Figures released by the Ministry of Defence have shown British Army personnel numbers have been cut by 20,000 far ahead of recommendations made in 2010. The vast reduction in personnel from 102,260 full-time servicemen in 2010 to current levels of 81,700 comes three years ahead of the planned cuts.

The projected shortfall in manpower outlined in the Strategic Defence and Security Review was supposed to be made up by increased recruitment of reservists. However, the figures also reveal that recruitment has not met the demand.

Plans announced in 2010 were to increase the number of Army reservists from 19,000 to 30,000. The most recent figures show the number of trained reservists was at 21,030, an increase of just over 1,000 since April 2012.

Ministry of Defence
The MoD has said the Army had the \'manpower we need at the moment\', although the service faced challenges in recruiting Getty

The increase is slower than was planned for and falls even shorter of the mark, with reductions being made at a faster rate than was previously anticipated.

Speaking to the BBC, Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, criticised the pace of the cuts. He said: "To have already made the cuts by 2015, it shows confusion and targets that don't match up... it doesn't mean it's a good thing.

"The whole plan was to cover the gaps with reservists but if you've not achieved that then it must mean that we have got deficiencies.

"Not only does that cause us concern about how we govern our people, but it is also the message we are sending to our enemies. That kind of message always shows aggression towards us."

The MoD has said the Army had the "manpower we need at the moment", although the service faced challenges in recruiting.

"This government is committed to an army of 82,000 and the funding is in place to deliver it," the ministry said. "We have the manpower we need at the moment and, working with the army, we are taking clear action to keep driving recruitment upwards."