Find the latest breaking news and information on the top stories, science, business, entertainment, politics, and more.

Army chiefs tell sacked soldiers: ‘We need you back’

Army chiefs tell fired soldiers: ‘We need you back,’ as troops fired for fighting, stealing or smoking cannabis can rejoin, but drug dealers and heroin users are banned.

Desperate defense chiefs are allowing ex-soldiers to rejoin the Army after they were fired for fighting, stealing or going AWOL.

Troops who were medically discharged will also be able to rejoin and will be able to keep any compensation they received when they were forced to withdraw.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has also said that soldiers who left the Armed Forces after being laid off more than two years ago will likely be able to rejoin without having to pay back any cash.

It is understood that those who were fired for smoking cannabis or who tested positive for drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines could also be reconsidered.

But personnel discharged for using heroin or selling drugs to other soldiers will not be allowed to return.

Former soldiers who were fired for fighting, stealing, or going AWOL can rejoin the military.

The age at which soldiers can rejoin has also recently been increased from 52 to 57 years.

The changes have been announced on the Defense Ministry website and are part of a new online recruitment campaign aimed at increasing troop numbers.

The Army currently has an insufficient strength of 4,000 soldiers, and the latest government figures show that more troops are leaving the Armed Forces than are being incorporated.

More than 16,000 troops left the Armed Forces in 2022, the highest number in six years, but only 12,000 troops joined in the same period. It comes after defense chiefs spent more than £70m on recruitment drives between 2019 and 2021.

The Army website says: ‘You may apply to rejoin subject to any time limits or warnings associated with your discharge category. Each reinstatement will be considered on a case-by-case basis based on the nature of the discharge and the needs of the Army.

“If you have been discharged, your data will be reviewed and treated on a case-by-case basis.”

Colonel Philip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, said: “Recruiting soldiers who have been administratively or medically discharged smacks of desperation, and the MoD really needs to look at why retaining people is so difficult.

“Poor housing, poor food, garrison towns with poor services, having to replace public servants who are on strike when they already have a higher salary than soldiers will all be contributing factors.

“The Army must control itself and its leaders must lead, which is something I unfortunately hear less and less about.”

An army spokesman said: ‘The reinstatement policy is a long-standing policy. We continue to have sufficient numbers to meet operational needs.’