Vulnerable elderly can finally go outside and see their grandchildren after 10 weeks ‘shielding’ inside – The Sun


VULNERABLE and elderly Brits can finally go outside after 10 weeks from shielding from coronavirus.

Robert Jenrick said people cooped indoors for their own safety can spend time with members of their own family from Monday.

 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

The Communities Secretary added that those who live alone can spend time with someone from one other household.

Mr Jenrick said shielding Brits and their loved ones had made a “huge sacrifice” during the lockdown and he wanted to “express admiration” for their efforts.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing he explained the next review of shielding measures will take place in the week beginning on June 15.

Of the new guidance, Mr Jenrick said: "This will enable those shielding to see loved ones like children and grandchildren, something many I know are aching to do.

"Having spent many weeks indoors some will understandably be very cautious and concerned about going outdoors. You should only do what you are comfortable with."

This will enable those shielding to see loved ones like children and grandchildren, something many I know are aching to do.

He added: "If the conditions become less favourable our advice to those being asked to shield will unfortunately need to be tightened.

"The Government will continue to ensure that support is available to those who need it for as long as possible and for as long as people are advised to follow the shielding guidance."

He said, while the updated guidance from Monday for the shielded is for England only, the Government is working closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland "who will issue their own guidance in due course".

The move will bring new-found freedom to those with extreme medical conditions who have become prisoners in their own homes since the lockdown began.

Many have not had face-to-face contact since they were first advised to “shield” themselves ten weeks ago.

Those in the vulnerable category include organ transplant recipients, those on chemotherapy, kidney dialysis patients and those with severe respiratory conditions.

BABY STEPS

The move is the latest in a series of “baby steps” to ease the restrictions imposed on March 23.

It follows fresh clinical advice which shows the average chance of catching the virus has fallen from 40-1 to 1,000-1.

Mr Jenrick's announcement came after after the PM revealed on Thursday that five tests for easing the nation had finally been met, meaning he can ease some of the country's strict restrictions.

After months of lockdown, groups from different households will be able to meet up – as long as it is outside.

At the moment only two people can meet up outside, but as The Sun revealed last week, multiple households will now be able to have BBQs and garden parties to make the most of the summer.

Non-essential shops are also set to return from June 1 and June 15 with plans for pubs, restaurants and hotels to follow.

Last week England's test and trace system comes into force, which Boris said means the country can lift lockdown measures for most people.

But the scheme got off to a shambolic start – with tracers saying they were only told the system was going live the night before.

Tracers have said it is "the blind leading the blind" and they don't have anyone who tested positive for coronavirus to call so they can get to work.

A huge number said they had not been sent login details which allowed them to access systems to start work and were instead sat at home with nothing to do.

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Kentucky TV reporter struck by cops’ pepper balls during George Floyd protest

The mayor of Louisville, Ky., apologized to a TV reporter and cameraman hit by pepper balls fired by cops during a Friday night protest of George Floyd’s death.

Reporter Kaitlin Rust squealed in pain and shock when hit repeatedly with what she first thought were rubber bullets during a live segment on WAVE 3 News.

The Louisville Metro Police Department said Rust was likely struck by the cops’ pepper-spray projectiles.

In a statement, WAVE 3 General Manager Ken Selvaggi said, “We strongly condemn the actions of the LMPD officer who tonight repeatedly fired at and hit our reporter and cameraman, both of whom were courageously and lawfully covering breaking news in their community. There is simply no justification for the Louisville police to wantonly open fire, even with pepper balls, on any journalists under any circumstances.”

The mayor apologized, adding the police will identify the cop who fired at Rust and cameraman James Dobson to “determine what was going on at the time and if further action is needed,” according to a tweet posted by a CBS news correspondent.

“I believe in a free press,” Fischer said, calling the local coverage fair and comprehensive. “I am sorry that Kaitlin was hurt.”

In an outburst of vandalism and looting, seven people were shot and two officers were hospitalized following violence, vandalism and and looting Thursday night in a protest against three police officers involved in the death in March of Breonna Taylor, a black EMT who was shot to death in her apartment.

