province.
More than 4,500 Commonwealth citizens, from countries including Australia, Fiji, Ghana, South Africa and Jamaica are already in the ranks of the British Armed Forces.
Under the recruitment drive the Army wants to lure 1,000 personnel, while the Royal Navy is hoping for 300 more people and the RAF expects to take on 50.
New spots in the Royal Navy and RAF are open immediately while the Army will begin taking applications early next year.