The Royal British Legion Highlights Worrying Decline In Understanding Of The Armed Forces

The Royal British Legion Highlights Worrying Decline In Understanding Of The Armed Forces

By Claudia Foxcroft

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.

Did you know the Royal Air Force have a mountain rescue service? A recent YouGov poll we commissioned found that 69% of people in the UK have little idea of what our military do. In 2018 the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service assisted 109 civilians. Ben Wood, team leader of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service at RAF Valley in Wales, and his team have saved the lives of countless people. In January the team saved the life of an injured walker who was caught up in an Avalanche on Mount Snowdon.Our Armed Forces support us every day and we will always support them. Find out how and read Ben's story here ➡️

Posted by Royal British Legion on Tuesday, 30 April 2019

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

  • Full survey results can be seen
  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Survey of 2,155 UK adults conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Royal British Legion 14th-15th March 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • Spokespeople and case studies available including serving personnel from the RAF Mountain Rescue Service, Army Medics and veterans