Page last updated at 01:54 GMT, Saturday, 9 May 2009 02:54 UK

Rise in armed forces recruitment

British troops in Iraq
Recruitment campaigns have made TV and online campaigns prominent

The number of recruits joining the armed forces rose last year, according to Ministry of Defence figures.

There were 20,000 new recruits in 2008, up by 7.1% compared with 2007.

The figures, released in February, show the military at 97.2% of its full-time trained strength requirement - up from 96.8% in the previous quarter.

Defence Minister Kevan Jones said it was too early to tell whether the current economic recession had increased armed forces numbers.

He said: "Although we have heard anecdotal evidence to suggest that interest in armed forces careers has increased, it is much too early to say at this stage whether the current economic climate is having any effect on armed forces recruitment or retention."

Maj Gen Gerald Berragan, head of recruitment, told the Times that joining up should not be seen as a short-term option.

However, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Meldon, who noticed a jump in recruitment in London, said: "That was probably down to people not having the opportunities out there in the economy."

On Thursday, four UK soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Since 2001, 157 UK troops have been killed on operations in Afghanistan.

Last month, UK combat operations in Iraq ended after a six-year mission that saw 179 British military deaths.

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