Brits don’t know how many military personnel have died in conflict

  • 92% of Brits don’t know how many members of the British Armed Forces have died in wars and conflicts (both combat and peacekeeping missions) since the start of WWI
  • 85% of Brits are not aware of more than half of the conflicts which the British Armed Forces have been involved in since WWII
  • More than a third (37%) are unaware of any of the conflicts which the British Armed Forces are currently involved in
  • 59% of Brits think that schools should teach pupils more about conflicts that the British Armed Forces have been involved in since WWII

As the nation gets set to remember the efforts of our armed forces, new research released today by the Forces Network highlights the lack of knowledge of many Brits, when asked about the conflicts we have been involved in since the First World War. How can we remember if we don’t know?

The research has been conducted to mark the launch of the Forces Network’s Remembrance map which has been created in partnership with Ian Beckett, Professor of History from the University of Kent. The map identifies and commemorates all the conflicts (both combat and peacekeeping missions) which the British Armed Forces have been involved in since WWI, to enable a greater understanding of the commitments made by our service personnel.

The statistics show that 85% of Brits don’t know that more than 7,000 of our armed forces have died in conflict (both combat and peacekeeping missions) since WWII. Additionally, from the start of WWI to the end of WWII one million British personnel lost their lives, but when asked 1 in 5 (23%) people thought that fewer than 5000 service personnel made the ultimate sacrifice.

The statistics also show that more than half of Brits think that we have been involved in 30 or fewer conflicts (both combat and peacekeeping missions), since WWII – when we have actually been involved in more than 60.  Only a third (35%) of people were aware of the British involvement in the fight against so-called Islamic State.

37% of respondents are unaware of any of the conflicts the British Armed Forces are currently involved in, including Operation TOSCA (UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) (77%) and our participation in United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia (70%). The figures also indicated that 63% of those asked, think that the number of conflicts we are currently involved in is high.

The research also reveals that, as a nation, we have an interest in learning more about our military. Over half (56%) of 18 to 24 year olds are not aware that Britain’s Armed Forces were involved in the WWII, 52% of that age range said they would like schools to teach more about the role of our forces.

Ian Beckett, Honorary Professor of Military History, of the University of Kent, says: “There is understandable emphasis upon the commemoration of the two world wars with the ongoing centenary of the Great War and of the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. The public is also aware of recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“The significance and value of the Remembrance Campaign is that it reminds us of those many other occasions since 1914 on which servicemen and women have made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of this country.”

Lord Richards of Herstmonceux GCB CBE DSO, former Chief of the Defence Staff, says: “It is very disappointing that the public does not know more about the Armed Forces’ role in defending our country and our allies.”

“It is always important, especially at this Remembrance time of year, to think about those thousands of people who have given their lives for our country since the end of World War 2. I would urge the government to make the history of modern conflicts a compulsory subject in our schools to help youngsters better understand and respect the freedoms and lives they enjoy today.  In truth, we don’t know where the next conflict will be but our armed forces stand ready for any eventuality.”


Notes to editors     

The Forces Network is part of The Services Sound & Vision Corporation (SSVC), a military charity, whose purpose is to inform, entertain, connect and champion the Armed Forces. SSVC also includes:


* SOURCE: The study was conducted by OnePoll between 30/10/17 and 01/11/17 and polled UK adults. Participants were recruited online and were paid to participate.

*Online map at Every effort has been made to accurately pinpoint locations. Unless otherwise stated, numbers are for the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Unless otherwise stated, numbers do not include non-British (i.e. imperial, dominion and colonial) forces. Killed = killed in action, died of wounds, missing, and died on active service.

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