‘You’re Just Chopped Off at the End’: Retired Servicemen’s Identity Work Struggles in the Military to Civilian Transition

  • Rachel Williams, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, John Hockey, Adam Evans
  • Sociological Research Online, July 2018, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1360780418787209

Identity and retired military veterans: identity struggles in the transition to civilian life

Photo by Jayne Burton on Unsplash

Photo by Jayne Burton on Unsplash

What is it about?

Promoting positive transition to retirement for ex-service personnel has been identified as a priority for both social-science research and for public health policy in the UK. The Royal British Legion aims to provide support to service and retired service personnel, but to date the transition to retirement experiences of older (60-plus) ex-service personnel remain under-researched. In this article, we employ a sociological theoretical framework to examine older servicemen’s experiences and identity challenges post-retirement from the British armed forces. Data were collected primarily through semi-structured, focus-group interviews with 20 former servicemen. Here, we focus specifically upon the challenges encountered by these ex-servicemen in the retirement transition from military to civilian life, a time of identity flux of sociological interest. To navigate this period of identity change and challenge, many participants constructed a ‘modified military self’ through involvement with the Royal British Legion as a key social support network. For many retired personnel the Royal British Legion offered a form of identification and group identity that resonated strongly with earlier experiences of comradeship in the military.

Why is it important?

Promoting positive transition to retirement for ex-service personnel has been identified as a priority for both social-science research and for public health policy in the UK. In this research project, we investigated retired former servicemen's experiences and identity struggles after retirement from the British armed forces.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1360780418787209

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson