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--- Fiji is the Commonwealth nation providing the most recruits to the British Army under a recruitment drive launched two years ago.
The island nation 16,000km from the UK has provided the biggest number of troops since entry requirements changed in 2018, making it easier for Commonwealth citizens to sign up.
A total of 620 recruits enlisted up to September 2020, according to newly-released figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Ghana was the next biggest nation providing soldiers, with 230 citizens answering the call. Fiji, which has a long association with the British military, has made a contribution far outstripping its size.
The country in the South Pacific has a population of 900,000, compared with 30 million people in Ghana.
David McMullen, of Citzenship4Soldiers, has fought along Commonwealth troops serving with the British military in Afghanistan and now campaigns for their citizenship rights in the UK.
The veteran said: “Much like with the Gurkhas, it’s quite a prestigious thing for Fijians to enter into the armed forces, it’s similar to becoming a doctor or solicitor in the UK. “It’s also quite a poor country in many ways, so to come to the UK and send money home is very appealing.
“The British armed forces are massively undermanned so it’s increasingly falling on countries like Fiji to plug that gap.’ McMullen, who served with 7 Rifles, said there was a proud affinity between Fiji and the British armed forces, which included the gallantry shown by Sgt Talaiasi ‘Laba’ Labalaba at the Battle of Mirbat in Oman.
The British-Fijian SAS soldier was fatally shot after spending hours repelling hundreds of enemy troops during the ferocious siege in 1972 and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Saint Vincent in the Caribbean was the nation with the third biggest number of recruits, with 235 citizens joining the British military. Out of the total provided by Fiji, more than 345 went into the infantry, with the next biggest number, around 100, joining the Royal Artillery. Recruits have also enlisted from other countries including India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and South Africa, the dataset shows.
In November 2018, the MoD made it easier for people in Commonwealth countries to enlist, lifting a requirement for recruits to have lived in the UK for five years. The move was intended to address a manpower shortage, with the aim of adding another 1,350 troops to the ranks every year.
The data shows 1,620 people joined the ‘untrained intake’ from Commonwealth countries between November 2018 and September 2020. Of this number, 1,480 enlisted in the nine months last year as the drive got underway.
The shortage is said to have continued, with The Daily Mail citing a leaked MoD report earlier this month showing the infantry needs 14,984 soldiers but only has 11,301 that could be sent to a battlefield. The Army responded by saying it met its target for infantry recruits in 2020 and is ‘confident’ that it has ‘the numbers and talent required’.
An MoD spokesperson said: “Soldiers from across the Commonwealth play an extremely valuable role keeping this country safe. “Recruits from countries such as Fiji bring valued skills and unique perspectives that enhance our operational effectiveness,” he said.
SOURCE: METRO UK/PACNEWS
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