Life in the Armed Forces

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Why we have Armed Forces

What do you think about when someone says the Armed Forces?


You probably know that most countries have Armed Forces.

The Armed Forces are the Army, Navy and the Air Force – but what do they do?

What do you think about when someone says the Armed Forces? Maybe you think it’s all to do with guns and wars.

Well, while that may be a key role, it’s not quite the whole picture…


What do the Armed Forces do?

The Armed Forces protect the security of our country – that means they keep us safe.

They also help protect our independence, which is about us deciding for ourselves what happens to our country.

How many people are in the Armed Forces?

Today, there are about 165,000 service men and women in the British Armed Forces.

There are also around 60,000 civilians who work for them, working behind the scenes to help make sure that the Armed Forces can do their roles.

Are they all in Britain?

Most of these are in the UK, however quite a few are based overseas.

They can be found in lots of countries around the world, from the Falkland Islands to Gibraltar, and Africa to Brunei.

This might seem a little bit weird – how can they protect our country when they’re miles away? To explain, we have to look to the past…

Seventy five years ago Britain was at war with Germany in the Second World War.

Lots of countries across the world were involved and 4.9 million members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force helped Britain to victory in 1945.

After that, the war might have been over but the work didn’t stop there.

Many soldiers remained in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine.

It was created to support the new government, and later helped defend West Germany against the Soviet Union. At its peak, over fifty thousand soldiers were based in Germany in the 1950s and 1960s.

It sounds like a lot of people – and it was! In fact, Germany still has the largest concentration of British Armed Forces permanently stationed outside the UK!

The Armed Forces overseas

Now whilst your mum and dad might work in a different town to home, they can commute to and from work so you see them everyday.

But if they were working overseas, well it would take a long time for them to come home every night, wouldn’t it?

So, rather than going back and forward, or being away from their families for a long time, it makes sense for the whole family to go with them!

Well, that’s pretty much what happened in Germany, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore – in fact, many countries where our Armed Forces were based.

So why are our forces based overseas? Do they just really like the local food and culture?

Well, the reason is more to do with keeping our country safe.

The world is a very big place and sometimes things which threaten our safety come from a long way away – having military bases abroad means Britain can quickly react to any threats.

These days, because of the way Armed Forces can operate there isn’t the same need for as many military bases in other countries.

So as well as the overall size of the Armed Forces being reduced, quite a few of Britain’s overseas military bases are being closed, with military families returning to the UK to live on bases here.

That said, there are currently 30 schools for Armed Forces children across the world – from Germany to Cyprus, Canada to the Netherlands.

And to make sure that families based overseas don’t miss out on life back at home, they have a special television and radio service called BFBS – British Forces Broadcasting Service – through which they even get Fun Kids!

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Life in the Armed Forces

Find out about Life in the Armed Forces

More From Life in the Armed Forces