Afghanistan veteran with medals and child

World War What?

3 May 2015

World War What?

VE Day may be just five days away, yet more than half of 18-25 year olds have no idea what the event signifies – according to new research.


The OnePoll survey, commissioned on behalf of SSAFA, revealed 54 per cent of those polled did not know that VE Day marks the anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

In the run up to the 70th anniversary of one of the most significant moments in world history, SSAFA quizzed 18-25 year olds with a range of questions on VE Day and World War Two.

The lack of awareness surrounding the conflict was astonishing, with 38 percent unable to correctly identify Winston Churchill as the British Prime Minister who famously declared Victory in Europe on 8 May 1945. A shocking seven percent believed it to be President Kennedy, another seven percent naming Margaret Thatcher and four percent stating it was Tony Blair.

More than a third (38 percent) believed the first moon landing, Britain’s entry into the European Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall had all happened before VE Day.

Knowledge of Britain’s history was further called into question with 55 percent unable to identify Poland as the country whose invasion led Britain to declare war on Germany in 1939. One in five believed it to be France, with five percent stating that it was the invasion of Britain which saw the beginning of the Second World War.

Nearly three quarters (70 percent) drastically underestimated the death toll of the Second World War, unaware of the 60 million lives that were lost.

Women were found to be more knowledgeable on the factual detail on the Second World War than men. The poll also revealed Scots to be the most knowledgeable region, with young Londoners performing the worst when quizzed on details of the Second World War.

David Murray is chief executive of SSAFA and served for over 30 years in the Royal Air Force. He said:

‘It is a real shame that so many of our young people do not have a basic level of knowledge of the Second World War. Many of them probably have not too distant relatives who fought in what was by far the biggest world war we have seen, in terms of lives lost.

‘Seventy years on and the nostalgic memory of VE Day is being played out across Britain and so it should be. As a nation we have a strong tradition of commending our Forces and we have much to be proud of.

‘As we look towards a weekend awash with red, white and blue, bunting and renditions of “We’ll Meet Again”, let us not forget the courage and sacrifice of those who made these celebrations possible. 

'At SSAFA, our work has always been about honouring those who have served our country. We have supported those who fought in the Second World War, along with their families for the last 70 years and we continue to do so today.’

A little help can go a long way towards ensuring our veterans continue to live with the respect and dignity they deserve.

£10… can enable a SSAFA caseworker to visit a veteran who is lonely and isolated

£15… can provide food vouchers for a few days to a veteran in financial crisis

£50… can facilitate home adaptations for a veteran with mobility issues

£100… can go towards the funeral costs of a World War Two veteran