Taylor was shot multiple times during a no-knock warrant gone wrong at her home. Fischer announced that no-knock warrants would be suspended in the city.

On Saturday, Fischer activated the National Guard and ordered a countywide curfew from 9 pm. to 6:30 a.m. He expressed sympathy for black people struggling with oppression, but blamed the violence on “out-of-town anarchists intent on destroying our city.”

The shooting victims were reported in stable condition. No suspects were arrested as of Saturday.

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The 90 minutes when Hitler came closest to winning WWII

The 90 minutes when Hitler came closest to winning WWII: As British troops faced annihilation in Dunkirk, Churchill learnt his Foreign Secretary wanted a peace deal with Germany… triggering a battle of wills at a crucial War Cabinet meeting

Eighty years ago this past week, the British and French armies were in the midst of the most calamitous defeat in their combined history. Churchill and Lord Halifax are pictured above

Eighty years ago this past week, the British and French armies were in the midst of the most calamitous defeat in their combined history. 

On May 14, 1940, Hitler’s panzer divisions broke through the French line at Sedan on the edge of the Ardennes forest and, within six days, had reached the Channel, trapping the northern French Armies and British Expeditionary Force. 

As exhausted British soldiers retreated towards Dunkirk, the War Cabinet in London, led by new Prime Minister Winston Churchill, began to contemplate the unthinkable: a peace deal with Hitler.

Strange as it may seem today, Churchill’s position, in the summer of 1940, was far from secure. At the time the British Expeditionary Force began its march to the coast, Churchill had been PM for only two weeks. 

Most Conservative MPs had wanted the former appeaser, Lord Halifax, to succeed Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and there was a widespread view within Westminster that Churchill was a dangerous adventurer.

When Chamberlain entered the House of Commons the day after his fall he received a far greater ovation than Churchill and, as the Chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee explained to the Chamberlain supporter Rab Butler on May 13, three-quarters of Tory MPs were ‘ready to put Chamberlain back’.

This, then, was the context in which the War Cabinet discussed the dramatic possibility of exploring peace terms with Nazi Germany. The man urging this course was Churchill’s rival for the premiership, Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. 

Halifax was no traitor. Although he had been one of the leading appeasers in the years before the war, the 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia had convinced him, belatedly, of the futility of trying to appease Adolf Hitler.

The collapse of France, however, changed everything. ‘We have to face the fact,’ Halifax told the War Cabinet on May 26, ‘that it is not so much now a question of imposing a complete defeat upon Germany’ as protecting the independence of Britain and her Empire. 

Was Churchill, then, prepared to explore peace terms using the Italian dictator Mussolini as intermediary?

During the previous day only 7,699 troops had been evacuated from the beaches (a tiny fraction of those who were waiting to be rescued) and it was more than possible they were on the verge of witnessing ‘the greatest British military defeat for many centuries’. The beach of Dunkirk is pictured above after the evacuation

Unlike his caricatured portrayal in that historical travesty of a film, Darkest Hour, Churchill did not lose his temper. Aware that a breach with his Foreign Secretary and chief rival had the capacity to destroy his fledgling government, he gave a measured and deliberately ambiguous response. 

It was most unlikely, he said, that Hitler would offer terms that would prove acceptable but, in theory, if Britain could get out of this ‘jam’ by surrendering parts of her African and Mediterranean Empire to the Axis then he would ‘jump at it’.

The only safe course, however, ‘was to convince Hitler that he could not beat us’. Later that evening, the order for the commencement of Operation Dynamo – the evacuation of the BEF from France – was given.

With Calais surrounded and the German spearheads only five miles from Dunkirk, the War Cabinet met the following day – Monday, May 27 – at 4.30pm. The meeting only lasted an hour and a half but was probably the most important 90 minutes of the war – certainly the closest Hitler came to winning it.

Halifax re-presented his plan for exploring peace terms via Mussolini. Churchill expressed scepticism but held his fire. The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, however, argued that an approach to the Italians would be not merely hopeless but dangerous. 

