COVID-19: Chief of Defence People’s letter to families

The Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant General James Swift OBE, has written to service families to provide reassurance during the COVID-19 outbreak and outline the support available during these uncertain times.

The full letter
Annexe B
Annexe C

More COVID-19 information for military families can be found on our dedicated web page.



    My daughter lives in England and her husband is currently deployed in the US and will have to quarantine for two weeks on base on his return. She has a very active 2 year old son and is desperate for some support from us i.e. a visit to ease the strain. We live in Wales and the current arrangements say that we can cross borders into England to form an extended household, however the English guidance says that support bubbles (extended households in all but in name) only apply in England and so my understanding is that we couldn’t visit to support her during his deployment and subsequent quarantine. Is this correct?

    My patner is in RAF and he has been deployed
    He will leave the country in About 2 weeks time
    Does he have to go in quarantine before he fly ?
    Many thanks

    The question of returning ‘home’ hasn’t really been addressed here, and there is no guidance on the Army website. Our son is abroad and will be returning to the UK soon. His expectation is that he will return to us, his parents, until redeployed, at which point I expect he will live in Army accommodation. He expects this interim period to be about a month. He has been abroad since January 2020, so the Covid business occurred whilst he was away, and is obviously ongoing. As he doesn’t really ‘live’ with us, how does this fit in with the Covid guidelines? Is it considered acceptable for him to return to us? What if either of us had medical conditions or were shielding? Would he be accommodated elsewhere? Are potential returnees quarantined in situ abroad prior to returning home? I guess they’re exempt from the 14 day quarantine applicable to some entering the UK, but clearly a person who did not live in the family house pre-Covid is being introduced, potentially against current scientific advice. I guess people would just like to know the Army’s take on this.

    Dear Alan, many thanks for leaving a comment.

    The letter is now 3 months old, and quite a lot has changed since then – government guidance is evolving all the time, and since that letter was written, training establishments are up and running again, and quite a lot of the Army is working normally. Therefore, we recommend that your son talks to his chain of command. Many single soldiers, particularly those from other nations, do not have ‘family’ homes, and there are always a range of options open to soldiers who do not wish, or are unable, to spend their longer periods of leave with family.

    My partner has been away for just over 3 months, during this time the pandemic was rife and to myself is still a major threat without proper precautions. He will be returning home this Sunday and we will be living together whilst he self isolates as required by his Commanding Officer, as he is not permitted to return to his Camp Base. I assume that I too will need to isolate from my job as a cleaner. What documents do I need in order to inform my employer of this?

    My son is joining in September, will he be allowed home after the first 6 weeks of basic training, we have had no response about this. After basic training can they return home at weekends? It would be nice to have some answers.
    Many thanks.

    Hi Kate, many thanks for your comment. As an independent charity, we’re not part of the Army so we’re not able to offer any answers on military matters. All we can suggest is that your son should speak to his chain of command.

    My son is in the army and has a weeks leave coming up in a couple of weeks time. Is it ok for him to come home on leave?
    Thank you.

    Hi Tina, many thanks for your comment. Your son will need to speak to his chain of command.

    My son is presently on tour overseas and I’d due to fly home end of April beginning of May. He is stationed over 200 mile from his home he has been told camp has shut down at this present time. Will he be allowed to travel home?

    Hello Susan, thanks for your comment. Please ask your son to speak to his chain of command.

    Susan and Julie,

    Thank you for your comments. We have asked the army about protection for service personnel and they have informed us that they are taking all necessary measures to protect service personnel and minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

    Unless army personnel are working in key posts that are critical to maintain operational capability, they will be encouraged to work from home and follow health protection measures as outlined by the Government. For those that have to travel to work, Government advice is being followed and all appropriate measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of exposure.

    For those personnel in units who have been warned off to contribute to the nations response to COVID-19, and to minimise the impact on the army through exposure, all personnel have been sent to their home locations. They will be recalled by their chain of command as and when units are activated.

    If activated, personnel will be afforded the most appropriate level of personal protection to minimise the risk of exposure dependent upon the role they will undertake.

    My partner is in the army. We’ve been together for a year and he would normally come and spend a whole weekend with me in my house. Now he’s about to come back from a two week deployment and wanted to see me before he will get deployed again to help with Covid-19. My question is, are we allowed to meet or him to come to my house as we normally do before?

    Hi there, thank you for your question. Please take a look at the Gov.UK website at for information about social distancing. Government advice is that people should not be socialising apart from within the household. Therefore, if people don’t live together, they shouldn’t be meeting.

    I just wanted to see if it was safe for soldiers to still return home as normal, camp closed down & mostly everyone sent home. He’s a medic so only doing emergency calls, medication etc, so he’s not in contact with many people. Although we follow the GOV guidelines, what is the army’s opinion on this? If it’s safe for as long they don’t show symptoms and not working with a group of people? I think yous should be advising from your views allowing soldiers to come home to there children.

    Hi Kim, thank you for your comment. Please do take a look at the reply we posted yesterday for the army’s response about protection for service personnel.

    Doesn’t quite answer the question.
    My husband obviously lives within the household (not pad) home at weekends. So if he’s leaving to go to work & coming home it’s a little conflicted. He’s either safe to come home after going to work or he isn’t ! And also yous claim yous follow the guidelines from the government when we both know the army make it up as they please. My exact reason for asking. Medic centres are closed on camp but my husband is still taken calls. Everyone’s been sent home so that’s NOT ESSENTIAL. So he should be home. So yous DONT follow guidelines.

    Dear Sir
    Whilst I welcome this document advising service families of support in these uncertain times, I would like to question the lack of advice for people like myself as a serving single parent. I rely on an au pair to support my childcare needs and she much like most au pairs has decided to return to her home country. My eldest son is able to attend school in normal school hours but I have no wrap around care for him. My youngest son is the only child at his nursery with a key worker parent and as such it is not viable for them to open just for him. I want to fulfill my role, I want to be out with my Regiment but I am unable to due to my personal circumstances. Please provide advice and guidance for those serving in a similar situation.

    Many thanks for posting your query, we advise you speak to your chain of command in the first instance.

    Hi, same situation as Kim, my partner is based down south but comes home every weekend. I know full well that social distancing isn’t being stringently adhered to on camp as the lads are still hanging around together, sitting in the cookhouse together etc. My concern is they are still free to come home at a weekend to a family who are isolating, given that they’ve been mixing with others all week. Those others are all going home to individual families on weekends and then coming back together mon-fri and potentially contaminating each other. Why aren’t they being allowed to isolate with their families, or if working, remaining on camp and quarantining before being allowed home?

    Hi Jan, thanks for your comment. As an independent charity, we’re not part of the Army and are not in a position to comment on how individual units are operating. If you have particular concerns we would recommend that you contact the Unit Welfare Officer to understand why this unit is not complying with the guidance that the Army has issued. If you or your soldier do not have their details, our local AFF co-ordinator (see our Contacts page) should be able to help you get them.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I am scared. My husbands continuing with his military duties. He is our family’s only weak link to the outside world when everything else is shut down. I don’t have the confidence that others are abiding by the social distancing that he works with. After reading about medical staff contacting the virus in PPE, how at risk is my husband without?

    Will our guys and girls be given the same protection as they can’t take time off my husband is in the army.

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