Introduction

In the First and Second World Wars, men had come forward to join the colours willingly or, later on, had been compelled by conscription. But after the end of National Service, and the demobilisation of the last conscripts in 1963, Britain’s military needed to find new ways to fill its ranks, without an ideological enemy threatening it directly, or conscription.

With the discharge from the British Army of the last National Serviceman on 16 May 1963, the UK military became an entirely professional force. The end of National Service also meant that there was a need for the British Army to maintain its numbers of professional regulars.

As such, the British Army – since 1963 to present – has utilised a variety of methods to sell itself to potential recruits, which has also been varied across the service branches of land, sea and air. A regular fixture on British television was recruitment advertising including the slogans ‘Be the Best’ and ‘Be Part of It’ (National Archives, 2006).

This article will provide an overview of the structure of the British Army and organisational changes in terms of manpower. The article will then provide a general outline of the recruitment and selection process (i.e. how to join the British Army) by looking at areas such as eligibility, fitness standards, minimum qualifications, and tests and interviews.

Finally, the article will look at funding streams and outline Army 2020 before providing some useful links and documents.

On 08 July 2016, the MOD announced that all Ground Close Combat Roles (RAC, Infantry, Royal Marines and the RAF Regiment) would be opened to women by 2018 (British Army, 2016).

Structure of the British Army

The British Army is made up of a number of Regiments and Battalions which are categorised into one of three groupings:

  1. Combat Arms: are those forces that use fire and manoeuvre to engage with the enemy with direct fire systems (i.e. the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) and the Infantry (e.g. Parachute Regiment)).
  2. Combat Support Forces: are those forces providing fire support and operational assistance to the Combat Arms (i.e. the Royal Regiment of Artillery).
  3. Combat Service Support Forces: are generally categorised into logistics support (e.g. the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC)), personnel service support (e.g. the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC)) and health services support (e.g. the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC)).

However, during 2012 the British Army restructured, cutting swathes of senior officer posts, by combining the Army’s eight main corps into four capability directorates:

  • Combat Capability Directorate: consisting of the RAC, Household Cavalry & Infantry (encompassing Mounted Close Combat and Dismounted Close Combat).
  • Combat Support Capability Directorate: consisting of the Royal Artillery & Royal Engineers.
  • Combat Information Capability Directorate: consisting of the Royal Corps of Signals and the Intelligence Corps.
  • Combat Service Support Capability Directorate: consisting of the Royal Logistics Corps and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

The British Army is made up of both Commissioned Officers and Other Ranks (known as Soldiers).

Due to a number of structural changes (see below) and economic pressures the British Army is increasingly utilising a Joint Force (or tri-Service) model of working with the Royal Naval Service and Royal Air Force (RAF). Typically the tri-Service concept is the removal of duplication and the standardisation of procedures, but also enables the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to make efficiency savings.

Organisational Change

Since 1963 there have been nine important organisational change initiatives (always resulting in a reduction in total manpower) by both the MoD affecting British Army – resulting in greater integration (tri-Service model) – and cost savings between the three service branches) and initiatives by the British Army resulting in both greater integration and significant structural change. These organisational change initiatives are outlined in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Defence Reviews since 1963

Title

Year

Government

Manpower Change (Total/By Service Branch)

Healey Reviews

1965-1968

Labour

Unknown

Mason Review

1974-1975

Labour

Unknown

Nott Review

1981

Conservative

Unknown

Options for Change

1990

Conservative

1. Overall down by 18% (56,000) t0 255,000.
2. Army down from 160,000 to 120,000.
3. RN down to 60,000.
4. RAF down to 75,000.

Front Line First: The Defenec Costs Study

1994

Conservative

1. Overall down by 5% to 242,250.
2. Army down by 2,200.
3. RN down by 1,900.
4. RAF down by 7,500.

Strategic Defence Review

1998

Labour

1. Army uo by 3,300 overall.
2. RN down by 1,400.
3 RAF nuetral overall.

Strategic Defence Review New Chapter

2002

Labour

1. In response to the 9/11 attack.
2. Some structural change otherwise manpower neutral overall.

Delivering Security in a Changing World

2003

Labour

1. Army down by 1,000.
2. RN down by 1,500.
3. RAF down by 7,000.

Strategic Defence and Security Review

2010

Conservative & Liberal Democrat Coalition

1. Army down by 7,000 to 82,000.
2. RN down by 5,000 to 30,000.
3. RAF down by 5,000 to 33,000.

Manpower Requirements

The MoD through a committee called ‘the Standing Committee Army Manpower Forecasts (SCAMF)’ calculates the numbers that need to be enlisted to maintain the British Army’s manning levels. The MoD takes account of changing unit establishments, wastage caused by servicemen and women leaving the British Army at the end of their engagements, and those who might choose to leave before their engagements come to an end (PVR or Premature Voluntary Release). The number required in each trade in the British Army is assessed and figures are published at six monthly intervals so that adjustments may be made during the year.

Traditionally, the British Army has not met these recruiting targets and this shortfall in recruiting tends to be worse for the Army and for particular trades within the other two Services.

With this in mind, the full time trained strength of the British Army was 91,510 at 01 November 2013, against the requirement for a full time trained strength of 95,210 personnel (DASA, 2013a).

By 2020 the British Army will have a full time requirement of 82,000 personnel (DASA, 2013a).

The latest figures suggest that the British Army requires approximately 8,400-12,000 new personnel each year (DASA, 2013a).

Key Points

Key points to note regarding British Army manpower include (DASA, 2013b):

At 1 April 2013:

  • There were 99,730 (trained and untrained) British Army personnel, of which 13,890 were Officers and 85,840 were Other Ranks.
  • The percentage of women in the British Army was 8.4% in April 2013.
  • Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) personnel comprised 10.2% of the British Army, continuing a long term gradual increase in the proportion of BME personnel.
  • 56% of Army personnel were aged under 30, compared with 48% of the Naval Service and 40% of the RAF.
  • 2.1% of British Army personnel were under the age of 18, and 33% were under the age of 25.

In the 12 months to 31 March 2013:

  • 45% of all Other Ranks intake occurred under the age of 20; compared with only 3.3% of all Officer intake.
  • 69% of all Officer intake comprised personnel aged between 20 and 24; compared with only 39% of Other Ranks intake.
  • The profile of outflow by age is to some extent determined by the nature of contracts under which personnel serve. In the 12 months to 31 March 2013, common exit ages for Officers were 40 and over. Nearly 60% of all Other Ranks outflow occurred between the ages of 20 and 34; however there is also a peak at age 40 which broadly corresponds with personnel completing a full 22-year career.

A General Outline of the Recruitment and Selection Process

Within the UK individuals tend to be attracted to individual service branches rather than the military per se. Each Service has their own identity, ethos, core values and standards and people tend to join the Army, Navy or Air Force. This is reflected in the way that each service branch conducts separate recruitment and marketing campaigns. Each has its own strap-line (e.g., the Army’s is “Be the best” and the RAF is “Rise above the rest”).

Selection is conducted separately for each of the Services, but the selection processes are similar in nature. All three Services have different selection procedures for Officers and Other Ranks. However, all include interviews, aptitude and ability testing and some personality measures. There is a filtering system that will select people at the initial application stage, while others will be invited to attend an assessment centre which can last up to three days. As well as technical ability, individuals will be assessed on their general qualities to be a member of the UK military. In addition, preliminary medical examinations will also be carried out including checks on weight, eyesight and hearing, and individuals will need to pass a physical fitness assessment.

In 2010 Capita, a UK business process outsourcing and professional services company, signed a contract with the British Army to take over the recruitment and selection process through the Army Recruiting Project (otherwise known as the Recruiting Partnering Project, RPP). Capita works in conjunction with, and nominally for, the Army Recruiting Group which is commanded by a Brigadier (OF-6). Command of the Army Recruiting Group, which sits within the Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD), is now exercised centrally from Upavon in Wiltshire, through five Regional Operations Managers across the UK.

As a result of the above, the role of military manpower in Army recruiting has been refocused on the core business of dealing directly with potential recruits (less HQ planning/command functions). Consequently the recruitment process has been redesigned to become more streamlined, being administered and coordinated centrally and increasingly managed on-line. There have been some associated changes to the processes between Army recruiting and customer organisations, in particular Army Phase 1 initial training establishments. Finally, administrative functions have been ‘civilianised’ and centralised in a National Recruiting Centre (NRC); in so doing, the relationship between candidate and recruiter has moved from high street offices to a Candidate Support Manager in the NRC.

Tables 2a to 2d, below, provide an outline of the current British Army recruitment and selection process (see notes after Table 2d).

Table 2a: Outline of the British Army’s Regular Soldier Recruitment and Selection Process

Soldiers (Regular, Full-Time)

Step 1

Apply Online

Once you have registered your interest to join, you will be asked for details including your nationality and age. This will tell you what type of role you can apply for (or if you cannot join). You will then need to apply online, which will get you started on your Army journey.

Step 2

Your Army Briefing

Now that you have applied, you will be given a local Recruiter and a Candidate Support Manager (CSM), who may ask you extra questions. You can also follow your progress online. Normally, you will be invited to your local career centre, where you will be given a personal development plan to follow to help you get ready for the Assessment Centre. You will also learn more about the Army - and have the chance to ask questions.

Step 3

The Assessment Centre

The assessment will last for 2 days and will take place in one of several Assessment Centres across the UK. The Army will pay for your travel to get there and back.

This is your chance to see whether the Army is right for you, and for the Army to see whether you are suitable to join. During your stay, the assessment will include:

A full medical examination
Physical and mental tests
Team exercises to see how you work with other people
A career discussion

Step 4

After the Assessment Centre

Once you are through the assessment there is just some final paperwork to do before you are ready to begin your Initial military training (known Phase 1 Training):

The Army will check your references and run a background check.*
If everything looks OK we will send you an offer of employment.
When you accept the offer, you will be given your date to start your training and you will formally join (enlist) in the Army. How quickly you can start will depend on the job you have applied to do, and the grade you were given at assessment.

*The Army works with the following agencies for this information: Disclosure and Barring Service; Disclosure Scotland; Access Northern Ireland; and National Security Vetting.

Table 2b: Outline of the British Army’s Reserve Soldier Recruitment and Selection Process

Soldiers (Reserve, Part-Time)

Step 1

Apply Online

Once you have registered your interest to join, you will be asked for details including your nationality and age. This will tell you what type of role you can apply for (or if you cannot join). You will then need to apply online, which will get you started on your Army journey.

Step 2

Meet Your Unit

Now that you have applied, you will be given a Candidate Support Manager. You can also follow your progress online. You will normally be invited to meet your chosen unit and find out more, while giving the team a chance to see if you are a good fit. The team will tell you about the different roles that are available. During your meeting the team will help you plan what you need to do to go on to the next stage.

Step 3

The Assessment Centre

The assessment will last for 2 days and will take place in one of several Assessment Centres across the UK. The Army will pay for your travel to get there and back.

This is your chance to see whether the Army is right for you, and for th Army to see whether you are suitable to join. During your stay, the assessment will include:

A full medical examination
Physical and mental tests
Team exercises to see how you work with other people
An interview

If you are successful at the Assessment Centre, you will have the chance to enlist at the end of your time there. You can choose to do this, or wait to enlist when you arrive back at your unit.

Step 4

After the Assessment Centre

Once you have passed the assessment centre, and you have enlisted. you are ready to start your training.

As a Reservist you will have the option to complete your training in smaller chunks (e.g. weekends) or to do it in one go. You will also be welcome to join your new unit's drill nights before you are fully trained.

The Army will still need to run some background checks, and works with the following agencies for this information: Disclosure and Barring Service; Disclosure Scotland; Access Northern Ireland; and National Security Vetting.

Table 2c: Outline of the British Army’s Regular Officer Recruitment and Selection Process

Officers (Regular, Full-Time)

Step 1

Apply Online

Once you have registered your interest to join, you will be asked for details including your nationality and age. This will tell you what type of role you can apply for (or if you cannot join). You will then need to apply online, which will get you started on your Army journey.

Step 2

Interview

You will be invited for an interview with your local recruiter. This gives the Army a chance to get to know you and to see if you would get on well in the Army, and for you to ask them questions.

You will also be given advice on getting ready for the next stage - the Army Officer Selection Board.

Step 3

The Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB)

Part 01: AOSB Briefing

Once your Candidate Support Manager thinks that you are ready, you will be sent to the 24 hour briefing. You will be assessed on physical and practical exercises, and learn how to prepare for Main Board.

Part 02: Main Board

This is your chance to put the skills you learnt at the Briefing in to practice. The Main Board will last for 3 1/2 days. You will need to be physically and mentally fit to pass, and show yourself to the best of your abilities.

Step 4

After the AOSB

Once you have passed, you'll be given an offer of employment for you to take your place at Sandhurst.

Once you have accepted, you will need to go on a pre-commissioning course before you can start, where you will learn more about the course, have a medical and be given some of your uniform. Once this course is finished, you are ready to start your 44 week course at Sandhurst in Surrey.

The Army will still need to run some background checks, and works with the following agencies for this information: Disclosure and Barring Service; Disclosure Scotland; Access Northern Ireland; and National Security Vetting.

Table 2d: Outline of the British Army’s Reserve Officer Recruitment and Selection Process

Officers (Reserve, Part-Time)

Step 1

Apply Online

Once you have registered your interest to join, you will be asked for details including your nationality and age. This will tell you what type of role you can apply for (or if you cannot join). You will then need to apply online, which will get you started on your Army journey.

Step 2

Meet Your Unit

Now that you have applied, you will be given a Candidate Support Manager. You can also follow your progress online. You will be invited meet your chosen unit and find out more, while giving the team a chance to see if you are a good fit. The team will tell you about the different roles that are available. During your meeting the team will help you plan what you need to do to go on to the next stage.

Step 3

The Assessment Centre

Your assessment will take 2 days and will take place in one of the Assessment Centres across the UK. The Army will pay for your travel to get there.

This is your chance to see whether the Army is right for you, and for them to see whether you are suitable to join. During your stay, you will be assessed on the following:

A full medical examination
Physical and mental tests
Team exercises to see how you work with other people
An interview

Step 4

The Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB)

Next, you will be invited to Westbury for the AOSB Briefing - a 24 hour session to assess your officer potential, and to teach you the skills you will need to pass the Main Board.

Pass the Briefing, and you will be asked back to Westbury for the Main Board, where you will be tested mentally and physically over 3 1/2 days.

Once you have passed AOSB, you are ready to start your training

The Army will still need to run some background checks, and works with the following agencies for this information: Disclosure and Barring Service; Disclosure Scotland; Access Northern Ireland; and National Security Vetting.

Notes:

  1. The BARB Test has been replaced by the Army Cognitive Test (Verifier).
  2. The Physical Selection Standards (Recruits) (PSS(R)) process predicts an applicant’s likelihood of achieving the physical output standards at the completion of Phase 1 training. An MOD study made a number of recommendations to the PSS(R) process. The main change was to remove a number of predictive tests and associated equipment and replace them with a specific Representative Military Task (RMT) which involves lifting specially designed Powerbags® of 6 weights onto a platform to a height of 1.45m (Leisure Lines, 2013).

Recruit Attraction Methods

The British Army utilises a number of marketing channels in order to engage with domestic and international populations and these include:

  • High street stalls;
  • Trade shows and other events;
  • School and university visits;
  • Commercial recruitment fairs;
  • Own websites;
  • Social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, WordPress);
  • Newspapers;
  • Television;
  • Billboards and posters;
  • Cadet and other youth organisations; and
  • Friends and family of current and ex-military personnel.

General Eligibility

There are a number of eligibility criteria that must be considered before making an application to join the British Army and these vary across the trades due to the nature of the job/role an individual may wish to undertake. The general principles are outlined below:

  • Age: Every job/role in the British Army has a minimum and maximum age limit. The minimum age can differ between jobs/roles and is specified within each job description.
  • Fitness Standards: all applicants are required to complete three fitness tests which differ for Officers and soldiers.
  • Minimum Qualifications: most Soldier roles do not require minimum qualifications. However, Officers are required to achieve a higher academic standard. With over 200 roles there is a lot to choose from.
  • Medical: there are various criteria including height, weight, eyesight, and checks medical conditions and any ongoing illnesses.
  • Nationality & Residency: Individuals are required to fulfil a number of nationality and residency criteria. Documents required include passport, birth certificate and educational qualifications.
  • Gender: only male applicants can apply to the Household Cavalry, the RAC and the infantry.
  • Criminal Convictions: some kinds of offences and sentences can bar recruits from joining or rejoining.
  • Tattoos & Piercings: these are dependent on location and nature and will usually need to be declared and shown during a medical examination.

