More than half of the British public don’t know what the military does when it’s not in combat, and many also thought the army uses tanks for everyday travel.
That’s according to a survey to coincide with Armed Forces Week and carried out for BFBS, of which Forces News is a part.
Results showed 68% did not know what the military does when not at war, while one tenth of those asked thought warfighting is all the military does.
The poll of 2,000 adults also revealed a third don't know the part the military carries out during terror incidents, and just as many were unaware of the help provided during floods and other civil emergencies.
General Lord Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff, said he isn’t surprised by the results.
“The Armed Forces aren’t seen as much on the media today as they used to be, it seems to me we don’t get out and about and explain ourselves as much as we should and could, and that’s something today's senior commanders need to talk to their political leaders about," he said.
“The reason why a lot of taxpayers’ money is spent on defence and the Armed Forces is not because we can help out during the Olympic Games or during a pandemic but because we’re very good at our primary role, which is war fighting.”
However, the survey appears to show military assistance during lockdown has increased some awareness of the wider role the Armed Forces can play.
Of those taking part, 30% thought the coronavirus outbreak had helped to show the different ways the military can be used, but 41% still believe personnel should play a larger role in society.
Warrant Officer Class 1 Glenn Haughton, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chiefs of Staff, insists resources online and on social media offer “a great opportunity for people to learn about” the forces.
The survey also found 43% want to know more about the military, with 15% getting their defence information from television and film.
General Richards said that actively engaging with the general public to increase awareness is “underplayed” and “under-resourced” and he wants to see the military “on the front foot” in an information campaign.