Covid patient, 102, who worked with Winston Churchill, recovers

‘Fiercely independent’ 102-year-old who did secret work with Winston Churchill in World War Two defeats coronavirus after she had been given two hours to live and family had said their last goodbyes

  • Catherine Grace was taken to Pinderfields Hospital, W Yorks, two weeks ago
  • Given just hours to live last Monday, she then made a miraculous recovery 
  • Mrs Grace worked with war-time PM on London’s South Bank but never revealed nature of her work, she says, as she signed Official Secrets Act 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

A ‘fiercely independent’ 102-year-old woman who once worked with Winston Churchill was given just two hours to live after contracting Covid-19 – but was sitting up in bed with a bowl of Weetabix days later.

Catherine Grace had a secretive government role on London’s South Bank but has never divulged the nature of her work with the war-time prime minister, she says, due to the Official Secrets Act.

She was taken to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, with the deadly disease two weeks ago and, last Monday, doctors told her distraught family to ‘expect the worst’.

However, her cousin, Marie Nebard, 63, couldn’t believe it when a hospital worker rang her two days later and said Mrs Grace had made a ‘miracle recovery’.


Catherine Grace, 102, who once worked with Winston Churchill in a secretive government role, was thought to have only hours to live after contracting Covid-19. But days later, she made a miraculous recovery at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. She is pictured above today, and in the 1940s

Mrs Grace – lovingly known as Auntie Kitt – never divulged the nature of her war-time work, she says, as she signed the Official Secrets Act. Her cousin Marie Nebard said: ‘Auntie Kitt met Winston Churchill through her work a number of times during the war and said he was a very nice man, although she didn’t like the smell of his cigars’

The OAP – lovingly known as Auntie Kitt – was wheeled out of hospital on May 5 to a rapturous round of applause from front-line workers. 

Kitt has now returned to Oak Park care home in Wakefield, where staff threw a ‘welcome back’ party. Her family will be able to visit from a distance in the coming days.

Marie, a mother-of-four,  said: ‘At one point, we were told Auntie Kitt wouldn’t make it through the night and then she might not live for another two hours.

‘The thought of her dying like this was unimaginable but then I got a call saying she had made a miracle recovery and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.’

She added: ‘Me and the family are all so happy Auntie Kitt is well again. She is the most amazingly resilient woman and the backbone of us all.’

Kitt, who is originally from Essex, was made a widower in the 1950s when her WWII RAF veteran husband Alec died from cancer. She never remarried or had children.

Marie said her cousin ‘dedicated her life’ to working in a highly secretive government role, which she has never fully divulged the details of to anyone, even her family.

Kitt, who is originally from Essex, was made a widower in the 1950s when her WWII RAF veteran husband Alec died from cancer. She never remarried or had children

Marie said: ‘We know Auntie Kitt worked for the government on London’s South Bank but whenever we ask more, she says she can’t say because she has signed the Official Secrets Act.

‘She met Winston Churchill through her work a number of times during the war and said he was a very nice man, although she didn’t like the smell of his cigars.’

After her retirement, Kitt continued to be ‘fiercely independent’ and highly active, taking dance classes three times a week right up until she was 99 years old.

Unfortunately, a broken hip stopped her from dancing but Kitt still visits her local market once a week with Marie.

The centenarian was struck down with coronavirus two weeks ago and rushed to a specialist ward at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Marie said: ‘The doctors said she was giving in and was unlikely to survive the night.

The centenarian was struck down with coronavirus two weeks ago and rushed to a specialist ward at Pinderfields Hospital. Restricted from visiting the hospital in person, Marie said goodbye to her cousin over video call and says, despite the situation, Kitt still had a ‘big smile’. Marie has since paid tribute to the ‘incredible’ NHS staff who saved her cousin’s life

‘For her to go that way seemed so cruel. None of us could be there by her side and due to the lockdown, she wouldn’t even get a proper funeral.’

Restricted from visiting the hospital in person, Marie said goodbye to her cousin over video call and says, despite the situation, Kitt still had a ‘big smile’.

When the phone rang the following morning, Marie was sure it would be a nurse delivering the sad news of Kitt’s death.

She said: ‘I was expecting to hear that Auntie Kitt has died, but I was instead told Kitt had made a miracle recovery. I was in absolute shock.

‘She was dying on Monday and then by Wednesday she was sat up in bed having a cup of coffee and a bowl of Weetabix – she’s amazing.’

Marie has paid tribute to the ‘incredible’ NHS staff who saved her cousin’s life, saying she and her family ‘can’t thank them enough’ for what they have done.

Martin Barkley, chief executive at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘I was delighted to hear of the great progress Mrs Grace has made in her recovery. 

‘Everyone at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust would like to wish Kitty and her family all the best for the future.’

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