By Caroline Wyatt
Defence correspondent, BBC News
The government insisted it was doing more to help personnel
Almost half of UK military personnel are ready to leave the forces, a Ministry of Defence survey suggests.
Some 47% of Army and Royal Navy respondents and 44% of those in the RAF said they regularly felt like quitting.
Among the concerns raised by the 9,000 servicemen and women surveyed were the frequency of tours, levels of pay and the quality of equipment and housing.
The Ministry of Defence said the survey revealed "areas of concern" but that
conditions were being improved.
Sense of overstretch
The first survey to assess attitudes across the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the RAF revealed high levels of concern over morale, equipment and pay.
The regular Army is already short of some 5,000 soldiers, amid worries that experienced young officers and senior NCOs are leaving at an increasing rate.
A sense of overstretch was reflected in all the services, with 36% saying they were not happy with the level of separation from family and friends.
Asked whether the frequency of tours had an impact on whether to leave or not, 38% of the Army said it had increased their intention to leave, while 59% overall said operational commitments and stretch made them more likely to leave.
Overall, more than a third believed operational tours came too often, though well over half believed the level was about right.
Questioned about morale within their service as a whole, 72% of the RAF rated levels as "low" or "very low".
In the Royal Navy that was 64%, the Army 59% and the Royal Marines 38%.
Patrick Mercer, Tory MP for Newark and an ex-officer, said the findings reflected the pressures faced by 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.
However, 59% of the armed forces overall said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their own job.
But the survey did highlight wide differences between the levels of satisfaction expressed by officers compared with other ranks.
- In the Army 73% of officers said they had job satisfaction, compared with 57% of soldiers
- In the Royal Marines it was 71% of officers compared with 50% among other ranks
- 70% of RAF officers had job satisfaction compared with 50% of other ranks
- In the Royal Navy it was 64% of officers but only 48% of sailors
Asked if they felt valued within their service, 49% of ratings in the navy said they did not, along with 44% of soldiers and 53% of airmen and women.
More than half of those who responded to the survey were not satisfied with standards of military equipment and resources given to them to do their jobs, while some 40% were unhappy with service accommodation, and 55% were dissatisfied with the standards of maintenance of their service housing.
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The first way to improve the morale of our armed forces is to let them know that they are valued.
Yet the survey also showed that despite all the difficulties, pride in serving within the armed forces remained high, with 93% of Army officers and 76% of soldiers saying they were proud to be in the Army.
Figures were slightly lower in the other services, with 89% of RAF officers and 69% of airmen and women expressing pride and 84% of naval officers and 62% of sailors proud to be part of the Royal Navy.
Some 24,760 questionnaires were sent out, with almost 9,000 service personnel (36%) responding between July and October 2007.
The MoD said a number of measures had recently been introduced, including tax-free operational allowances for those on six-month tours and improved spending on accommodation.
Defence Minister Derek Twigg added: "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."