When Can an Individual Join?

Soldiers

Individuals must be a minimum of 16 years old on entry to Phase 1 (basic) training, although individuals can apply from 15 years and 7 months. Older individuals must be in Phase 1 before their 33rd birthday.

If an individual is under 18 years of age, they will need consent from their parent or guardian before they can progress their application at the Careers Office.

If an individual is currently under a care order then the British Army will have to seek permission of the local authority in order for an individual to join.

Junior Soldiers

Individuals who are under 17 years and 5 months are classified as Junior Soldiers and will complete initial military training at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.

Officers

Officers must be in the age range 18-26 on entry to initial training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), although individuals can apply for sixth form and university sponsorship earlier. However, current British Army policy permits applicants to enter RMAS after their 26th birthday and before their 29th birthday in the:

  • Adjutant General’s Corps (Staff & Support Services): AGC (SPS);
  • Adjutant General’s Corps (Royal Military Police): AGC (RMP);
  • Adjutant General’s Corps (Educational & Training Services): AGC (ETS);
  • Royal Army Medical Corps (Medical Support Officer): RAMC (MSO);
  • Intelligence Corps; and
  • If they are a serving soldier.

Higher age limits for professional and specialist applicants may apply.

Fitness Standards

Get Fit To Join

Due to the nature of military training and operations it is critical that individuals get in the best possible shape in order to help them excel during pre-joining fitness tests, initial training and throughout their military career.

The British Army has put together training programmes designed to help individuals get their fitness levels to what they should be and increase their chance of success.

Further information on the physical tests are outlined below.

Minimum Qualifications

Soldiers

There are no minimum qualifications except for certain technical jobs.

Professionally Qualified Soldiers

Certain medical trades are classified as Professionally Qualified Soldier roles and if an individual applies for one of these roles they will need to go through an Arms Selection Board prior to their initial training.

Some other specialist roles also require the individual to pass a specialist board, for example musicians wanting to join the Corps of Army Music have to pass an audition.

Officers

Officers require 35 ALIS points (34 for SCEs) from 7 GCSE/SCE subjects, with a minimum grade C/2 in English language, maths and either a science or a foreign language; plus 240 UCAS Tariff points from at least two A level passes grades A-E or SCE Higher grades A-D or equivalent.

Professional Qualified Officers

Professionally Qualified Officers undergo an additional Arms Selection Board before or after completion of AOSB as well as a shorter course at RMAS.

Medical Assessment

Life in the British Army can be mentally and physically challenging. This is the reason why some medical conditions and ongoing illnesses can stop an individual from joining. As such a full medical examination is part of the application process. It is worth checking the list on the British Army website.

Nationality and Residency

Candidates must be categorised as one of the following:

  • British citizen.
  • British Subject under the Nationality Act 1981.
  • British Protected Person.
  • Citizen of the Irish Republic.
  • Citizen of a Commonwealth country or holding British Overseas Territories Citizenship.
    • Previously, individuals must have had Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK or have resided in the UK for five years before they could start an application to join the British Army. Individuals must not have been out of the UK for a continuous period of more than 180 days (6 months) during this five year period.
    • The MOD has reduced the residency requirement to zero from five years, meaning applicants are not required to have lived in the UK prior to applying for a role in the military.

First Formal Interview

The first formal interview is usually with your candidate support manager.

During this interview individuals may be asked about their achievements, interests, fitness and why they want to join the British Army – or other pertinent questions relevant to their application.

As with any interveiw, be smart (dress and attitude), positive, polite, respectful, and honest.

The Assessment Centre

The assessment centre is where (regular and reserve soldier and reserve officer) candidates will undertake several physical and mental tests, which include:

  • Assessment centre tests;
  • Medical examination; and
  • Physical tests.

The Assessment Tests

Candidates will undertake four to six elements depending on their current qualifications and their chosen job(s)/role(s).

  • Army Cognitive Test (Verifier);
  • Literacy and numbercy tests;
  • Technical selection test;
  • Grenade throw;
  • Team tasks; and
  • Career discussion.

Army Cognitive Test (Verifier)

This is an ability test which is taken on a computer, and is designed to measure your soldier potential. Everybody takes this series of five tests. Your score determines which jobs you can go for and you can find help for this test here.

Literacy and Numeracy Tests

If you do not have A-C/9-4 grade GCSEs (or equivalent) in Maths or English, you will need to sit these two tests.

Candidates who bring their certificates are not required to sit the literacy and numeracy tests.

Technical Selection Test

Individuals eligible for consideration for a technical trade will be required to take the 45 minute Technical Selection Test in order to confirm their suitability for technical training.

The questions are similar to those in a GCSE textbook, and a calculator is supplied. Your Candidate Support Manager will tell you whether you need to take it or not.

Technical Corps: Royal Engineers, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Signals, Royal Logistic Corps (Ammunition Technician only).

Grenade Throw

A military-style practical lesson is included. You will be shown how to leopard crawl under a net, before throwing a dummy grenade.

Team Tasks

Teamwork and team spirit are very important in the Army. You will split into small teams (up to 8) and be given practical problem-solving tasks to complete as a team. You will be competing against the clock, and possibly other teams, so it is important to work well together. Think about your strengths and what you can bring to your team.

Career Discussion

Finally, you will have a career discussion where the Army will ask you about why you want to join and what role you are interested in. You will also get feedback on how you have got on, and your next steps.

While candidates are at the centre, they will complete their pre-employment checks and paperwork.

The Medical Examination

On day one, candidates will be seen by a medical professional to check that they are healthy enough to take part, and to join the Army. The tests will not hurt and do not involve taking blood or the use of needles.

Candidates will have a full assessment, which will include looking at their past medical history, current health and a top-to-toe medical examination along with some other tests.

