Thousands seeking to join, propelled by high unemployment in former colony Sixty years after their grandfathers fought with Allied forces during the second world war, Fijians are again flocking to join the British army. High unemployment and historical ties with Britain - the former colonial power - are propelling thousands of young Fijian men to leave their tropical island home and become soldiers. There have been so many applications that the army has recently set up a special selection team, which now visits the South Pacific nation twice a year to sign up recruits. Although Fiji is one of the Commonwealth's smallest countries and has a population of less than 800,000, more than 10,000 hopefuls have applied to take up service in the past three years. Of those, 2,000 passed a rigorous recruitment procedure and are now serving with several British units, including the Prince of Wales' Royal Regiment. They earn far more than the annual salary of #3,000 (HK$38,750) they could expect in the Fijian armed forces. 'There is huge interest among Fijian boys in joining the British army,' said Vineeta Nand of the British High Commission in Suva, the Fijian capital. 'We have the largest number of recruits of any Commonwealth country. At one point it was overwhelming. Being a former colony, there's a lot of attachment to the UK. A lot of our boys served with the British in world war two.' Fijians, like the citizens of other Commonwealth nations, are entitled to join the British army and receive pay and conditions equal to British soldiers. The latest army selection team left Fiji earlier this week after inspecting more than 600 applicants who travelled to Suva from mountain villages and outlying islands. Applicants have to run 2.4km in 11 minutes, take a computer literacy and numeracy test, and undergo a medical examination. Like the Gurkhas of Nepal, Fijians are renowned for their physical robustness, bravery in battle and good humour. After taking up his post in December, British High Commissioner Charles Mochan said Fijians made 'exemplary soldiers' and promised that there would be a 'continuing requirement' for recruits. Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said remittances sent home by Fijian recruits were important to their families, many of whom had been able to build 'the best house in their village'. At the start of the second world war, 8,000 locals were recruited into the Fiji Military Force and gained a reputation as fierce jungle fighters during campaigns against the Japanese in Burma and the Solomon Islands. Fijian troops went on to serve alongside the British army in Malaya, Borneo and Oman. An elite few have served with the British and Australian Special Air Service Regiments. Fiji was a British possession from 1874 to 1970, but locals dismiss any suggestion that the latest recruitment drive harks back to colonial days. 'Fifty years ago people didn't have much choice in fighting for the British, but now it's a matter of personal preference,' said Warrant Officer Neumi Leweni, a spokesman for the Fijian army.