The Wall

The National Covid Memorial Wall,

background to pictures of boats taken across the Thames from Victoria Tower Gardens, adds a sad stretch of colour along the Embankment.
The ITV drama BREATHTAKING brought back memories of this difficult period in our lives, so I am reposting, with a few additions, an article from 2022 on the National Covid Memorial Wall, which has been acting as a leitmotif to passing boats I’ve photographed from across the River Thames.
The installation of the National Covid Memorial Wall was 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. It now stretches for roughly a third of a mile on the embankment 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, up to 233,791 thousand in the most recent official Government figures.* 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. And the wall has been regularly refreshed since then.
On Sunday March 3rd, 2024, a National Day of Reflection will be held at the wall from 11.00 am to 1.00 pm to remember the hundreds of thousands who have died from Covid.

Since the lifting of all Covid-related restrictions commercial life on the river, though in some sectors greatly diminished, has returned but the wall, carefully tended, remains as a potent reminder of so much loss, a constant theme running through the following photographs.

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
H.M. 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.

From the very beginning of lockdowns and restrictions, there was no gap in the vital services of the Port of London or Marine Police patrols, and the Cory tugs continued to remove London’s waste. RNLI Lifeboats and Lambeth River Station fire rescue boats were on standby 24/7. After suspension due to Covid, Thames Clippers made some changes to their services and resumed operation on June 15, 2020. City Cruises resumed sailings on July 4, 2020 but it took much longer for the London Thames sightseeing and party boats to return, resulting in damaging consequences for some…

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
*Official Government figures, December 14, 2023
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.
See ‘Lockdown: a daily walk’.