Former head of the army backs Covid Memorial Day to commemorate lives lost

The former head of the army General Lord Dannatt has backed proposals for an annual Covid Memorial Day every 23 March, and called for commemorative symbols similar to poppies to remember the lives lost to the pandemic.

The ex-Chief of the General Staff suggested that Covid memorials could be built in villages, towns and cities across the country to help communities remember the sacrifices made during the pandemic and recognise the efforts of key workers and volunteers.

Lord Dannatt helped lead the planning of the centenary of the First World War, including the installation of over 888,246 ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London. He is also a trustee of the Normandy Memorial Trust and took part in a ceremony in 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings with veterans in Arramanches, Normandy.

It comes after leading London Mayoral candidates including Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey last week came out in support of a permanent Covid memorial in London.

General Lord Dannatt said:

“There are war memorials in every city, town and village. Most communities have been affected in one way or another by the pandemic, so perhaps we should do the same.

“They would be about remembering all those who have lost their lives, but also celebrating those people in frontline roles - emergency workers, NHS staff and all those in the community who have served during the pandemic."

“We should also look to create a fresh symbol, similar in purpose to the poppy, to help families mark the pandemic each year.”

The Covid Memorial Day campaign was launched last month in a letter to the Prime Minister signed by over 50 MPs and peers from eight different parties. It is being coordinated by March for Change and backed by a broad coalition of groups including the Local Government Association, the British Medical Association of doctors, the Royal College of Nursing and the GMB and NASUWT unions.

The campaign website includes guidance to help people make or knit their own Covid memorial poppies. Some people around the country have already been creating their own memorial poppies, including Claire Hastie of the Long Covid Support Group.

The initiative is urging the government to formally recognise each 23 March as ‘Covid Memorial Day’ from 2022 onwards, with a minute’s silence to be held at noon in schools, workplaces and all public venues across the UK. It is also calling for a new Covid Memorial Monument on Whitehall where wreaths can be laid every year, along with local plans for monuments across the country led by communities, councils and devolved nations.

The Prime Minister has responded to the proposal by promising a “permanent and fitting memorial” to the lives lost to pandemic, but the government has not yet provided any further details including on the location or expected timetable.


Notes to Editor

This story was first reported by the Telegraph.

More information on the Covid Memorial Day campaign can be found here.

March for Change is launching a public consultation on the design of the monument, to ensure that the British public is at the centre of the memorialisation of the pandemic. Artists, sculptors and architects as well as members of the public are being invited to submit designs and ideas for the new structure here.