Almost 1 in 25 adults in England and Wales was a veteran of the UK Armed Forces at the time of Census 2021, new data shows.
For the first time – in support of the Armed Forces Covenant – the Office for National Statistics (ONS) collected census information on the veterans' population, showing who had either previously served in the regular forces, reserve forces, or both.
The findings show that 1.85 million people in England and Wales reported they had previously served in the UK Armed Forces (3.8% of usual residents aged 16 years and over), with more than three-quarters saying they had previously served in the regular forces.
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Former defence minister Sarah Atherton MP, who sits on the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, told Forces News: "It's very significant because we now have insights into the demographics of our veterans that we didn't have before.
"What I want to do now is take this information and go to the local authorities and say right, start planning, start providing for your veterans under your new legal duty of due regard."
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 proportion of UK Armed Forces veterans was higher in Wales (4.5% of the population aged 16 years and over, 115,000) than it was in England (3.8%, 1.7 million).
Within England, the regions with the highest proportion of veterans were the South West (5.6%, 265,000 people) and the North East (5.0%, 109,000 people). These were also the regions that had the highest percentage of households with at least one veteran (10.1%, 247,000 households in the South West; 8.8%,104,000 households in the North East).
By contrast, London had both the lowest proportion of UK Armed Forces veterans (1.4%, 101,000 people) and the lowest proportion of households with at least one veteran (2.8%, 96,000 households).
The new census question was introduced in support of the Armed Forces Covenant, a promise by the nation ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
Jon Wroth-Smith, Census Deputy Director at the Office for National Statistics says: "For the first time we are getting a genuine idea of the number of veterans who've served.
"We are incredibly confident about the accuracy of the numbers, 97% of people filled out a census questionnaire, those numbers show us we have those clusters of the veteran community living in area where there are existing armed forces establishments."
In addition, and coinciding with the release of Census 2021 data, the ONS and the Office for Veterans' Affairs have launched a new dedicated Veterans' Survey.
This is the first-ever exercise to collect feedback from the veterans' community across the UK co-ordinated by the Office for Veterans’ Affairs and the ONS.
The online survey will be live for 12 weeks, giving ex-UK Armed Forces personnel and their families the opportunity to provide direct feedback to the government on their experiences, access to and use of services for veterans.
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."
You can fill in the survey here.