Medics and unsung volunteers win recognition in the Queen’s birthday honours

Doctors, nurses and unsung heroes were honoured yesterday for their part in the fight against Covid.

Frontline workers and volunteers won recognition alongside the famous and powerful in a salute to those who tackled the pandemic.

The Queen’s birthday honours were postponed from June so the debt of gratitude could be acknowledged. It means NHS carers, scientists, supermarket delivery drivers and charity helpers take pride of place.

Boris Johnson said the awards showed Britain was ‘caring, compassionate and resolute’.

Honours were also granted to scientists who advised the Government on responding to coronavirus despite the ongoing controversy over lockdown decisions and their economic impact.

More than 400 carers and volunteers were on a list that included:

  • Knighthoods for actor David Suchet and singer Tommy Steele, soap creator Phil Redmond and athletics ace Brendan Foster;
  • Damehoods for TV stars Mary Berry and Maureen Lipman, and novelist Susan Hill;
  • Covid honours for footballer and school meals campaigner Marcus Rashford, and lockdown fitness stars Joe Wicks and Mr Motivator; 
  • A special award for David Attenborough, who becomes a Knight Grand Cross; 
  • An Order of the Companions of Honour for fashion designer Sir Paul Smith; 
  • CBEs for billionaire brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa, a week after they bought supermarket chain Asda for £6.8billion; 
  • A knighthood for Tory donor Tony Gallagher, who is a friend of David Cameron. 

The decision to reflect the coronavirus fight in the birthday honours led to an unprecedented 4,000 public nominations.

Officials said they had been humbled by examples of courage, selflessness and determination shown by key workers and volunteers, including many who risked their lives.

Dying Covid hospital patients were helped to say their final goodbyes to their families thanks to Alison Williams

The Prime Minister said: ‘This year’s honours recipients are a testament to the sort of country we are – caring, compassionate and resolute in the face of a global pandemic.

‘The hard work and dedication of these local, often unsung, heroes has helped carry us through. I congratulate them all.’

Charity fundraisers, hospital porters and supermarket delivery drivers and home school entrepreneurs were among those handed honours.

They included Dabirul Islam Choudhury, who raised more than £400,000 by walking 970 laps of his garden while fasting for Ramadan. His family said the 100-year-old wept with joy when he learned he was to be awarded an OBE.

NHS nurse Felicia Kwaku was given an OBE for her work at King’s College Hospital in south London. She said: ‘It’s not just about me, it’s about my fallen colleagues.’

There were also OBEs for the men who developed the NHS volunteering app, Professor Mark Wilson and Ali Ghorbangholi. More than 750,000 people signed up in the first 48 hours of its launch in April.

Mr Ghorbangholi, 29 and from Ealing in west London, said: ‘The response to the app was really heart-warming, it reached a lot of people which shows the levels people are willing to go to help others, it’s a real testament to the people of England.’

In total, 1,495 honours were granted, including 414 for services during the pandemic. Fourteen per cent went to healthcare and social care workers.

This year’s list is also the most diverse in the history of the honours, with black and minority ethnic groups accounting for 13 per cent of all recipients. This followed calls for greater recognition, prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests.   

Geoff Norris used his own car on his days off to ensure the elderly and vulnerable got their shopping during lockdown

Geoff Norris used his own car on his days off to ensure the elderly and vulnerable got their shopping during lockdown

Helping families say goodbye with dignity

Dying Covid hospital patients were helped to say their final goodbyes to their families thanks to Alison Williams. The 41-year-old raised money to buy iPads to allow isolated patients in intensive care to speak to relatives who were not allowed to visit. The mother-of-two, who has been awarded the British Empire Medal, said: ‘I got a personal message from somebody who saw her dad for the last time through one of the iPads, and that obviously touched me.

‘That will stay with me for ever.’ Mrs Williams, a nurse at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, also launched a charity called Rainbow Boxes at the height of the pandemic to give supplies of pyjamas and toiletries to emergency patients and it has raised more than £50,000.

Asda driver who delivered on day off

Geoff Norris used his own car on his days off to ensure the elderly and vulnerable got their shopping during lockdown. When the ASDA driver learned one pensioner would be spending her 90th birthday alone, he organised a surprise party – and he and around 20 colleagues brought her cake and flowers, read birthday messages from her family in New Zealand.

Mr Norris, 53, said: ‘It made her day, but I think we were even more made up for her.’ Mr Norris, from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, said he, wife Vanessa and their daughter Anna, 22, took shopping orders from pensioners who could not book deliveries online. He and his supermarket colleagues then delivered the groceries on their days off. Mr Norris said: ‘There were a lot of people that were in need and they were scared, and we just thought, “let’s just do something”. We just did all we could.’

Dabirul Islam Choudhury, 100, walked 970 laps of his garden while fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after taking inspiration from charity fundraiser Sir Tom Moore

Dabirul Islam Choudhury, 100, walked 970 laps of his garden while fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after taking inspiration from charity fundraiser Sir Tom Moore

Jay Flynn's his first online pub quiz attracted interest from almost 250,000 people, and he has now raised more than £750,000 for charity

Jay Flynn’s his first online pub quiz attracted interest from almost 250,000 people, and he has now raised more than £750,000 for charity

Penelope Bond set up a nationwide network of volunteers writing letters to elderly care home residents called 'Letter to a Friend'

Penelope Bond set up a nationwide network of volunteers writing letters to elderly care home residents called ‘Letter to a Friend’

The 100-year-old garden fundraiser

Dabirul Islam Choudhury wept with joy when he learned he was to receive an OBE, his family said yesterday. The 100-year-old walked 970 laps of his garden while fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, after taking inspiration from charity fundraiser Sir Tom Moore. The grandfather-of-three from Bow, East London, had initially aimed to complete 100 laps but kept going and has now raised more than £400,000 for charity.

MBEs for footballer and two fitness gurus 

By Claire Ellicott, Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail 

England footballer Marcus Rashford has been given an MBE after he triggered a government U-turn on free school meals.

The Manchester United player was honoured for his services to vulnerable children in the UK during the pandemic.

Marcus Rashford, 22, lobbied the Government into continuing its free school meals policy during lockdown over the summer

Marcus Rashford, 22, lobbied the Government into continuing its free school meals policy during lockdown over the summer

Mr Rashford, 22, lobbied the Government into continuing its free school meals policy during lockdown over the summer.

He has since formed a child food poverty task force, linking up with some of the country’s biggest supermarkets and food brands.

Fitness coach Joe Wicks, 35, was also made an MBE for helping children keep active and mentally fit with online PE lessons during lockdown, and for his charity efforts.

Fitness coach Joe Wicks, 35, was also made an MBE for helping children keep active and mentally fit with online PE lessons during lockdown, and for his charity efforts

Fitness coach Joe Wicks, 35, was also made an MBE for helping children keep active and mentally fit with online PE lessons during lockdown, and for his charity efforts

His YouTube workouts raised £580,000 for the NHS.

He said yesterday: ‘I can’t quite believe it… To receive this is just incredible. I’m so proud that I’ve done something which helps so many people.’

He thanked those who joined the workouts and made them a ‘special moment in my life’.

Wicks claimed a Guinness World Record for live streaming after one of his online classes attracted almost a million viewers.

Fitness instructor Mr Motivator – real name Derrick Evans, 67 – was also made an MBE and said yesterday he felt ‘blessed’.

He said of his OBE: ‘I feel proud they have honoured me.’

The matron who delayed retirement

Susan Williams put off her own retirement so she could keep caring for Chelsea Pensioners.

The 60-year-old worked through the pandemic at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where elderly Army veterans were shielded from Covid-19. Mrs Williams, a nurse since she was 19, said her work throughout the pandemic was inspired by her mother, who was also a nurse but died last year. She is now planning her delayed retirement to the Cotswolds with husband Graham.

The mother-of-four, was awarded an OBE, said: ‘I think when you’re in the middle of a crisis you don’t have time to think about how difficult it is. You just have to get on with it and that’s what we did.’

Record-breaking quizmaster

When Jay Flynn set up an online pub quiz during lockdown, he expected a handful of entrants. But his first quiz attracted interest from almost 250,000 people, and he has now raised more than £750,000 for charity. One special edition of his weekly quiz, hosted by Stephen Fry, raised £140,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK and the event holds the Guinness World Record for most viewers of a live stream quiz, with more than 182,000 people playing. Mr Flynn, 38, from Darwen in Lancashire, said: ‘I’m proud to know we played our part.’ He has donated thousands to a London homelessness charity that helped him when he was on the streets for two years. He is now married with a three-year-old son and was awarded an MBE.

