A new campaign will see former sailors as old as 60 asked to consider rejoining the Senior Service on a “bespoke five-year contract”.
Retired sailors up to the age of 55 will be allowed to apply to fill a vast array of positions on HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, though the Sunday Express can reveal that a 58-year-old has been asked to extend his service by five years.
It comes just weeks after defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon proclaimed 2017 as “the year of the Navy” and follows difficulties in recruiting Naval reservists for year-long postings.
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The Royal navy is trying to plug shortages in staff with retired troops
Pinch points include chefs, medics, clerks communications and, particularly, engineers, though some “Home” vacancies would be open to 60-year-olds.
The Royal Navy has suffered a manning crisis since Government cutbacks in 2010 and, despite high-profile television adverts, faces a shortfall of 2,000 sailors across the fleet.
Now the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, has personally approved a project, codenamed “from Street to Fleet”, which it is hoped will attract more than 1,000 former naval personnel back into uniform.
The aim is to offer ‘bespoke commitments’ of up to five years pending on age also and skills, with the priority being to recruit personnel to sustain manning on the new carriers.
The Navy faces a shortfall of 2,000 sailors Royal Navy photo competition winners 2016 Tue, June 7, 2016
Breathtaking images issued by the Ministry of Defence of the Peregrine Trophy awards 2016 Will Haigh won Royal Navy Photographer of the Year 2016 Simmo Simpson won Best Maritime Image Award Jamie Weller won Royal Navy Amateur Maritime Image Award Joel Rouse won People's Choice Award
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Royal Navy photo competition winners 2016
Last year’s defence review tried to make up for this by allowing 400 more sailors. It should have been 4,000
Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West
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In a legal loophole which allows the MoD to avoid full liability, those who sign up to dust off their uniforms will enlist as Full Time Reservists, given contracts and terms of service for just five years before they are back in civilian life.
Full-page adverts will run in the fleet’s own newspaper, Navy News, offering a "return to the Naval Service through bespoke commitment levels for a period of up to five years, for trained ex-Regular RN personnel, across all ranks and specialization, serving onboard the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers and across the Fleet.”
While the Royal Navy says it is recruiting sufficient numbers, the issue is that many choose not to extend original short-term contracts.
So desperate is the situation that Navy brass even attempted to entice serving members of the US coastguard to jump ship and salute the ensign aboard Type 22 frigates.
HMS Ark Royal is Britain's only aircraft carrier
Last year the Sunday Express revealed how concerned commanders were targeting specialist engineers with “golden hellos’ and the promises of an instant commission in a bid to lure them from lucrative civilian jobs.
Under Project Faraday, engineers in nuclear submarines were offered £50,000 bonuses if they agreed to stay on an extra five years.
Punitive cuts in 2010 saw 12 vessels axed from the fleet and 5,000 jobs lost, with plans to increase this by a further 1,000 by 2020.
Cutbacks have been affecting the Navy since 2010 Defence Secretary visits UK nuclear submarine Fri, January 22, 2016
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visits HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines at Royal Navy’s Faslane nuclear base on the Clyde.
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Defence Secretary Michael Fallon visits HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane in Scotland
These included Britain’s only aircraft carrier. HMS Ark Royal, which had been refitted in 2009 and could have continued to served for a further five years and Type 22 frigates such as HMS Campbeltown, which was refitted as recently as Jan 2010 and HMS Walne, both of which could have served for another ten years.
Entire crews of HMS Cumberland and HMS Cornwall were made redundant when they returned from operations off Libya in 2011.
Last night former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said: “We are paying the price for ill-judged cuts to the Royal Navy announced by the Coalition Government in 2010.
Retired sailors could sign up as Full Time Reservists
“Last year’s defence review tried to make up for this by allowing 400 more sailors. It should have been 4,000.
“I’m 68. If I were just a bit younger I may well apply myself for a chance to get back to sea.”
An MoD spokesman confirmed that upper age for service is normally 60, but exceptions may be made, adding; “The advertisement is being issued to gauge interest in Reserve service across the Fleet. Specific requirements have yet to be determined, but all are welcome to apply.”
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