01 March 2021

Why is there a question about Veterans in Census 2021?

Mainly because we do not know the true number of UK Armed Forces Veterans living in local communities and what their needs and requirements are - Census 2021 will help address this.

Due to campaigning by The Royal British Legion and a range of public organisations and partnerships, this is the first time there has been a question about UK Armed Forces Veterans in a census.

What is a Veteran?

"Veterans are defined as anyone who has served for at least one day  in Her Majesty's Armed Forces (Regular or Reserve) or Merchant Mariners who have seen duty on legally defined military operations."

This means that those who only partially completed training, anyone who did National Service in the Armed Forces and all those who have served in the Reserves, not just Regulars, are Veterans. There are lots of people who are Veterans, but do not recognise that they are. If you've ever been issued with a military or a service number, then you are a veteran!

What is the question?

Have you previously served in the UK Armed forces?

- Currently serving members should select "No"

Select all that apply:

  • Yes, previously served in Regular Armed Forces
  • Yes, previously served in Reserve Armed Forces


  • No

If you served in the Regulars and left, but have joined the Reserves then tick the 'Regulars' box.

If you served in the Regulars and left, but joined the Reserves and have since left the Reserves then tick both boxes.

Census 2021 is a national survey with protections around the use of data so it is perfectly safe to tick the appropriate box.

Just how safe is this data?

Many Veterans, in common with other members of society, are suspicious about revealing personal data to the 'authorities', in this case the Office for National Statistics (ONS). ONS is, however, an independent body and separate from Government. 

All data is anonymised for analysis. The individual personal data you provide is safe and will not be shared with other Government bodies. This information is protected by law and is stored by ONS for 100 years from the date of the Census. 

See further information on the Census