The two Labour Ministers, Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood, strongly agreed. ‘If it got out that we had sued for terms at the cost of ceding British territory, the consequences would be terrible,’ argued Greenwood. 

Halifax re-presented his plan for exploring peace terms via Mussolini. Churchill expressed scepticism but held his fire. The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, however, argued that an approach to the Italians would be not merely hopeless but dangerous

‘It would be heading for disaster’ to go any further down this route. With this bolstering of support, Churchill declared his unambiguous opposition to the proposal. The mere exploration of peace talks, he explained, ‘would ruin the fighting integrity in this country’.

There was not the remotest possibility Hitler would offer acceptable terms and, when the Germans revealed the British had sued for peace, the determination of the British people to continue the struggle would evaporate. 

British prestige, it was true, was currently very low. But the only way to get it back was to show the world ‘that the Germans had not beaten us’. 

No, they should avoid being ‘dragged down the slippery slope with France’ and continue the struggle, if necessary alone.

Halifax, who described Churchill’s speech ‘as the most frightful rot’ in his diary, then threatened to resign. This was the tipping point.

Churchill had been Prime Minister for 17 days and the resignation of his Foreign Secretary and favoured candidate for his post would almost certainly bring down his Government. 

Faced with such danger, Churchill did not shout and storm but resorted to charm. He spoke to Halifax in private in the Downing Street garden – the site of Dominic Cummings’s recent press conference – and was ‘full of apologies and affection’.

Although not able to convert the Foreign Secretary to his point of view, Churchill managed to dissuade him from taking a step which would plunge Britain into a political crisis at the same time as her Army in France was facing the prospect of annihilation.

Back in the Foreign Office, the Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Alexander Cadogan, urged Halifax not ‘to do anything silly under the stress’. Yet Halifax returned to the charge at the War Cabinet the following day – Tuesday, May 28 – arguing that Britain might get ‘better terms before France went out of the war and our aircraft factories were being bombed’.

Churchill again dissented but the crucial contribution came from Chamberlain. At this critical moment, the man who had made the cataclysmic mistake of trusting Hitler in 1938, announced that he agreed with Churchill. 

There was no doubt that continuing the fight was a serious risk, he said. But the alternative – not fighting – also ‘involved a serious gamble’. 

The mere exploration of peace talks, he explained, ‘would ruin the fighting integrity in this country’. There was not the remotest possibility Hitler would offer acceptable terms and, when the Germans revealed the British had sued for peace, the determination of the British people to continue the struggle would evaporate. British prestige, it was true, was currently very low

He, therefore, believed that ‘it was no good making an approach [to Mussolini] on the lines proposed.’ It was a vital intervention, and completely contrary to the version most recently promoted by Hollywood.

Churchill now moved to checkmate Halifax. He asked the War Cabinet to reconvene at 7pm, after he had met with the wider Cabinet, so far excluded from these discussions. 

When the 25 Ministers convened in the Prime Minister’s room in the House of Commons that afternoon, Churchill began by giving them an unvarnished account of the situation at Dunkirk.

During the previous day only 7,699 troops had been evacuated from the beaches (a tiny fraction of those who were waiting to be rescued) and it was more than possible they were on the verge of witnessing ‘the greatest British military defeat for many centuries’.

In these circumstances, he confessed he had wondered whether it was part of his duty as Prime Minister to consider entering into negotiations with ‘That Man’. But the answer was no. It was delusional, he argued, to believe Britain would get better terms from Hitler now, than if she carried on and fought it out.

The Germans, he said, would demand the Royal Navy and significant chunks of the Empire. Britain would become a ‘slave state’ under Fascist leader Oswald Mosley or some other Nazi puppet.

Furthermore, Britain had considerable reserves and strategic advantages. Only a few days earlier, the Chiefs of Staff had produced a report (euphemistically entitled British Strategy In A Certain Eventuality, ie the collapse of France), which argued Britain could hope to survive the war, alone, providing her Navy and Air Force remained intact to repel a German invasion.

