Discharge rights: Joined aged under 18

Your right to leave: the first six months

If you joined under the age of 18 then you can leave during the first SIX months but not during the first six weeks.

But the army has told Ofsted that it will not prevent a recruit from leaving who wishes to do so, as long as they haven’t turned 18 or, if they have, haven’t been in the army for more than six months:

This is what Ofsted have said: ‘Commanding officers are given discretion to immediately discharge those junior soldiers who wish to leave. This is the case at AFC Harrogate, and no junior soldiers have to remain after they have expressed a desire to discharge.’

But you still need to give two weeks’ notice in writing. It’s not enough just to say you’d like to leave. Get your parents (or whoever consented to your enlistment) to call the army as well – it will speed things up.

Your right to leave: after the first six months

If you haven’t left in the first six months, but are not yet 18, then you still have a right to leave but you might have to wait up to three months before the army lets you go. Usually, though, it’ll be two weeks.

If you’ve already been in the army for six months, then the VERY LATEST you can hand in your notice is the day before your 18th birthday. Not a day later. There are no exceptions.

Applying to leave

If you have a right to leave under the rules described here, then the army has a form for you to fill in, although they’ll try to talk you out of leaving first.

If you want to avoid that, you don’t have to use the form – you can just download this letter, fill in the details, sign it, and hand it in at your CO’s office (or your parents can do that for you as long as you sign it).

But, to leave, you must hand in your notice in writing. It’s not enough to say you want to leave.

When you hand in your notice, the army has a legal duty to let you leave. If you don’t hand in your notice, the army might delay.

Is the army blocking your right to leave?

If you have a right to leave (as described above) and the army is telling you that you don’t, get in touch and we can suggest what to do.

Whatever the army may say, the rules on this site are correct. If you’re not sure, get in touch and we’ll point you to the regulations to prove it.

Missed your discharge window? 

If the first six months pass AND and you turn 18, then you lose your right to leave until you are 22 – but keep reading, because you might still have options.