Letters to the lonely in lockdown

Penelope Bond set up a nationwide network of volunteers writing letters to elderly care home residents. An employee of London North East Railway (LNER), she set up ‘Letter to a Friend’.

She first got involved with her local care home in Grantham, Lincolnshire, asking residents if they would like to receive personalised, handwritten letters. But it wasn’t long before letters, postcards, puzzles and poems were being sent to more than 150 care homes around the country, with over 35,000 messages sent to residents.

‘Care home residents are currently very much isolated, with no access to visitors so sending letters, poems and pictures is a way of trying to put a smile on their faces,’ said Penny, who was awarded a BEM.

Carer’s 24/7 support for the elderly

Lynne Grieves moved out of her own home and into a care home for 12 weeks to look after elderly residents at the height of the pandemic. The 57-year-old nurse gave round-the-clock support at the Northlea Court Care Home in Northumberland – helping it remain free of infection.

The work of dedicated staff meant the care home did not use agency workers, and Miss Grieves said she believed that was key to keeping the home virus-free. She said: ‘The residents are like an extended family and you just care for them like you hope somebody would care for your relative.’ BEM recipient Miss Grieves normally lives with her 82-year-old mother Ann, but kept in contact with her via daily video calls so the octogenarian was also protected.

She said: ‘It was a difficult decision to leave mum but she was high-risk and I didn’t want to take any chances. My niece looked after her while I was away and so I knew she was in good hands.’

Lynne Grieves moved out of her own home and into a care home for 12 weeks to look after elderly residents at the height of the pandemic

Lynne Grieves moved out of her own home and into a care home for 12 weeks to look after elderly residents at the height of the pandemic

Ashleigh Linsdell (centre) spearheaded a national campaign to make scrubs for frontline workers when supplies ran dangerously low

Ashleigh Linsdell (centre) spearheaded a national campaign to make scrubs for frontline workers when supplies ran dangerously low

Determined to protect his family from coronavirus, Jatinder Singh Harchowal lived apart from them for eight weeks while he worked at Britain’s first Nightingale Hospital

Determined to protect his family from coronavirus, Jatinder Singh Harchowal lived apart from them for eight weeks while he worked at Britain’s first Nightingale Hospital

As shelves were cleared by panic buying and the vulnerable were left struggling to ensure they could eat at the start of the pandemic, Laura Winningham leapt into action

As shelves were cleared by panic buying and the vulnerable were left struggling to ensure they could eat at the start of the pandemic, Laura Winningham leapt into action

Nurse made scrubs for NHS workers

Ashleigh Linsdell spearheaded a national campaign to make scrubs for frontline workers when supplies ran dangerously low. The A&E nurse used her own money to buy fabric and appealed for help on social media. More than 70,000 volunteers helped make 1.2 million items of PPE and one million face coverings. Mrs Linsdell, 30, from Cambridge, said volunteers had got in touch from around the world after she set up a Facebook page called For the Love of Scrubs. She said of her OBE: ‘This doesn’t happen to normal people, and I’m just a nurse.’

Nightingale hospital pharmacist

Determined to protect his family from coronavirus, Jatinder Singh Harchowal lived apart from them for eight weeks while he worked at Britain’s first Nightingale Hospital.

The father-of-two said it was hard being apart from his wife Nita and their teenage sons.

But he said the long shifts at the London hospital, where he worked as chief pharmacist, were worthwhile – despite catching coronavirus himself.

The 51-year-old, who was awarded the MBE, set up the pharmacy service and his team in just nine days as the capital’s hospitals struggled to cope with the first wave of the virus. He said: ‘At the peak of the crisis, you really don’t think about what’s going to happen afterwards. Awards and honours were really the last thing on my mind.’

Feeding the needy during pandemic

As shelves were cleared by panic buying and the vulnerable were left struggling to ensure they could eat at the start of the pandemic, Laura Winningham leapt into action. Her initiative resulted in almost four million meals being delivered to the most needy around London, as well as frontline workers. The chief executive of City Harvest London, awarded an OBE, made sure the charity distributed £17million worth of surplus food during lockdown.

The charity, which usually delivers food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other organisations looking after the vulnerable, quickly scaled up its emergency response for the pandemic.

Using rapidly-raised funds, Mrs Winningham, 58, hired dozens more drivers, increased the size of her charity’s warehouse and partnered with major retailers including Morrisons. Using food that would otherwise be wasted, the charity has been feeding 20,000 people per day.  

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