Therefore, Churchill concluded in the most simple yet dramatic terms: ‘We shall go on and we shall fight it out, here or elsewhere and if this long island story is to end at last, let it end only when each of us lies choking in his own blood.’

As the Labour MP and Minister for Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton, recorded ‘there was not even the faintest flicker of dissent’ and, when the meeting was over, there were cheers and much slapping of the Prime Ministerial back.

Later, when Churchill recounted the meeting to the reconvened War Cabinet, he stated that he could not remember a gathering of so many senior politicians having expressed themselves so emphatically. 

None had flinched when confronted with the danger that lay ahead and, on the contrary, there was universal rejoicing when he told them there was no chance of giving up the struggle.

Most Conservative MPs had wanted the former appeaser, Lord Halifax, to succeed Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and there was a widespread view within Westminster that Churchill was a dangerous adventurer

Outmanoeuvred, Halifax was forced to accept defeat. He raised the French desire for an appeal to President Roosevelt but when Churchill vetoed this, arguing that a ‘bold stand’ would command the respect of the United States but a ‘grovelling appeal would have the worst possible effect’, he did not demur. Churchill had won.

The Second World War had many decisive moments: the invasion of the Soviet Union by Hitler’s armies in June 1941; the halting of the German offensive before the gates of Moscow six months later; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the war; Stalingrad; D-Day, to name only the most important.

Yet, I agree with the late historian John Lukas that the debates in the War Cabinet between May 26 and 28, 1940, were the real ‘hinge of fate’.

As we all know, Britain did not and could not win the war single-handed. Yet, in 1940, she was the only country capable of losing it. Had Churchill faltered, Hitler would have been victorious. Europe would have fallen entirely under the shadow of the swastika and the possibility of salvation by the US would have disappeared.

Even if Hitler had persisted with what proved his suicidal bid to conquer the Soviet Union, then history, under these circumstances, could have been different.

Without the belligerency of Great Britain – fighting in North Africa and at sea, restricting supplies and bombing German cities – Germany would have been exponentially stronger. The Russians would have received none of the tanks, aeroplanes and raw materials supplied by Britain and the US and there would have been no chance of a second front in Western Europe.

It is for these reasons we owe such a debt to Churchill. He had been wrong about a range of issues before 1940 and was not always sound in his judgment thereafter. But when European civilisation teetered on the brink of destruction, he showed courage, perspicacity, tact and leadership.

It is to the world’s enduring gratitude that Britain had such a Prime Minister at a such a time.

Tim Bouverie’s Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill And The Road To War is out now in paperback.

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Tomorrow is a turning point – we urge you to flash some cash to help our ailing economy – The Sun

TOMORROW may not be the end of the lockdown but it is surely the beginning of the end.

The lifeblood of Britain’s communities — outdoor markets and primary schools — will start pumping again.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

Families and friends wrenched apart by the pandemic will reunite over barbecues.

Car showrooms will be open and the rest of the high street is only a couple of weeks behind.

Yes, we must remain vigilant.

But this unlocking is the uplift Britain needs.

People should, of course, continue to wash hands frequently, stick rigidly to social distancing and not throw away what has been so painfully achieved.

As the scientists have reminded us, a second surge of this terrible virus would be a catastrophe.

But remember also that traders and small businesses are in desperate need of any help they can get.

We urge you to visit a market tomorrow and flash some cash for the sake of the ailing economy.

As Del Boy star Sir David Jason says: “Local traders all need a boost to get back on their feet.’’

We couldn’t agree more, Mon Ami.

BBC Viewsnight

TORY grandee Sir Gerald Howarth is right to ask the BBC’s boss why he has not yet reprimanded Emily Maitlis.

Her extraordinary Newsnight rant about Dominic Cummings was a disgraceful flouting of the Corporation’s impartiality rules.

The former minister has sent a dossier of BBC bias to Corporation Director General Lord Hall.

But he shouldn’t hold his breath for a quick response.

Ms Maitlis will likely escape any serious reprimand as BBC bosses will not want to stir up a revolt among her leftie colleagues.

It is an appalling state of affairs if a front-line presenter can get away with such a flagrant breach of the rules on a flagship programme.

Yet to the BBC’s anti-Tory diehards this is a new normal.

Lives at stake

IT IS shocking there are no lifeguards patrolling huge areas of beaches, even though several swimmers have drowned.

The £160,000-a-year boss of the RNLI, Mark Dowie, has complained he did not get enough warning before the Government announced beaches would reopen.

But it does not take a genius to predict that when the sun comes out people will flock to the seaside.

Get your act together, Mr Dowie, before more people lose their lives.

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George Floyd protests in New Jersey draw thousands but remain peaceful

Protests of the George Floyd killing sprung up in Newark, NJ as thousands vented their rage after the unarmed black man died while in police custody in Minneapolis this week.

While Floyd’s death has sparked violence and riots in Atlanta, Oakland, Detroit, Louisville and Brooklyn, the New Jersey protests were peaceful.

The Newark protest, organized by the People’s Organization for Progress, started with a rally in front of the Lincoln statue near the city’s historic courthouse, NJ.com reported. Demonstrators chanted  “George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe,” “Power to the people,” and “Arrest them all!,” referring to the four Minneapolis police officers seen on video arresting  Floyd. One, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

A rally in Englewood drew a crowd of more than 1,000, northjersey.com reported.

The protest began at Mackay Park and continued with a march to the Englewood police station, where participants read aloud the names of 84 black people killed in encounters with police.

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Judge in Michael Flynn case pressing to keep prosecution alive

The federal judge overseeing the sentencing of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — who refused to dismiss Flynn’s guilty plea after the Department of Justice asked him to drop the case — is going to tell it to the judge himself.

US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan is preparing to file a defense of his actions by Monday to his higher-ups on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Bloomberg News reported.

But the Friday release of declassified transcripts of the phone calls at the heart of the case could complicate Sullivan’s argument.

Flynn, President Trump’s National Security Adviser in the early weeks of his administration, was pushed out of his job after details of a phone call between him and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were leaked to the media.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the call in 2017, after Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigated it as part of his probe of alleged Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign.

But he has asked for the plea to be withdrawn — and Attorney General Bill Barr moved to drop the case entirely, saying that the FBI’s investigation into Flynn was unjustified in the first place.

On Friday, when contents of the phone calls were released, the general’s backers said they proved Flynn’s account — and showed that the calls were aboveboard.

“All of the innuendo about Lt. General Flynn this whole time was totally bunk … and the FBI knew it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

But Sullivan has hired a high-powered Washington, D.C. defense attorney to help him keep the case against Flynn alive.

Senate hearings on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation start on Wednesday, with testimony from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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New York’s top lawmakers call Brooklyn protests ‘warranted,’ urge de-escalation

New York’s top state lawmakers issued a statement Saturday calling protests in Brooklyn “warranted,” but strongly urged all sides to deescalate tensions.

“Protests have been unfolding across the country and here in New York. Let’s be clear — the reason for the protests themselves is warranted and too familiar,” State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a joint statement.

“Our hope is the heartfelt demonstrations do not lead to more violence, injuries or worse,” they continued. “From what we have witnessed, there must be better coordinated efforts to help de-escalate tensions and allow for our citizens to protest injustices.”

The statement also referenced State Sen. Zellnor Y. Myrie and State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson who were both pepper sprayed during unrest near Fort Greene Park.

Tensions have flared in the Big Apple and around the country after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday. Minnesota — the epicenter of rioting — has seen four days of chaos, looting and arson, with Gov. Tim Walz warning the Pentagon might have to get involved to quell the unrest.

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Stilton and Melton Mowbray pork pies are under EU copycat threat

Stilton, Scotch whisky and Melton Mowbray pork pies are at risk from Brexit trade deal that would remove copycat laws

  • EU ‘to reject demands for stronger legal protections for UK regional products’ 
  • This could put British produce including Melton Mowbray pork pies under threat
  • Britain has already agreed to protect EU regional products such as parma ham

The identities of Stilton, Scotch whisky and Melton Mowbray pork pies could all be under threat after Brexit.

The EU is expected to reject demands for stronger legal protections for UK regional products in trade talks next week.

This is despite Britain promising to protect European products such as champagne and Parma ham.

British GI products – including Scotch whisky, Cumberland sausages, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton and Welsh lamb – were worth an estimated £7billion in 2017 [File photo]

While EU product protection was agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, British negotiators failed to get the same guarantees for our regional produce, according to The Daily Telegraph.

There are currently 83 British food and drink products on the EU’s register of Geographical Indications, or GIs. This makes it illegal to create rip-off versions, using the same names.

British GI products – including Scotch whisky, Cumberland sausages, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton and Welsh lamb – were worth an estimated £7billion in 2017.

But while the EU’s 3,347 GIs are already protected in the UK post-Brexit, it is thought British products will be taken off the register at the end of the transition period, unless something can be agreed.

There are currently 83 British food and drink products on the EU’s register of Geographical Indications, or GIs. This makes it illegal to create rip-off versions, using the same names. Stilton cheese is pictured above [File photo]

David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, told MPs earlier this week: ‘The problem with the Withdrawal Agreement … is that it requires us to protect EU GIs in this country in perpetuity but does not place any such obligation on the EU to protect ours. We would like to have something that is a bit more balanced.’

Mr Frost is a former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, an industry worth £5.5billion to the economy.

A spokesman for the association said: ‘The GI system is a critical guarantee of Scotch whisky’s quality and provenance, and has been a key factor in our industry’s export success.’

British officials argue that the Withdrawal Agreement calls for the current arrangement for existing GIs to be replaced. 

But an EU source told The Telegraph: ‘We have no intention of reopening the Withdrawal Agreement.’

Trade experts said the prospect of securing better protection for regional products at the next round of talks, which begin on Tuesday, was not good. Sam Lowe, of the Centre for European Reform, said: ‘I’m slightly at a loss as to why the UK thinks it can reopen the discussion on GIs, having already conceded to EU demands.’

The EU is expected to reject demands for stronger legal protections for UK regional products in trade talks next week. This is despite Britain promising to protect European products such as champagne and Parma ham [File photo]

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Wartime cover star, now aged 100, tells her extraordinary story

The dashing deb who became a Land Girl pin-up: Wartime cover star known as the ‘girl with the tractor’, now aged 100, tells her extraordinary story of love, high society and drinking with the Queen Mother

  • The cover on a 1941 Picture Post magazine was one of the war’s iconic images
  • But for almost 80 years few knew the identity of the Women’s Land Army recruit
  • She is Patricia Fack, a former debutante who went on to marry a Dutch diplomat
  • Mrs Fack celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday and looked back on her life

Her blonde hair is waved; she wears carmine lipstick and a chunky hand-knitted sweater as she poses smiling, in elegant profile, at the wheel of a tractor.

What image could more strikingly sum up the potent mix of grit and glamour of World War II’s Land Girls? 

The photo on the cover of Picture Post magazine in 1941 became one of the war’s most iconic images, and made its subject a Forces’ pin-up.

But for almost 80 years, few – other than her close family and friends – have known the identity of the Women’s Land Army (WLA) recruit. 

Now we can reveal that the ‘girl with the tractor’ is Patricia Fack (nee Hawkins), a former debutante who went on to marry a Dutch diplomat.

The cover photo on Picture Post magazine in 1941 became one of the war’s most iconic images. It is now revealed that the ‘girl with the tractor’ is Patricia Fack, a former debutante who married a Dutch diplomat

After a five-year stint driving tractors, ploughing fields and milking cows alongside women from all walks of life – from prostitutes to factory girls – the irrepressible Mrs Fack travelled the world as an ambassador’s wife, socialising with royalty and high society but always keeping a keen eye on life’s absurdities.

Yesterday, she celebrated her 100th birthday with Zoom calls from her four sons and grandchildren and a slice of cake at the family’s Cotswolds mansion. 

Holding a glass of champagne she declared: ‘Life is full of surprises. Make the most of it!’

The redoubtable – and highly entertaining – centenarian reflects that her own life has been a perfect example of that.

She entered fashionable society in 1938, when she was presented to King George VI at a coming-out ball. A few years later she was working at a Staffordshire farm. ‘I was a debutante and a very spoilt one at that,’ she reflects gaily.

‘Who would have thought that three years after I curtseyed to the King in my ballgown at Buckingham Palace I’d be ploughing fields on my Fordson tractor and milking cows in my wellingtons?’

Land girls replaced male agricultural labourers called up to fight. At its peak, there were 80,000 in the WLA, many volunteers, like Patricia, and some conscripted.

The work was tough: mustered by the rallying cry ‘Feed the Nation’, Land Girls worked machinery, felled trees, milked cows, reclaimed land for crop planting and sometimes worked alongside prisoners of war.

Patricia, daughter of affluent brick and tile manufacturer Henry Hawkins of Cannock, Staffordshire, signed up nine days after the war began in 1939.

‘My father said: ‘Well, war has started, the second in my lifetime, and we all have to do something.’ 

So he went into the Home Guard [he was too old for the Army], my mother into the Red Cross, my brother the Navy and I signed up for the WLA.

But for almost 80 years, few – other than her close family and friends – have known the identity of the Women’s Land Army (WLA) recruit. Yesterday, she celebrated her 100th birthday with family Zoom calls and a slice of cake at the family’s Cotswolds mansion

‘I got a letter telling me to report for tuition at Rodbaston Agricultural College nearby.

‘They taught me how to milk cows, work in the dairy, drive a tractor and plough a furrow.

‘It was long hours and darned hard, but good fun. Some of the trainees were London prostitutes who sat on the hay wagon and sang rude songs, which made us all roar with laughter.

‘We wore jodhpurs, sweaters and wellington boots and my first job was at a dairy farm.

‘I lived in, and it was so bitterly cold in the winter I could scratch my name in the ice on the inside of my bedroom window. But we had wonderful food.

‘I had to get up at 6am to milk the cows – there were machines, even then – and then bottle the milk and load it onto a van; all 1,500 pints of it! Then I delivered the milk, and one of the calls on my round was to Stafford Prison.

‘It cheered the prisoners no end to have a 21-year-old girl delivering their milk. I loved it, too.

‘After I’d finished my round I went back to the farm to wash and disinfect the milk bottles. I’d had deportment lessons and been presented at court, but I’d never done any manual labour before.’

Patricia worked on several farms. On one, she was contracted out to plough grassland into fields to grow crops. ‘I didn’t find tractor-driving hard. I already had a little Morris 8.’

Funny, formidable and fearless, Patricia was also a great beauty. So it is no surprise that she caught the attention of Picture Post. The pioneering photojournalism magazine, which closed in 1957, sold nearly two million copies weekly in the war. She was photographed by the legendary Bert Hardy and interviewed by Anne Scott-James – one of Britain’s first women career journalists. But Patricia refused to be named in print.

‘I forbade it because I’d had some bad publicity before. I’d broken off an engagement and it hadn’t been well-reported.’

Despite her anonymity, Patricia became a Forces’ pin-up. ‘I got quite a following,’ she says.

‘I was never short of escorts. There were no affairs, just innocent courtships.’

The cover sparked fan mail. ‘I had a wonderful telegram from a couple of British Army officers serving in Africa. It said: ‘Congratulations Picture Post from two adoring officers in Nigeria.’ ‘

Soon after publication, Patricia – widowed ten years ago – met husband-to-be, dashing Dutchman Robbert Fack, whose own story is full of derring-do.

Robbert, tall and with a mischievous sense of humour, was an officer in the Dutch coastal artillery when the Germans overran Holland in 1940. 

After a five-year stint driving tractors, Mrs Fack travelled as an ambassador’s wife, socialising with royalty. Pictured, Patricia and her husband Robbert as Netherlands Ambassador and Ambassadress receiving the Queen Mother in 1981 at the London Dutch Embassy

He escaped in a fishing boat to England, where he was interrogated by soldiers.

‘One said: ‘Be careful. He speaks bloody good English. He might be a spy.’ And his English was brilliant,’ says Patricia.

Robbert soon joined the Princess Irene Brigade – a regiment of Netherlanders serving in exile – and was made adjutant.

In 1941 he met Patricia, whose mother Dorothy, a Red Cross quartermaster, looked after convalescing Dutch troops.

The officers held a dinner dance and Patricia went with her parents. ‘Robbert opened the door to us and he says it was love at first sight,’ she remembers. ‘I think I took a bit longer.’

Two years later, they married at Holy Trinity, Brompton in London’s South Kensington. It set the scene for the glittering ambassadorial life to come.

Typically, Patricia remembers the absurdities, as well as the romance, of the occasion.

‘The church was packed and I wore a lovely dress I’d designed myself. Then we went off to our honeymoon, and to my horror, one of my father’s friends – a real joker – was staying in our hotel. He kept knocking on our bedroom door on our wedding night, shouting: ‘Hello Patricia. How are you getting on?’

Afterwards, they returned to their wartime duties. Robbert landed in Normandy just after D-Day and took part in the liberation of Amsterdam, his hometown. 

After the war, he served at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague and the United Nations in New York, Rome, Canberra and Bonn.

Patricia, of course, joined him in this peripatetic life.

She remembers their glorious homes: in New York they lived in a mansion leased from the fabulously wealthy Vanderbilt family. ‘We had a wonderful view of the East River with boats gliding by our drawing room,’ she recalls.

Her husband’s final post was as Dutch Ambassador to London, from 1976 to 1986, where they lived in the ambassadorial house in Kensington.

‘It was huge! We had five or six maids and an Italian butler,’ she remembers.

She recalls the Queen Mother coming to dinner in 1981. ‘She was great fun and loved a drink. She stayed very late. I had to stop the butler filling up our glasses at the end. Then the Queen Mother said: ‘It’s been a lovely evening. I hope I haven’t kept you up.’

‘I went to hold her arm as she got up out of her chair, but she was quite steady on her feet.

‘In return, we were invited to stay at Windsor Castle. We were given a lovely room overlooking Park Drive. It had two doors. One opened onto a corridor and I opened it in my underwear, to find two guards outside.

‘They looked very surprised to see me there wearing practically nothing, and I just banged the door shut,’ she laughs.

Her life has been richly lived; her memories remain sharp. She is in lockdown with a step-granddaughter and her husband. Video calls from sons Julian, 75, James, 74, and twins Jerome and John, 69, marked her birthday.

‘I still look back on my life and think what a thing it was to have gone from a farm to an embassy,’ she reflects.

We now need a battalion of fruit pickers – a new Land Army – to harvest crops. So I wonder what Patricia would say to young people considering such work. ‘Go and pick!’ she urges. ‘It’s hard but rewarding. I loved it.’

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Judge says he can’t force Health Department to give nurses protective gear

A New York judge has ruled in a nurses union lawsuit that he can’t force the state Department of Health to provide personal protective equipment to nurses or make the agency change its sick leave policy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) filed an emergency lawsuit last month asking a judge to make the DOH enforce Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to provide one N-95 mask per day to medical workers and make the agency bring its coronavirus sick leave policy in line with the state’s.

The state law allows for people with COVID-19 to receive two weeks’ paid sick leave, while the DOH issued a directive that nurses and other medical workers who test positive could return to work after only seven days, the lawsuit said.

But Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Frank Nervo determined the court couldn’t “substitute its judgement for that of an administrative agency, such as the respondent DOH.”

Even so, with regard to medical leave, the DOH “reached a determination on isolation and return to work guidelines for health care workers rationally,” Nervo’s Thursday decision reads.

The judge said that rather than sue the DOH, the union could sue “the individual hospitals and healthcare providers it alleges have violated the return to work directive or failed to provide PPE in accordance with applicable standards, guidance, and regulations.”

The NYSNA also filed suit against Montefiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center for failing to protect nurses’ health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, including by not providing PPE and safe working conditions.

The NYSNA and the DOH did not immediately return a request for comment.

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