2. Do you know your discharge rights?

First, were you under or over 18 when you signed up?

A. Joined before you were 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.

(Note: A soldier aged under 18 who wants to leave in the first six weeks, if their parents want their child home again, is usually allowed to leave, despite the rules – but this isn’t a right and it isn’t guaranteed. If you’re in this position, get in touch and I can give you more info.)

If you want to leave between the end of the first six weeks and the end of the first six months, then you have to give two weeks’ notice in writing.

The earliest day to hand in your notice is four weeks after you enlisted. If you hand in your notice at this point, you’ll be able to leave at the six-week mark.

The last day to hand in your notice is the day before you have served for six months. If you hand in your notice on this day, you’ll be able to leave two weeks later.

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.

The latest you can hand in your notice is the day before your 18th birthday. Not a day later.

The three-month notice is there because the army hopes you’ll change your mind. But it can be shortened if the army agrees to it, so it’s worth asking for this. Often, you’ll only have to wait two weeks before you’re allowed to go home.

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?

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.

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.

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. Go back to the list of questions.

B. Joined at 18 or older?

Your right to leave

If this is your first time in the army, you can leave during the first THREE months but not during the first six weeks.

If you want to leave in this time, you have to give two weeks’ notice in writing.

The earliest you can hand in your notice is after the first four weeks, and the latest is the day before you have served for THREE months. Not a day later.

If you leave in the first three months then you are a civilian again and you don’t join the reserves so you are free from the army.

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, even if an officer or NCO tells you that they’re dealing with it.

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?

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.

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.

Missed your discharge window?

If this is not your first time in the army – or if it is but you don’t leave in the first three months – then you usually have no right to leave until you’ve been in the army for four years. But keep reading, because you might still have options… go back to the list of questions.

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