Although some of a candidate’s medical records will have been considered already, a ‘Pass’ outcome is not guaranteed until the medical professional has fully considered both a candidate’s medical records and a face-to-face consultation with them.

For some individuals, further information, referral or consideration by the senior army medical professional in charge of recruiting is required after the pre-selection assessment to ensure that the correct decision is made about a candidate.

What Medical Tests will be Conducted?

  • Urine, hearing, eyesight, colour perception and lung capacity will all be tested.
  • Measurement of waist, and confirm Body Mass Index by checking height and weight.
  • An Electrocardiogram (ECG). This involves having small pads stuck to the arms, legs and chest so that the medical professional can measure the electrical activity of the heart.
  • A few people will also need an Echocardiogram or an exercise spirometry.
    • An echo cardiogram is a scan looking at the structure of the heart. A trained technician will use a small handheld scanner moved over the chest to do this. It only takes 30-40 minutes and does not hurt.
    • Exercise spirometry looks at how well the lungs work before and after exercise. Candidates will do some blowing tests then be put on an exercise bike for a short time. After that the blowing tests will be repeated. By comparing the before and after medical professional can look at the effect that exercise has on the candidate’s lungs.

Important Points for the Medical

  • Before your medical, it is important to not have any fizzy drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, or any sugary drinks or foods for at least 12 hours.
    • They can affect your urine sample.
    • You will be given food either in the cookhouse or packed lunch if needed.
  • In the 3 days before your medical, avoid very energetic exercise, like a 5k run or playing a full game of football.
  • If you wear glasses:
    • Bring your glasses with you.
    • Take out soft contact lenses 48 hours in advance.
      • Hard lenses should be removed 10 days beforehand.
      • If you do not do this, your medical could be moved to a later date.
    • Bring a copy of your current optician’s prescription/report from your optician.

The Physical Tests

Candidates be asked to take part in three different tests. The standard you need to meet is different depending on which role you’re hoping to join. The Assessors will be watching to see how much effort you put in.

  • The Mid-Thigh Pull: Standing in front of a bar set to mid-thigh height, you will be asked to pull the bar upwards for 5 seconds, then rest and repeat.
  • Medicine Ball Throw: Sitting with your back against a wall, you will throw a 4kg medicine ball as far as you can.
  • 2km (1.2 mile) Run: Start with an 800m warm up jog before your timed run of a further 2km (1.2 mile).

Candidates are not allowed to wear body supports or sports bandages for these tests.

Your Stay at the Assessment Centre

  • You will sleep in single sex rooms of up to 18 people, during your stay.
    • The bathrooms are also single sex.
  • You will be emailed the exact details of your Army Assessment course.
  • There are four centres, and you will be sent to your nearest one. These are:
    • Glencorse;
    • Belfast;
    • Lichfield; and
    • Pirbright.
  • You will need to take ID along with you.

After the Assessment Centre

After your career discussion, you will be given feedback about your assessment and your next steps.

Once you are home, the army will be in touch with you after a few days to chat about how you got on and what happens next.

The Army Officer Selection Board

The officer selection process is a two-way process, meaning it is as much an opportunity for the candidates to look at the Army as it is for the candidate to show the Army that they are officer material.

The Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) is composed of two parts:

  • Part 01: The Briefing; and
  • Part 02: The Main Board.

Candidates for service in both regular and reserve officer roles will attend the AOSB.

Part 01: The Briefing

Your first visit to Westbury is the 24 hour briefing. Here you will learn how to prepare yourself for your next visit, as well as being assessed through physical and practical exercises.

The tests are designed to help you, and help the Army to understand what you need to work on before you reach the Main Board.

Part 02: The Main Board

When your Candidate Support Manager thinks you are ready, you will be invited back to Westbury for a 3 1/2 day assessment.

AOSB Part 02: Main Board

Day 1

1. Physical tests.
2. Introductory talk: Tips on how to make the most of your trip.
3. Written tests: An essay and tests on general knowledge, current affairs and military knowledge.
4. Psychometric tests: A measure of your cognitive and personality profile.

Day 2

1. Interview: You will be asked about your experiences and interests, and why you are applying to be an Army officer.
2. Outdoor tasks: These are group exercises in practical problem solving that you practiced at Briefing.
3. Tutorial: A revision period in preparation for the planning exercise.

Day 3

1. Planning exercise: A test of conceptual problem solving delivered through a written solution and a group discussion.
2. Command task: Outdoor activities where you will take turns to lead the group.
3. Obstacle course: Take on as many obstacles as you can within a time limit.
4. Lecture: Give a 5 minute talk and take answers from the group.
5. Evening - Team dinner: You are already forming friendships that will last a lifetime.

Day 4

1. Final race: On the last day you take part in the final exercise - an outdoor team competition between all the different groups.

Important Notes to Consider

  • The AOSB will examine your ability to develop through training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).
  • Every aspect will be assessed and no single activity will lead to non-selection.
  • Research and understand which part of the Army you want to serve in.
  • Be aware of current affairs, especially any about society or defence.
  • Be yourself, and enjoy the experience.

Successful Applicants

Successful applicants will be offered employment with the British Army, below are some legacy joining instructions documents:

Funding and Scholarships

The British Army has a number of scholarships, grant and bursaries to help individuals gain qualifications before they join.

Sixth Form Education and Scholarships

If an individual is over 15 years old and wants to become an Officer there are two choices, either a Sixth Form Scholarship or a place at Welbeck, the Army’s Sixth Form College, which provide students with financial support while they study for the A levels and secures a place at the RMAS.

