UK’s first LGBTQ+ veterans memorial to be created

Minister for veterans affairs, Johnny Mercer with chair of Fighting With Pride Craig Jones.

Fighting with Pride has been awarded a grant to help create the UK’s first memorial to LGBTQ+ veterans, but the charity has called on the government to be quicker to repay the compensation promised.

The LGBTQ+ veterans charity, which campaigned to get justice for servicemen and women affected by the pre-2000 ban on homosexuality in the armed forces, has been awarded a £350,000 government grant to create the memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Up until 2000, LGBTQ+ people were banned from serving in the British military. Many veterans were court-martialled or forced to leave without a stable income or pension.

‘This memorial will be very important’

The chairperson of Fighting With Pride, Craig Jones, told PinkNews the memorial would honour those in the LGBTQ+ community “who were treated with great cruelty in the service of the United Kingdom”.

Jones added: “They stepped forward over many decades to serve at the frontline of operations all over the world, but were hunted down, dismissed and lost from the service. 

“Some were lost in battle. Others were lost because of the ban. This memorial will be very important to this group of amazing veterans and their families, and those who serve today in the armed forces.” 

The memorial is crucial for remembering the stories of veterans such as the Michael Howard, a captain in the Coldstream Guards who was awarded the Military Cross in 1944 for his gallantry in the Italian campaign, including at Salerno and during the bloody fighting at Monte Cassino, during the Second World War. 

In 1958, he met geography teacher Mark James and they began a relationship before entering into a civil partnership in 2006. He went on to be a prolific military historian.

Howard died in 2019 at the age of 97, but the memorial will honour veterans such as him and all those who showed “incredible bravery” after having “challenges unfairly placed in their path”, said Jones, who wants to ensure the design is representative and a place for peace and reflection.

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
A memorial to LGBTQ+ veterans will be built at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. (National Memorial Arboretum)

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer said: “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.

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

So far, the government has completed 28 of the 49 recommendations put forward by the LGBT Veterans Independent Review, led by Lord Etherton.

The review recommended that an “appropriate financial award” should be made to veterans affected by the ban, with a maximum total of £50 million.

Jones said: “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. 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 looked into the service and experience of all those LGBTQ+ men and women who served between 1967 and 2000.

‘Many veterans still feel deeply hurt and unhappy’

Ahmed Al-Nahhas, the head of the military claims team at solicitors Bolt Burdon Kemp, told PinkNews:”It is disappointing that many LGBTQ+ veterans who have been promised compensation by the government are still yet to receive [it], and I doubt what they will get will be fair. 

Many of these veterans lost their careers when they were banned from serving because of their sexuality. Many of them experienced shame, ridicule and financial difficulty as a result.

“They were left to suffer without support for many years. Understandably, many veterans still feel deeply hurt and unhappy about what they went through.” 

His firm “still hears from many individuals who are being harassed or bullied due to their sexuality in the armed forces”, despite the lifting of the ban. 

“The government needs to show it’s taking this issue seriously, but failing to compensate these veterans quickly or fully will unravel all the positive steps that have been taken,” Al-Nahhas added.

In parliament last July, prime minister Rishi Sunak apologised to LGBTQ+ veterans, calling the ban “an appalling failure of the British state”, and promised compensation.

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace, and chiefs of the services, have also apologised for the treatment of LGBTQ+ personnel.

The memorial is expected to be unveiled in May 2025.

Fighting With Pride Would like to hear from people for whom the memorial will be important. The charity can be emailed at [email protected] and there are more details of their work at

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