One in 20 people living in Gateshead is a veteran 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 given us 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.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show 7,358 people in Gateshead said they were a veteran at the time of the census – 5% of usual residents aged 16 and over.
Of them, 5,026 had served in the regular UK armed forces and 2,032 as a reserve.
The ONS said areas with larger rates of veterans tend to be near existing armed forces bases.
Across the North East as a whole, 5% of people who responded to the census were ex-forces.
It added that better information on the veteran population will help service providers and others to support veterans, in line with the Armed Forces Covenant – a promise from the nation to treat veterans and their families fairly.
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.”
Across England and Wales, 1.9 million people (3.8%) said they had previously served in the regular armed forces, reserve forces, or both, at the time of the census.
Around 37,000 (2%) of them lived in communal establishments – which can include student halls of residence, an armed forces base, hospital or care home – while the vast majority lived in households.
In Gateshead, 123 veterans (2%) were in communal establishments last year, and 7,235 (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."
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer said the Government is committed to making the UK "the best place in the world for all our veterans".
Meanwhile, 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.