Background - The infantry accounts for more than a quarter of the British Army but there is a lack of data about the social and educational background of its recruits. Aims - To provide an insight into British Army infantry recruits' personal, social and educational background prior to enlistment. Methods - The study sample consisted of infantry recruits who enlisted into the British Army School of Infantry. Each recruit completed a 95-item biographical questionnaire. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the sample in terms of demographic, physical, personal, social and educational attributes. Results - The study sample consisted of 1000 male recruits. Over half of the recruits were consuming alcohol at a hazardous or harmful level prior to enlistment and 60% of recruits had used cannabis prior to joining the Army. Academic attainment was low, with the majority of recruits achieving GCSE grade C and below in most subjects, with 15% not taking any examinations. Over half the recruits had been in trouble with the police and either been suspended or expelled from school. Conclusions - Substance misuse and poor behaviour are highly prevalent among recruits prior to enlistment. Taken alongside existing evidence that some of these problems are commonplace among personnel in regular service, the assumption that the British Army infantry is, in itself, a cause of these behaviours should be questioned.