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The BBC's Joe Campbell
"Many leave as soon as they can"
 real 28k

Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 04:27 GMT 05:27 UK
Army desertions at record levels

The Army is struggling to keep many of its young recruits
Official figures show that record numbers of soldiers are deserting from the British Army.

Bullying within army ranks and pressures placed on soldiers and their families are some of the reasons given for the sharp rise.

Statistics show that last year around one in every 48 soldiers either deserted or went absent without leave, compared with one in 55, four years ago.

The Army insists it is taking a robust approach to the issue, with initiatives to combat problems such as bullying, racism, and sexism.

But it seems to be unable to hang on to many of its young soldiers at a time when it is already facing major recruitment problems.

Allegations of brutality

There were nearly 2,000 recorded cases of desertion last year, some of which were spurred on by mistreatment or bullying by army superiors.

An investigation by the Observer newspaper reveals that the Special Investigation Branch of the military police is currently looking into 30 allegations of brutality.

The crisis is most acute among junior ranks of soldiers, who are the least paid and often the least motivated.

Upheaval

It seems that day-to-day British life does little to prepare them for the harsh disciplines and sparse conditions of army life and many leave as soon as they can.

Periods of absence can range from just a few days to even years.

Often soldiers go absent because they are denied compassionate leave at times of personal crisis.

Soldiers' families also have to put up with domestic upheaval, being moved around the country at short notice.

The revelations come at a time when the MoD needs to attract at least another 7,000 new soldiers to fill its dwindling ranks.

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