2021 Census reveals nearly 5,000 armed forces veterans living in Bedford

Of those, 3,563 had served in the regular UK armed forces and 984 as a reserve
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Around 3% of people living in Bedford are veterans of the UK armed forces, the first figures of their kind reveal.

A snapshot of England and Wales taken in March last year has already revealed a much better picture of the make-up of our population.

And for the first time in 2021, census respondents were asked whether they had previously served in the UK armed forces in a bid to improve the treatment of veterans across the two nations through better data.

vets in bedfordvets in bedford
vets in bedford

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show 4,716 people in Bedford said they were a veteran at the time of the census – 3% of usual residents aged 16 and over.

Of those, 3,563 had served in the regular UK armed forces and 984 as a reserve.

The ONS said areas with larger rates of veterans tend to be near existing armed forces bases.

Across the East of England as a whole, 4% of people who responded to the census were ex-forces.

National statistician, Sir Ian Diamond, said: “For the first time our data is able to show the vast scale of our armed forces community, which is vital information to help direct support and services where they are needed most.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly a large proportion of our veterans live or are located near military establishments, suggesting they tend to stay in the same areas after they have left service.”

In Bedford, 108 veterans (​2%) were in communal establishments last year, and 4,608 (98%) were in households.

The ONS and the Office for Veterans’ Affairs also launched a new dedicated survey to collect feedback from veterans across the UK.

Sir Ian added: “Responses to the survey will help us better understand the experiences, needs and wellbeing of our veteran community and to guide future action."

Charles Byrne, director general of the Royal British Legion, said the data will "transform" understanding of the veteran population.

“It will surprise many people to learn that, until today, nobody knew exactly how many veterans there were in England and Wales or where they lived,” he said.