London, July 21 : The over-stretched and under-manned British Army is all set to spread its wings to enrol more Caribbean youngsters.
Now chiefs are planning to send recruiters to Jamaica for new talent. They want other Caribbean youngsters to follow in the footsteps of Victoria Cross winner Lt Cpl Johnson Beharry, who joined up from Grenada.
The armed forces are on their way to the home of reggae to entice new squaddies to sign up in wake of operations in war ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chiefs believe the starting salaries, slammed as low even by top officers, will be more attractive to youngsters from poorer countries.
It's a U-turn from last year when military chiefs were reported to be putting a limit on Commmonwealth troops to protect the "Britishness" of the Army.
Commonwealth troops serving in the UK military have already shot up from 360 a decade ago to 6,600 now. Reports from the Caribbean said Army recruiters had already visited Belize, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia.
They said 166 men and women had been signed up on the holiday island of St Lucia.
Now Jamaica is being targeted in a bid to increase the number of its serving islanders from the current 600.
Latest figures show the military 4,900 short of its fully trained requirement, with the army 3,330 short.
In World War II tens of thousands of Commonwealth citizens volunteered for the UK armed forces, serving across Europe.
It was their experience in Britain, which laid the platform for the Windrush generation of Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s and 60s.
The Ministry of Defence told the Daily Star Sunday: "The armed forces are proud to recruit high quality soldiers from countries with close historical ties."
"Commonwealth soldiers make a huge contribution to the armed forces, including on active operational duty where many continue to perform with distinction and honour. These personnel bring a range of skills and talents, which enrich the Service as a whole," it said.
Normally the Army does not recruit actively overseas, except for getting Gurkhas from Nepal, although Commonwealth and Irish citizens are allowed to apply.