Armed forces personnel details go missing

A helicopter takes off from a Royal Navy destroyer in a file photo. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

LONDON (Reuters) - The Ministry of Defence said on Friday it was investigating the loss of a portable hard drive used for storing personal information of armed forces staff.

The drive contained the private details of 100,000 Army, Navy and Royal Air Force personnel -- around half the armed forces -- the Sun said.

The drive includes passport numbers, addresses, dates of birth, driving licence details, and names and contact numbers for doctors and dentist, the paper said.

The information also included data on 600,000 potential recruits and their references, it reported.

The MoD said IT contractor EDS had told it on Wednesday that the hard drive could not be found.

The loss came to light after EDS conducted an audit of its data handling procedures to comply with new government guidelines brought in after details of 25 million child benefit claimants were lost by the Revenue and Customs department.

In July, the government said 747 laptops had been stolen or lost from the MoD in the last four years and only 32 had been recovered.

The loss is likely to prompt further calls for the government to end plans to bring in national identity cards.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have argued that a series of high profile information losses show the government cannot be trusted with personal data.

Reporting by Tim Castle