10/09/2012 17:18 BST

Armed Forces Recruitment Of 16-Year-Olds Has Dropped By Two-Thirds

The number of 16-year-olds joining the armed forces fell by two-thirds in a decade, figures have showed.

The fall was most dramatic in the Royal Navy where 10 16-year-olds enlisted last year, compared with 585 nine years ago.

Only 10 16-year-olds joined the RAF, compared with 265 in 2003-04.

Overall, 1,495 of the age group - the youngest age at which teenagers can sign up - enlisted in the services in 2011-12 compared with 4,430 in 2002-03, the Ministry of Defence said.

The dip came at a time when Britain's soldiers, sailors and airmen were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and amid controversy over recruitment campaigns targeting school leavers.

Military chiefs do not send anyone younger than 18 on frontline operations, though there have been several cases of teenagers accidentally being sent to war zones despite the age ban.

The figures were revealed by defence minister Mark Francois following a written parliamentary question from Labour MP Alex Cunningham (Stockton North).