BLACKPOOL’S Army careers office will close its doors today in a move seen as a blow to the town’s military links.
The office on Church Street has ceased operational business and will lock its doors for the final time on Thursday, February 28.
In the 25 years since it opened, the centre has helped recruit more than 2,600 soldiers.
But from now on people will either be directed to online recruitment sites or offices in neighbouring Preston or Lancaster.
Commander for regional recruiting Lt Col Leanda Pitt said: “Army recruiting teams have been examining the way recruiting is done to make sure it is more efficient and effective.
“Although some offices are closing, we are stepping up our online presence to meet the demands of young recruits who are increasingly likely to use their smart phone or tablet device to contact us. The Army is still recruiting in Blackpool and there are jobs available now.
“I’d encourage anyone interested in knowing more to visit our website or our careers offices at Fishergate, Preston, or Alexandra Barracks on Caton Road, Lancaster, which will remain open.”
Staff Sgt Andy Stewart, senior recruiter at the Church Street office, added: “This particular office has been open for 25 years.
“In excess of 2,600 soldiers have been recruited in the last 25 years.”
The closure has been met with dismay from those with strong Army links.
Joy Tomkinson, from Bispham, whose two sons were both recruited at the Church Street office, said: “I will be sad to see it close because a lot of local lads and girls go in there.
“Both my sons were given good advice. One has just come out after 24 years service, and the other is still serving.
“You cannot replace face-to-face contact, and for someone thinking of joining up it was invaluable to be able to speak to someone with experience of Army life.
“Both my sons have had a good life in the Army.
“They have been to dangerous places but that’s part of the job, and they have also been to lots of places they wouldn’t otherwise have done.”
War veteran Jim Baker, president of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Royal Marines Association, added: “I think it’s deplorable.
“Blackpool has historically been a big recruitment ground for the British Army. I don’t think that sense of history and commitment can be sustained by just going onto a computer. We are losing the personal touch.”
The Blackpool office was a rich pool for recruitment to the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (infantry) but recruits also went to the Army Air Corps and the Queen’s Royal Hussars, as well as other regiments.
Figures from Army headquarters reveal since 2000 1,216 cadets have been recruited via the office.
For the current recruitment year to date, the centre has processed 88 applicants of which 39 began the process online. It is hoped staff will be redeployed.
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, chairman of the Parliamentary Veterans Group, said: “It is a great shame given the historic connections and huge contribution made by members of the Armed Forces recruiting in Blackpool that this office is being closed.