The Wall

The National Covid Memorial Wall…

…background to so many pictures of boats taken across the Thames from Victoria Tower Gardens, adds a sad stretch of colour along the embankment.

Organised by Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice with the help of campaigners Led by Donkeys, the first painted hearts began to appear towards the end of March 2021. Ever since then the unofficial National Covid Memorial Wall has stretched for roughly a third of mile below St. Thomas’ Hospital, between Westminster and Lambeth Bridges.

Each carefully painted heart represents one much loved person in the country who died of Covid-19 as marked on their death certificate. Since March 2021 more and more hearts began to appear each week, representing the growing death toll of Covid-19, now up to 205,051 thousand.* In April 2022 a group of students from Central Saint Martins art school volunteered to repaint some of the hearts “giving the memorial a coat of weather-resistant paint”, so it remains plainly visible from across the river.

Since the lifting of all Covid-related restrictions commercial life on the river has returned to normal but the wall, carefully tended, remains as a potent reminder of so much loss and acts as a leitmotif through the following photographs of boats passing beneath it during the past months.

Boats, including M.V. HOLLYWOOD, moored beneath the National Covid Memorial Wall during one of the lockdown periods
GPS Marine tug INDIA side towing her barge of aggregate
Thames Marine Services’ motorised fuel tanker CONQUESTOR
Thames Marine Services fixed refuelling barge and one of the THAMES ROCKETS on Lambeth Reach
The National Covid Memorial Wall running along the Thames embankment, February 2022
Kayakers from the London Kayak Co. heading upstream with the flood tide
NIAD ERRANT one of the Dunkirk ‘Little Ships’
Thames Luxury Charters’ The ELIZABETHAN
The Queen’s Rowbarge GLORIANA
Bunker barge HELENA
Thamescraft Dry Docking Services’ Tug DEVOUT
Thames Clipper STORM
Port of London Authority’s survey vessel THAME
CPBS Marine Services’ multicat SEA DOG
One of Thames Water’s two “Bubblers”, oxygenation boats, THAMES VITALITY
Greenpeace focusing on the protection of our oceans September 22, 2021
Livett’s BRAVO LIMA GB on a filming mission
Port of London Authority harbour service vessel BARNES
Port of London vessel CHELSEA usually patrolling the PLA’s Upper District
LFB fire rescue boat FIRE FLASH from the Lambeth River Fire Station
New London Fire Rescue boat TANNER based at Lambeth River Fire Station
MPS launch GABRIEL FRANKS II, her story, with others, in my article on first responders
Cory tug RECOVERY towing her containers past St. Thomas’ Hospital, where many have received their Covid vaccinations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has marked the country in so many ways with death, long-lasting illness, and restrictions touching everyone. Arguments over lack of preparedness and the breaking of *rules* will doubtless endure a long time but whatever the outcome, images of The National Covid Memorial Wall, whether made permanent or not, will remain engraved in our national history.

Further Information
*Government figures, October 6, 2022.
The Service of Remembrance in Westminster Abbey for those who served and died in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Michael Rosen’s poem ‘These are the hands’ for the NHS.
Terms of reference for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.