.What was the pool of manpower with military training in the United Kingdom in 1979/80?
Here are my first thoughts.....
National Service always rears it's head in this type of debate. Just like every squaddie in 1914 being regarded as a veteran of the Boer War. National Service ended on 31 December 1960, with the last National Serviceman being demobbed in 1963. Under National Service healthy males 17 to 21 years old were conscripted to serve in the Armed Forces for 18 month, and remain on the reserve list for four years. They could be recalled to their units for up to 20 days during these four years. Men were exempt from National Service if they worked in coal mining, farming or the merchant navy.
National Servicemen served in Korea, Malaya, Cyprus, Borneo, Suez building up a good deal of miliutray experience but by 1979, we are looking at even the youngest National Servicemen being 39 years old. Essentially men between 40 and 50 years old of whom only a relatively small proportion would have more than basic training with the small arms of their day.
EX-REGULARS and RESERVISTS
The British Armed Forces were continually downsized in the 60's and 70's. So even if we put a round figure of 10% turnover in personnel it's difficult to come up with any realistic estimate at the number of trained ex-military personnel in the general population. The Regular Army Reserve in 1979 was 121,500, then 3,000 Royal Air Force Reserve and a similar number in the Royal Navy Reserve. There were 58,900 serving Territorial Army soldiers as of 1st January 1979. Maybe 200,000 or more ex-Territorials/RAFVR/RNVR of varying ages and degrees of training and experience.
40% of the TA were infantry. We must also include ex-Territorial Army personnel. Though it's worth adding that Territorial Army units at this time had 60-80% of full complement and of these only around 50% undertook the minimum training to qualify for the annual bounty.
COMBINED CADET FORCE
In the late '70s some 28,000 public schoolboys served in the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) at any one time, in 288 schools across the UK ("Eton Rifles, Eton Rifles....."). In many of these schools it was compulsory to serve. For an exaggerated but interesting idea of what the CCF was like- see Lindsay Anderson's IF (1968).
ARMY CADET FORCE
Boys from all walks of life, between 12 and 18 years, 9 months old could join the Army Cadet Force (ACF). Girls were allowed to join in the early 80's. By 1979 it was estimated that 1 in 6 of the male population of the UK had been an Army Cadet.
OFFICER TRAINING CORPS
There were also 2-3,000 Officer Cadets serving in university Officer Training Corps (OTC) . These were organised in companies. Around 1,000 joined each year of whom maybe 50 went on to become officers in the regular army and 200 in the Territorials per annum.
Some mullings over...... The numbers rack up don't they! It would be wrong to write off the importance of any of the groups above in a popular insurrection or civil war scenario. Some military training is better than none and we are talking about potentially important groups of men (and women, but this is the seventies) who could bring military skills and experience to union militias, local defence forces and the like. We must not forget that many were Ncos and officers who had experience leading troops or as military specialists.
Found some House of Commons figures....... As of June 1978, the Regular Army forms 0.28 per cent of the total UK population. The Army reserves combined form 0.33 per cent.