A study of 2,000 adults found one in 10 said that as far as they are aware, going off to fight in wars is the armed forces’ only purpose.
As a result, one in three weren’t aware the British military play a part in managing terrorist attacks, while 33 per cent didn’t know they help to deal with the aftermath of floods.
Almost four in 10 were also unaware the armed forces have a role in helping the fire department in times of crisis and three in 10 didn’t think they were able to assist the police.
It also emerged 15 per cent have gathered most of their knowledge of the military from fictional films or TV shows.
But 43 per cent would like to be better informed, while six in 10 believe it’s important that they’re updated about what the armed forces are doing during peacetime.
Simon Bucks, chief executive of BFBS, the forces charity and media organisation which commissioned the study as part of Armed Forces Week, said: “The military does so much more than defence, as we’ve seen during the Covid-19 crisis in this country.
“We want to help make the public more aware of everything they do.
“Films and TV shows – even ones based on real life events – can give a sensationalised and distorted view of military life.
“Stories about their ‘peacetime’ work often go untold – which is why we’ll be featuring a lot of it during Armed Forces Week – from supporting the NHS during the pandemic to providing hurricane relief in the Caribbean.
“There are many different roles in the armed forces, to suit people with a range of skills and personalities.
“Some of the day-to-day community roles might come as a surprise.”
The research also found just under one in seven adults think that, when there’s not a war on, soldiers’ time is their own to spend however they like.
And 53 per cent believe they use battle tanks to get around on a daily basis.
Despite this lack of understanding about the military’s function, eight in 10 believe the UK needs an armed force.
More than three in 10 also think the armed forces’ role in supporting the NHS during lockdown has increased public awareness of what the military does.
This support has included helping to build Nightingale hospitals and other medical units, acting as ambulance drivers, driving oxygen tankers and staffing mobile coronavirus testing units.
The Army even teamed up with eBay to help healthcare workers find and order free PPE amid the crisis.
During lockdown, just over a tenth of those polled, via OnePoll, have seen military personnel helping out in their local area.
One in five believe the military have been out helping to enforce lockdown and keeping public spaces clear, and 36 per cent think they have been helping people with their shopping deliveries.
As a result, 71 per cent believe the military need to be recognised more for the jobs they do.
And 41 per cent think the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force should have a more active role in supporting civil society.
To find out more about what the work of the UK armed forces, and the kinds of job roles available, visit: www.forces.net/