This Armed Forces Day, SSAFA calls on the nation to update their view of the Forces and celebrate the ‘everyday’ heroes serving our country…New research from SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, reveals outdated misconceptions of the modern-day military are having a concerning impact on public support for the Forces. The findings, commissioned for Armed Forces Day, show over a third of the UK do not actively support the Armed Forces, rising to 48% for those aged 16-34.

Concerningly, 43% would only support an Armed Forces charity during times of conflict and one in five admit they would never support a military charity. This lack of support seems to be linked to a widespread lack of awareness of who the Forces are and what they do. Despite the UK’s military not being in active conflict for almost five years:

  • 52% are more familiar with the roles of the Armed Forces while engaged in active conflict, then they are now
  • 50% of the public are unaware of where our Forces are based in the world, with 16% mistakenly believing the majority to still be in Afghanistan
  • 58% know more about historical military events, such as D-Day, than they do about our current military

Two thirds of those surveyed admit, when thinking of the Armed Forces, they stereotypically picture a frontline, camouflage-clad soldier or a fighter pilot. However, this is far from reality, with the modern military having a vast infrastructure including logistics, healthcare and education, as well as national defence.

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander, Elizabeth James, a doctor for over ten years in the Royal Navy, said: “I’ve found myself facing questions about why we need doctors in the military when we aren’t in active conflict – but people forget that there are over 190,000 people in the military at any given time, as well as their families. The Navy and other Forces are permanently deploying all over the world, both on land in support of UN missions and at Sea.

“They rely on good medical care, and ready support for when we are back in conflict, and that’s what the medical and nursing services are there for. It’s wonderful to be celebrated during Armed Forces Week, but to be understood and appreciated all year round would mean even more. That way, we would feel confident that we have the support of the public whilst we work to protect our country.”

Worryingly, a lack of knowledge surrounding the Armed Forces’ role in society today, is directly impacting military charities like SSAFA. Keen for this to change is Sir Andrew Gregory, CEO of SSAFA, who said: “SSAFA is very proud to be the official charity partner of Armed Forces Day 2019; the event allows us to thank those who serve our country in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force.

“Our Armed Forces, along with their families, make sacrifices on a daily basis to protect our way of life and the freedoms we cherish, something that should never be forgotten. As I write there are many military operations currently underway and thousands of troops stationed overseas. Armed Forces Day is an opportunity for the Nation to remember that, even when they are not headline news, our Armed Forces are working tirelessly on our behalf.

“Take a moment this week to appreciate the liberties and democracy we enjoy in our country; that is what those individuals are protecting. And when those who are serving or have served in this Nation’s Armed Forces, and their families, need emotional, practical or financial support, SSAFA is there to assist them – as we have done for the last 135 years.”