Nine Chelsea Pensioners die with coronavirus as hospital marks VE Day

8 May 2020, 09:45

Fred Boomer-Hawkins (middle) taking a selfie with other Chelsea Pensioners on a trip to Durham
Fred Boomer-Hawkins (middle) taking a selfie with other Chelsea Pensioners on a trip to Durham. Picture: Durham County Council
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Nine veterans have died with coronavirus at The Royal Chelsea Hospital as the retirement home marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

The retirement and nursing home for British war veterans confirmed the death of the nine Chelsea Pensioners ahead of VE Day today.

One of the victims to pass away with Covid-19 was 75-year-old Fred Boomer-Hawkins, who died on 1 April.

Mr Hawkins spent 20 years with the Royal Green Jackets infantry regiment and became a Chelsea Pensioner in 2017.

In a tribute on Facebook, his son Terry Hawkins said: "Today I leave a post for all of you who knew my dad, a Chelsea Pensioner and a much-loved father and grandfather and friend to many.

"Sadly at 21:34hrs on 1st April 2020 my dad left us after becoming another victim to this deadly virus."

The retirement home, which houses 290 people, has had 58 of its residents recover after either testing positive for coronavirus or showing symptoms.

Five of the nine deaths occurred inside the home, while the other four died as they were receiving hospital treatment.

Describing his father's last moments, Mr Hawkins wrote: "If the government showed footage of someone at the end with this virus it would scare people and they would heed the advice I am sure.

"Please all stay home, keep your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands. If not you might put someone you love through this.

"My dad was a great man, he was much-loved by many and will be sorely missed."

General Sir Adrian Bradshaw, governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, said: "Most of our Pensioners have risked their lives serving our nation through war and conflict somewhere in the world, just as our NHS staff and care workers are providing vital and sometimes dangerous service to the nation here at home during this Covid crisis.

"We salute all those working in the health and care sectors at this time and we understand only too well the difficulties that they face."

The Royal Chelsea Hospital now has the capacity to test all those who show symptoms of coronavirus, General Bradshaw said, as well as all those living and working in the same accommodation areas.

He added the hospital will be marking VE Day "in a manner appropriate to the current situation."

"We will reflect on the debt that we owe to those who served the nation in every capacity during the Second World War in Europe," the governor said.

"Especially, as we are a home for veterans, we will remember those who were in our armed forces, several of whom are living here in the Royal Hospital."

He said the veterans will enjoy some "internal, socially-distant events" but these will be "against the backdrop of the recent losses we have suffered."

Following the announcement, Chelsea FC tweeted: "All of us at Chelsea Football Club send our deepest condolences to the family, friends and all those who are associated with the Chelsea Pensioners, following today's sad news."

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