Leaving the army

If you’re in the army but want to leave, this page is for you. Everything here is shown in good faith but the rules do change from time to time. Work through each question in order – ignore any that aren’t right for you. (Special thanks to several veterans who helped with this page.)

If you’re not in the army, but thinking of joining up and wanting to know whether you could leave, check out ‘Can you leave the army…’

1. Are you thinking of going AWOL (Absent Without Leave)?

If you go AWOL and are caught, you can be punished with detention and you might not get to leave the army afterwards.

3. Have you been in the army a few years already?

If you joined age under 18 and are almost 21, or if you joined aged over 18 and are close to being in the army for three years, then soon you will be able to give one year’s notice to leave.

4. Does your family need you at home, or do you run a business?

If your personal or family situation has changed for the worse since you joined the army AND this has been beyond your control AND it’s now essential that you spend more time at home than army life normally allows, THEN the army could grant you Compassionate Leave (temporary) or a Compassionate Discharge (permanent).

5. Are you feeling so depressed or stressed that it’s hard to work?

If you’re so depressed, worried or stressed that it’s now hard to do your job, then the army might grant you sick leave or, if that doesn’t help, a Medical Discharge. 

6. Are you just the wrong sort of person for army life?

The chain of command can release you if they think you’re the wrong sort of person to be in the army. That’s not the same as just not liking your job – it means that your CO believes that you’re not good for the army.

7. Have you started to feel very strongly that warfare, or a specific order, is morally wrong?

If you have started to feel that warfare in general, or a specific operation, is morally wrong – strongly at odds with your conscience – then you could be experiencing a ‘conscientious objection’.