Further Education Bursary

The British Army offers the Further Education Bursary programmes to individuals who want to get qualified before they join. The aim is to support individuals whilst at school or college and guarantees them a place when they finish.

Undergraduate Bursary

To be offered the British Army Undergraduate Bursary individuals must pass the Officer Selection process, success means a provisional place at RMAS. The bursary is worth between £6000 and £8000 depending on the length of the university course, and individuals are expected to serve as Officers for at least three years after completion of Officer training.

Medical, Dental and Nursing Programmes

The British Army Undergraduate Cadetship offers future doctors, dentists and nurses who pass Officer Selection the chance to earn money whilst studying for their degree. The British Army pays the tuition fees and individuals will also receive an annual salary, currently around £14,500, for the last three years of their course. Individuals are expected to serve as Officers for at least six years after completion of Officer training.

Army 2020

Army 2020 is the transformation of the British Army for the 2020s and beyond. It is part of the MoD response to the strategic challenges that the British Army is likely to face in the future.

Background

Army 2020 is the Army’s response to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), published by the Government in October 2010, which laid out the commitments expected of the UK Armed Forces.

A study, completed in July 2012, developed from first principles a proposition for delivering required levels of military capability within given manpower constraints and taking account of other changes such as the return of Army from Germany to the UK. The outcome is a design for the future British Army that will be more adaptable and flexible to undertake a broader range of military tasks at home and overseas.

An Integrated Army

This future Army will, for the first time, fully integrate Regulars and Reserves within a whole force, consisting of some 82,000 Regular personnel and 30,000 trained Reserves, i.e. an integrated Army of around 112,000.

Reserves will be used routinely, rather than in extreme circumstances, for defined tasks including providing troops for lengthy stabilisation operations and Defence Engagement overseas.

The Future Structure

The future Army will be made up of a Reaction Force and an Adaptable Force, supported by Force Troops:

  • Reaction Force: will provide a force that will undertake short notice contingency tasks and provide the Army’s conventional deterrence for Defence. It will be trained and equipped to undertake the full spectrum of intervention tasks and will provide the initial basis for any future lengthy operation.
  • Adaptable Force: will be used for a wide range of tasks, including providing headquarters and units for lengthy operations, standing commitments (e.g. Cyprus and the Falkland Islands), overseas Defence Engagement (working with partner nations) and UK civil engagement.
  • Force Troops: supporting the Reaction and Adaptable Forces will be specialist Force Troops, which will provide a wide range of capabilities from a centralised pool of Regular and Reserve resources, such as artillery, logistics, military intelligence and signals.

Transition to Army 2020 Structures

The main changes at Divisional, Brigade and Unit level will occur largely within the mid-2014 to mid-2015 window. Unit moves back from Germany will take place over the course of this decade, dictated partly by when accommodation in the UK is ready for occupation.

Useful Links

Listed are some links which the reader may find useful:

  1. Army Jobs Download Library: http://www.army.mod.uk/join/25652.aspx. This provides individuals applying for Officer and Other Ranks jobs with plenty of information and practice tests. Do not be tempted to pay £9.99 for a book (of must have Q&A). Practice with theses resources and put yourself under a time-limit!
  2. A very thorough document ‘Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment Practice in the United Kingdom’ written by David Gee in 2007 and available from: http://www.informedchoice.org.uk/informedchoice/informedchoiceweb.pdf.
  3. Official MoD website: http://www.gov.uk/organisations/ministry-of-defence
  4. Official British Army website: http://www.army.mod.uk/
  5. Official British Army Facebook website: https://www.facebook.com/armyjobs
  6. Official British Army WordPress website: http://britisharmy.wordpress.com/
  7. Information about Army 2020 can be found at: http://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/A2020_update.pdf
  8. A report by the MoD in July 2013 on the future of the Reserve Forces ‘Reserves in the Future Force 2020: Valuable and Valued’ available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/210470/Cm8655-web_FINAL.pdf
  9. Capita Army Recruitment website: http://www.capitaarmyresourcing.co.uk/
  10. ARRSE (ARmy Rumour SErvice): http//www.arrse.co.uk/join-army-military-recruitment-128

Useful Documents

  1. An Australian Trial of the BARB Test (Royal Australian Navy, 1996)
  2. BARB After 21 Years, The (Irvine, 2013, p.8-11)
  3. Design of a Knowledge Skills & Experience Framework for the British Army (Harvey & Daniel, 2014)
  4. Effectiveness of Graded Selection in the British Army, The (Johansen, 2011)
  5. Exploring Reasons for Attrition in the British Army, A Longitudinal Study (Fisher, 2011)
  6. Identifying & Understanding Factors Associated with Failure to Complete Infantry Training among British Army Recruits (Kiernan, 2011)
  7. Massive IQ Gains in 14 Nations, What IQ Tests Really Measure (Flynn, 1987
  8. Occupational Stress & the Outcome of Basic Military Training (Jackson et al., 2011)
  9. Personnel Selection in the Army (Line & Griffin, 1943)
  10. Recruiting & Retention of Military Personnel (NATO, 2007)
  11. Recruiting Partnering Project – A Step Change in Recruiting for the British Army (Johansen & Fisher, 2012)
  12. Recruitment Patterns of Officers in the British Army (2014-06-16)
  13. Thomas TST (2010-05, p.2)
  14. British Army Applications & Rejections by Army Careers Centre (2015-02-04)
  15. British Army Officer Selection Board 2007, 2011-2013 (2014-12-03)
  16. British Army Recruitment & Advertising Campaign (2015-01-30)
  17. British Army Recruitment Patterns for Officers 2010-2014 (2014-06-16)
  18. British Army Terms & Conditions of Service 1997
  19. Chances of Promotion & Retention, British Army (2014-03-21)
  20. Commissioning Courses at RMAS, UK Regular Intake & Output (2015-02-06)
  21. Cost per Student at RMAS 2012-2015 (2014-10-29)
  22. Functional Interpretation of Joint Medical Employment Standard (JMES)-PULHEEMS Grades (2014-07-10)
  23. Policy of Recruiting Under-18s (2013-05-14)
  24. Costs Per Recruit for RLC & Infantry, Phase 1 & 2 (2015-01-21)

