UK’s first ever memorial to LGBT armed forces personnel to be built

The UK’s first memorial commemorating the “lost legion” of LGBT people who have served in the armed forces is to be built at the National Memorial Arboretum.

The memorial will be built after a charity spearheading efforts to get justice for veterans affected by the pre-2000 ban on LGBT people serving in the UK armed forces was awarded a £350,000 grant.

The LGBT veterans charity Fighting With Pride has said the memorial will be “representative” and a “place for peace and reflection”, but has urged the government to implement recommendations from a government-commissioned review by Lord Etherton last year, including compensation.

“We’re committed to delivering a fitting memorial, but a great deal of work remains to be done to lift the veterans most affected by the ban from the poverty inflicted upon them after the loss of careers,” said Craig Jones, the chair of Fighting With Pride.

“Too many face crippling debt, poor housing, social isolation and live with poor health and wellbeing. 2024 must be the year in which all 49 of Lord Etherton’s recommendations for reparation are delivered.”

The review, which began last year, examined the experiences of LGBT veterans who served in the military during the 1967-2000 ban on LGBT people serving in the UK armed forces.

Etherton’s report said: “I recommend that the prime minister should deliver an apology in the UK parliament on behalf of the nation to all those LGBT service personnel who served under and suffered from the ban (whether or not they were dismissed or discharged).”

It recommended that an “appropriate financial award” should be made to veterans affected by the ban, with a maximum total of £50m, and said the plan should not be affected by normal litigation time limits.

Last year, Rishi Sunak and the then defence minister, Ben Wallace, formally apologised to the Commons for the decades-long ban and promised to implement the “vast majority” of Etherton’s recommendations.

“We are proud of our LGBT veterans and grateful for their service in defence of our nation, and I am pleased that Fighting With Pride will help to deliver a memorial to honour them,” said the veterans minister, Johnny Mercer.

“We are committed to delivering on the recommendations made by Lord Etherton in his independent review at pace, and this memorial will take us one step closer to doing so.”