Mnemonic: uk_armed_forces
Applicability: Person
Type: Standard variable


Identifies people who have previously served in the UK armed forces. This includes those who have served for at least one day in armed forces, either regular or reserves, or Merchant Mariners who have seen duty on legally defined military operations.


Total number of categories: 5

Code Name
1 Previously served in the UK regular armed forces
2 Previously served in UK reserve armed forces
3 Previously served in both regular and reserve UK armed forces
4 Has not previously served in any UK armed forces
-8 Does not apply

Quality information

Many who have previously served in the UK armed forces will be older males because of National Service. We applied extra quality assurance to correct some answers from currently serving personnel.

Question asked

Have you previously served in the UK Armed Forces?

  • Yes, previously served in Regular Armed Forces
  • Yes, previously served in Reserve Armed Forces
  • Or no

The question was new for Census 2021 and there is no comparability with the 2011 Census.


Read about how we developed and tested the questions for Census 2021.

Why we ask the question

The answer helps communities by providing the information that will help better support those who have served in the UK armed forces but have now left. Local and central government, businesses and charitable organisations will use this information to meet their commitments made under the Armed Forces Covenant. This is a promise by the nation making sure that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are not disadvantaged.

This is the first time the census in England and Wales has asked this question.

Comparability with the 2011 Census

Not comparable

This variable is new for Census 2021 and there is no comparability with the 2011 Census.

What does not comparable mean?

A variable that is not comparable means that it cannot be compared with a variable from the 2011 Census.

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland comparisons

This information is not yet available. Find out more about UK Census data.

Census 2021 data that uses this variable

We use variables from Census 2021 data to show findings in different ways.

You can: