What to do when a veteran or service person goes missing

If you’re worried about a veteran or service person who has gone missing, then the following information is for you. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to wait 24 hours to get the ball rolling when it comes to a missing person, especially if you believe them to be physically or mentally vulnerable in any way. If the person you are concerned about has been acting out of character, if they have been depressed or anxious, then it is important to act swiftly to ensure the relevant agencies and emergency services have the best chance of recovering them. Here’s what you need to do: 


Call the police

You can contact the police on 101 or 999 if you believe the missing veteran or service person is at risk. As mentioned, there is no requirement to wait 24 hours before doing so and it is better to act as quickly as possible. A person may be considered at risk if they are: 


  • Low of mood
  • Suicidal, depressed or anxious
  • On medication
  • Elderly, disabled, sick or frail
  • Suffering from a mental illness
  • Acting out of character prior to going missing
  • Under increased stress


The police will need to know as much information about the veteran or service person as you can provide. It will be helpful to know as much of this information as possible when making the call.

This will include full name, date of birth, home address and any other addresses they are likely to visit. They’ll want to know if there are any factors that could be contributing to increased stress or poor mental health as well as any physical disabilities. The police may want to visit the home address and carry out a search and they’ll want to know what items (if any) has the missing person taken with them, this includes things like car keys, wallet, mobile phone etc, but also if they have packed clothes or other personal items in a bag.

They’ll also need as much information on their physical appearance too, such as:

  • A recent photograph
  • Build & height
  • Clothing when last seen
  • Any distinguishing features (tattoos, birthmarks, scars)
  • Hair (length, colour, facial hair etc if different from photograph)


When speaking on the phone to the police, be sure to have a paper and pen handy. They’ll give you an incident reference number that you’ll need to write down and use if you need to get back in contact. They may also require more information from you and its best to write down any requests so you don’t forget. 


Contact their family and friends

If you have limited information on the missing veteran or service person, and you feel you have time, you may wish to carry out this step first. Establishing if any of their close family and friends have seen them recently is important, it could be that someone else has had more recent contact with the missing person, and can feed into the information about their current clothing/appearance and mental state, or it could be that the missing person is with someone else currently. You can also task friends and family to visit places the missing person may go, to rule out them being there. This might include pubs, social clubs, parks, walking routes etc. 


Message All Call Signs

Once the police have been informed and you have an incident reference number, you can contact All Call Signs. We can launch a Beacon Alert, which sends out the details of the missing veteran or service person to our network of followers and volunteers. Our audience is predominantly ex-service members and their families who are passionate about ensuring other members of the community are found quickly when at risk. Once launched, Beacon is seen by around 500,000 – 3 million people in the UK making it highly likely that we’ll get a positive sighting of the missing person quickly. We’ll liaise with police and search and rescue operations to get our community on the ground where possible, creating a much larger footfall and an increased likelihood of finding the missing person. 

We’ll need the same information as provided above to the police as well as further information pertaining to the service history of the missing person, including their service number if known and who they served with and when. This will allow us to confirm their service and find the relevant veteran and service groups to help with the search. 


Keep calm

An important thing to remember when a friend or family member goes missing is not to panic. Thousands of people go missing every year in the UK, and the vast majority return in good health, either found by local authorities or making their way back of their own volition. In Beacon Alerts we see 92% return in a very short time period. While you’ll likely want to carry out local searches yourself if able, please don’t put yourself or others in harm’s way by doing so. There is a large network of motivated professionals whose job it is to find at risk service personnel and veterans. We’ll do everything we can to bring around a positive result.