Freedom of Information Requests

On 17 January 2014 a Freedom of Information (FOI) was made to the MoD Army Secretariat asking 8 specific questions regarding the recruitment and selection process of the British Army, as below:

  1. The number of individuals who made an application to join the British Army between April 2012 and March 2013, separately as Officers and Other Ranks if possible.
  2. The number of individuals who attempted the BARB test, passed and failed, between April 2012 and March 2013, separately as Officers and Other Ranks if possible.
  3. The minimum General Trainability Index (GTI) score needed for specific roles in the British Army, including the highest and lowest  (scores and roles).
  4. The number of individuals who attended the Assessment Centre Interview, passed and failed, between April 2012 and March 2013.
  5. The number of individuals who attended the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB), passed and failed, between April 2012 and March 2013.
  6. The number of individuals who attempted a Technical Selection Test (TST), passed and failed, between April 2012 and March 2013.
  7. The number of individuals who were given a formal offer of employment and a start date for initial training between April 2012 and March 2013, separately as Officers and Other Ranks if possible.
  8. The number of individuals who attended initial training between April 2012 and March 2013, separately as Officers and Other Ranks if possible.

The answers to these questions can be viewed here: British Army FOI Recruitment Statistics 2012-13 (MoD, 2014).

Another FOI request (by another person) on 16 June 2014 for the period April 2010 to March 2014: Recruitment Patterns of Officers in the British Army (PDF) (2014)

References

British Army (2016) Ground Close Combat Roles Open To Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.army.mod.uk/news/28632.aspx. [Accessed: 08 August, 2016].

DASA (Defence Analytical and Statistics Agency) (2013a) UK Armed Forces Monthly Personnel Report: 1 November 2013. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dasa.mod.uk/publications/personnel/military/monthly-personnel-report/2013-11-01/1-november-2013.pdf. [Accessed: 04 January, 2014].

DASA (Defence Analytical and Statistics Agency) (2013b) Annual Personnel Report 2013. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.dasa.mod.uk/index.php/publications/personnel/military/annual-personnel-report/2013. [Accessed: 04 January, 2014].

Gee, D. (2007) Informed Choice? Armed Forces Recruitment Practice in the United Kingdom. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.informedchoice.org.uk/informedchoice/informedchoiceweb.pdf. [Accessed: 04 January, 2014].

Leisure Lines (2013) Gym Hardware 2013. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.leisurelinesgb.co.uk/image/data/Brochures/leisurelines2013.pdf. [Accessed: 05 September, 2014].

National Archives (2006) Army Recruitment. Available from World Wide Web: http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/army-recruitment/. [Accessed: 02 January, 2014].

Taylor, C. (2010) A Brief Guide to Previous British Defence Reviews. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05714.pdf. [Accessed: 04 January, 2014].

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43 thoughts on “British Army Recruitment & Selection Overview

  1. Hi
    We are kenyan citizens intrested in joining the british army.owing to the fact that we not citizens of the UK, we would like to know how to .We are a group of six students who live and dream of becoming part of the british army.
    Please send us specifications on how we can apply and if there are any limitations.we also request that you provide an address to access the british army wing based in kenya.
    With regards;
    Galgiltele Patrick
    Kinuthia Alvin
    Lalampaa Letim
    Asikoye Danroy
    Lemalasia Kelvin
    Lekamario Allan

    1. Hi Galgitele,

      On 12 May 2016, the rule regarding five years’ residency for Commonwealth recruitment was lifted. As citizens of a commonwealth country you can apply to join the British Army using the online application process: http://www.army.mod.uk/join/Join-as-a-Soldier.aspx.

      The training wing in Kenya has no involvement in the recruitment process.

  2. how about Canadians if we wanted to joining the British forces? what would we have to do, to be able to join up?

    1. Hi Kyle,

      As a commonwealth country Canadians do have the opportunity to serve in the British armed forces. The residency criteria were ‘tweaked’ last year, as noted in a FOI:

      “In a Written Statement on 12 May 2016, the Minister for the Armed Forces observed the long tradition of Commonwealth citizens serving in the British Armed Forces, and that their service provides an important contribution in defending the UK. The written statement confirmed that the Commonwealth recruitment rules which require five years’ UK residency have therefore been reviewed. Please note that the residency requirement was lifted immediately after the statement was made in the House, and we commenced recruiting Commonwealth citizens from summer 2016 onwards.”

      You would apply online, just like UK residents can.

  3. Hi, I have some questions, first Iam a Swedish Citizen but was born in England to an english father and i have relatives that lives there, Can i apply to join the army? (dont hold a british passport, only a swedish one)

    I have a family here in sweden i need to support (i work full time). I read that if I start my application i need to remain in England for 6 month during the process. How will i be able to support my family?

  4. please when is the amry intakes for the tear 2017 i want to see the army intake schedule table for 2017

    1. Hi,

      If you want to know the intake dates for the British Army then you will need to contact the recruiting office, as we don’t have access to that information.

  5. Hi, I have applied to join the British army as a commonwealth soldier. I have gone through all the process and its left with the CSM to call, it been 78days now as compared to the 45days given. any time a call they give me different reasons… please sir can you tell me what is helping and the reasons for that. thank you

    1. Hi George,

      You’re not the only one who seems to encounter a hurdle at this point in the recruitment process. To be honest, not sure on the best course of action, although there are a number of options:

      1. Do nothing and wait for them to get back to you;
      2. Keep calling them;
      3. Write a letter/email to the recruitment team; and/or
      4. Make an official complaint.

      Let me know how you get on so we can let others know what works.

  6. hi! how long does it take for the RGMD form to be reviewed and an invitation sent?

  7. please I’m Abdul a commonwealth citizen i was told by mail my CSM is going to contact me within 45 days but to me I think the time is due. So I want to know if it’s 45 working days or Just 45 days… And please what do I expect from the call

    Regards

  8. Please what’s what will you CSM tell you and what will be the next step because I’m a commonwealth person from Ghana and was been informed my CSM will call me within 45 days .I’m on the 23 day now

  9. Good day Officer, I am Agyeman Seth from Ghana can you help me get recruitment in country army?

  10. I applied from commonwealth and after my posting my RGMD, they never contacted me. I kept on calling and calling for over a month and i was told i passed the RGMD. I dont know what next. When i call to speak with my CSM, They dont allow me. I dont know whats happening.

    1. Chris if you have any question you ask the agent that answers your call.. whatever you need they will assisst you with it.. it is not necessarily that you speak with your CSM before you know what to do next.

  11. Is there any room for a 47 yr. old American? Maybe gaining UK citizenship by serving?

    1. Hi John,

      Simple Answer: No.
      Longer Answer:
      The British Army, Naval Service (Royal Navy & Royal Marines) and RAF have slightly different criteria.
      Age:
      1. Your age profile would almost certainly preclude you from Regular (Active Duty) service in any branch of the British Armed Forces, meaning only Reserve service would be open.
      2. In general, Reserve soldiers up to 50th birthday and for Reserve officers up to 48 years and 9 months (there are higher age limits for some professional/specialist roles).
      Residency:
      1. Regular: must be a British citizen; British subject under the Nationality Act 1981; British Protected Person; or a Commonwealth Citizen (must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before starting an application, with no period of absence over 180 days).
      2. Reserve: British citizenship or if a Commonwealth Citizen, Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Indefinite leave to Enter (IlE).
      3. The 5 years residency criteria does not apply to citizens of the Republic of Ireland (all Services), Malta (Naval Service only) and the Republic of Cyprus (Naval Service only).
      Citizenship:
      Military service in the British Armed Forces does not come with a guaranteed pathway to UK citizenship, as a number of Gurkha and Commonwealth veterans have (unfortunately) found out.

  12. Hi Sir /madame ,
    I’m interested in joining the British Army how can I go along in finishing up my application .thank you I’m from St. Lucia is there anyone to help me please I,I’ve started its asking me where do I live currently. Is the British Army recruiting persons from St .Lucia. Really in need of your help.

    1. Hi Cornellia,

      As St. Lucia is part of the Commonwealth, then you have met one of the eligibility criteria for applying. The British Army has a quota for each trade which is not related to an applicant’s nationality. Recruitment is on a rolling basis. For example, if there are 10 vacancies for a trade for 2013-2014 and 11 people are successful, the Army would (may) offer the 11th person:

      1. A vacancy for the 2014-2015 cycle; or
      2. A vacancy for another trade (the military likes to retain quality candidates).

      For certain trades, the Army takes on more candidates than it needs due to attrition during the training cycle.

  13. How do I contact the British Army to find out if I am eligible to apply for the army. I am from Ghana and have never stayed in the UK before

  14. Hi !
    Im Samu from Fiji. Just want to ask if I can join the RAF from a commonwealth country. Currently pursuing Certificate IV in aircraft maintenance engineering !
    If it is applicable, then when is the next recruit intake ?!

    1. Hi Samu,

      Members of the Commonwealth are eligible to join the British Armed Forces, a number of my colleagues in the late 1990s/early 2000s were Fijian. I do not know when the next intake is.

  15. hi.my name is Isaac from Ghana. please i have not stayed in UK before.Do i qualify for the uk Army

    1. Hi Isaac,

      As a citizen from a Commonwealth country you may meet the criteria, however, you would most likely need a waiver regarding residency (since you have not stayed in the UK before). You will need to contact the British Army for a definitive answer.

  16. I’m a Ghanaian soldier who has served twice in UN peace keeping mission. unmil 16 n UNIFIL respectfully. is thee anyway that I can get chance in the British Army? thank you.

    1. Hi Ebenezer,

      To join the Regular Army:

      1) Aged between 16 and 33 (Soldier) and 18 and 26 (Officer).
      2) British citizens, British subjects under the Nationality Act, 1981, British Protected Persons or Commonwealth Citizens.
      3) If you are a citizen of a Commonwealth country, you’ll need to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years before you start an application to join the Army. You must not have been out of the UK for a continuous period of more than 180 days (6 months) during this 5 year period. A passport is required with validity for 4 years from the date of entering Army service. Your UK Residency status and Passport will be checked at application.

      Please view: http://www.army.mod.uk/join/Careers-in-the-Army.aspx for further information. Alternatively you can call: 0345 600 8080 or ask on the Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/armyjobs or https://www.facebook.com/armyofficerjobs.

  17. Where can I find all the posters and other recruitment material for British Army Recruitment in the 21st Century Im writing a dissertation on the subject and struggling to find examples

    Kind Regards
    Miss Gina Hankin

    1. Hi Gina,

      Your best bet would be to make a Freedom of Information (FIO) to the MOD @ CIO-FOI@mod.uk requesting the material. An internet search will only provide a smattering of what you are after, notwithstanding the MOD there is no single/multiple source available on the internet for what you require.

      Regards

      Andrew

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