One in 25 adults in England and Wales served in armed forces, 2021 figures show

Almost one in 25 adults in England and Wales was a veteran of the UK armed forces in 2021, figures show.

For the first time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) collected census information on the veterans’ population who have either previously served in the regular forces, reserve forces, or both.

Data collected last year showed 1.85 million people in England and Wales had served.

Highest proportion of UK armed forces veterans in England & Wales at 2021 census
(PA Graphics)

The local authorities with the highest proportion of veterans include Gosport (12.5%), North Kesteven (10.2%) and Richmondshire (9.5%) in England, and Conwy (5.9%) in Wales.

The regions with the highest proportion of veterans were the South West (265,000) and the North East (109,000).

These regions also had the highest percentage of households with at least one veteran (247,000 in the South West; 104,000 in the North East).

London had both the lowest proportion of UK armed forces veterans (101,000) and the lowest proportion of households with at least one veteran (96,000).

National statistician Sir Ian Diamond said: “For the first time our data is able to show the vast scale of our armed forces community, which is vital information to help direct support and services where they are needed most.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly a large proportion of our veterans live or are located near military establishments, suggesting they tend to stay in the same areas after they have left service.”

The ONS and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs also launched a new dedicated survey to collect feedback from veterans across the UK.

Sir Ian added: “Responses to the survey will help us better understand the experiences, needs and wellbeing of our veteran community and to guide future action.

“It is important we hear a wide range of views.”

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer said: “The Government is committed to making the UK the best place in the world for all our veterans.

“But we won’t achieve that without knowing how many veterans there are, where they are and what challenges they face.

“Now we know, and I urge all UK veterans to support by completing our new veterans survey so we can tailor our support and better serve our former armed forces and their communities.”

Charles Byrne, director general of the Royal British Legion, said: “This data will transform our understanding of the veteran population and enable public and voluntary service providers to deliver the best care and support for our armed forces community where it is needed most.

“It will surprise many people to learn that, until today, nobody knew exactly how many veterans there were in England and Wales or where they lived.”