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2 July 2004: Soldiers from the The Royal Welch Fusiliers prepare to board a Chinook helicopter as they carry out patrols around Basra following several attacks on oil pipelines and facilities in the region Giles Penfound/British Army via Getty Images

The British Army is struggling with a manpower shortage despite a record number of recruits attempting to join, it has been reported.

More than 100,000 people attempted to sign up in 2017 but just 7,500 became soldiers with thousands dropping out in frustration at the red tape and being delayed for months with the average time to become a soldier taking 300 days.

Sources blame the shortage on the "disastrous" decision to outsource recruiting to private firm Capita. The army has found itself more than 4,000 troops short of the 82,000 required.

SAS veteran Andy McNab told The Sun the failure to sign up enough new soldiers despite a record number of would-be recruits was "absolute madness" blaming the overly bureaucratic system introduced after Capita took over recruitment.

"How you can go from over 100,000 trying to join to less than 8,000 signing up defies belief," he said. "It's because the Army and Capita have turned recruitment into a faceless, bureaucratic nightmare."

The recruitment issue has led the Army, already dealing with defence cuts, to contend with a manpower shortage. The Army needs to recruit 10,000 troops a year to replace those leaving.

"The Army is in a crisis — and it's not because no one wants in," McNab said.

In a £1.3bn deal, Capita was brought on in 2012 to run recruitment for the Ministry of Defence. While new recruitment adverts have worked, recruitment system changes have not.

Former Army chief General Lord Richard Dannatt said: "I've heard of a number of people who have been trying to join the Armed Forces and got fed up at the length of time it takes. They system is too complicated, the Army knows the previous system was better and would like to go back to it.

"The reason why it's not being done is because it's too expensive," he added.

He continued: "The Army at 82,000 has never been smaller since modern records have been kept. At 78,000 we've hugely undershot the current level —which itself is too small. Ten years ago it was 102,000."

Army sources said that an overhaul to recruitment, including an initiative to bring back soldiers at recruiting offices, is in the works. "The key thing is people are aware and are doing something to remedy this. It will get fixed," the source said.