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Survey finds 69% of people in the UK have little idea what the military actually do.

Finding comes despite 80% agreeing that serving personnel make a valuable contribution to society.

The Royal British Legion says it is concerned that new figures which show the public have little understanding of the military could lead to a decline in support for serving and ex-serving personnel.

The study carried out by YouGov for the UK’s largest Armed Forces charity found the following:

  • 69% of people say they know little or very little about what the Armed Forces do on a day-to-day basis.
  • 44% thought serving members of the Armed Forces are involved in military style fitness boot camps for the public in the last 10 years (these are run by private companies)
  • 16% believed they spent time working as film extras in the last 10 years (which they do not)
  • Only one third (33%) know about the support of the British Armed Forces to the NHS in the last 10 years
  • Only one quarter (25%) knew that the military have provided support in wildlife protection in the last 10 years
  • Awareness of what the British armed forces does on a day-to-day basis is lowest among the under 35s (76% know little or very little)
  • 80% of people agreed that serving members of the British Armed Forces make a valuable contribution to society in the UK

A similar poll carried out by Lord Ashcroft[1] in 2012 found that 62% of UK adults had little or very little understanding of what the Armed Forces do on a day-to-day basis, a figure which has increased to 69% of UK adults in the YouGov research today.

Alexander Owen, Head of Armed Forces Engagement at The Royal British Legion said:

‘Whilst it’s fantastic that people think our Armed Forces make a valuable contribution to society, the lack of understanding of what they actually do is concerning. If this figure continues to decline, I worry that support for those who serve will diminish too.

‘Not only do they protect our values, freedoms and way of life but they work tirelessly supporting the NHS, respond to natural disasters and civilian emergencies at home and abroad, and are currently helping protect endangered species for future generations. They support us every day. The least we can do is support them in turn.’

In response to these findings the Legion is raising awareness of the contribution that the armed forces make to everyday life; Serving personnel are mobilised during natural disasters, terrorist attacks, humanitarian and environmental crises and as a peacekeeping force around the world.

  • More than 2,700 serving regular and reserve medical personnel are currently working in the NHS.[2]
  • 236 civilians have been rescued by the RAF Mountain Rescue Service in the UK in the last three years.[3]
  • A new counter-poaching task force has trained more than 120 rangers to protect endangered wildlife in Malawi.[4]
  • 4,100 defence personnel were deployed to tackle flooding across Southern England in 2014. [5]

The Legion hopes these new figures will help highlight the knowledge gap around our Armed Forces and increase understanding and support for those who protect and serve our country. To find out more please visit

As an example of how the Forces get stuck-in on a winter’s day, here is an extract from a Government report of the 5th March 2018 on military assistance provided during Storm Emma.

Military assistance to date:

Trained Royal Air Force drivers from 2MT Sqn at RAF Wittering have been assisting Lincolnshire Emergency Services for Military Aid to Civilian Authorities as Storm Emma brings snow and ice to the county.
  • 20 RAF personnel and 10 4×4 RAF vehicles transported health staff to hospitals and communities in Lincolnshire.
  • The military assisted Greater Manchester Police to enable them to access and assist motorists on the M62
  • Army soldiers and 10 4×4 vehicles transported NHS Scotland staff needed to deliver critical care services to and from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Western General Hospital. Reservists from the Scottish and Northern Irish Yeomanry were utilised alongside a further 20 4x4s from across the three services in Tayside and Fife to support NHS Scotland.
  • 20 Army soldiers and 10 4x4s transported health staff to hospitals and support health workers in visiting vulnerable people in the community in Shropshire.
  • 20 Royal Marines and 10 4×4 vehicles transported health staff to hospitals and communities in Devon and Cornwall
  • The military provided 10 vehicles and personnel to transport NHS workers in the Salisbury and Swindon area
  • One Chinook has been deployed to deliver supplies to communities in Cumbria that have been cut off due to snowdrifts.

Military assistance in numbers:

  • 328 personnel have helped with the snow response
  • 124 4×4 vehicles have been mobilised
  • 1 Chinook has been deployed

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