More than one in five service personnel have had abuse shouted at them by strangers, according to research published today.
Although more than half of servicemen and women have experienced strangers offering thanks and support in the last five years, nearly one in 20 had experienced violence or attempted violence.
The study, commissioned by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, found the British public are less appreciative than their American counterparts.
Two thirds of the American public said they had personally thanked a member of the forces or could see themselves doing so. This compared to just over a quarter in Britain.
Nearly two thirds of the public said there was too little recognition for the armed forces in British society.
Almost three quarters of UK personnel serving overseas said they had experienced companies refusing to send goods to British Forces Post Office (BFPO) addresses
More than a quarter of personnel said they had been refused a mortgage, loan or credit card in the last five years, and one in five had had trouble getting a mobile phone contract. Personnel often said that their unavoidable frequent changes of address counted against them in credit checks.
Finding a good job was the biggest concern among service personnel about leaving the forces. More than half feared that employers would not understand what they had done in the military and so would not give them a chance. Despite their experience, more junior personnel often feared they would be starting their careers from scratch.
Despite a generally positive view of forces personnel and their attributes, a quarter of employers thought non-officers were unlikely to have people management skills.
The research included a poll of more than 9,000 serving personnel plus focus groups with members of the Army, RAF, Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
It was conducted with the permission of General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, and with organisational help from the Ministry of Defence.
For comparison, research was also conducted among members of the US armed services and the American public.
In the report, Lord Ashcroft called for greater willingness among the public to thank those in uniform for their service, wider availability of discounts for current and former service personnel, and for businesses to ensure they deliver to BFPO addresses and do not charge over the odds for doing do.
He also urged companies to recognise that for service personnel, frequent changes of address are part of the job and do not necessarily mean they are a bad credit risk, and for more employers to consider actively recruiting those leaving the forces, and to think about the skills and experience that middle and junior ranking personnel, as well as officers, will have to offer.
Lord Ashcroft said: "Since 2001 our armed forces have been in the public eye to a greater degree than at any time since the Second World War. As we mark the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict, and thousands of service personnel face the prospect of redundancy, it is an appropriate time to take stock of our relationship with our armed forces and the men and women who serve.
"I hope this study will prompt people to think about whether our forces get the recognition they deserve, and what more we can do to show personnel that they are appreciated."
Gen Sir David said: "The men and women of our armed forces reflect what is best in our society. They are the finest of their generation. They deserve respect and support from the British public. So it's great to see that the vast majority of personnel get this recognition and are even thanked by strangers."
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "We have worked hard to ensure our armed forces, veterans and their families have the support they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve. That is why we committed to rebuilding the Armed Forces Covenant and its principles are now enshrined in law, and we have made great progress over the last year with practical improvements to service life."
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