Charles and Camilla thank distribution centre staff for work during outbreak

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited an Asda distribution centre to thank staff who have worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Charles and Camilla met some of the 700 workers at the centre in Bristol on Thursday, as well as delivery drivers and those based at nearby stores.

Staff told how they had returned from retirement, worked extra hours and different shift patterns, and had postponed holidays to cope with increased demand at supermarkets.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall during their visit
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at the centre in Bristol (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

The event took place in a marquee outside the main building, with people keeping two metres apart to maintain social distancing.

Chris Tilly, 48, general manager of the distribution centre, said work had been “really, really challenging” and paid tribute to staff.

“We’ve had a lot of support from colleagues right across the business working extra hours, extra shifts to keep the shelves filled for customers,” Mr Tilly said.

“I think it is fantastic that the prince and duchess have taken the time out to come to the distribution centre and meet colleagues.

The royal couple
The royal couple thanked staff who have worked throughout the outbreak (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

“Every single colleague that they saw they thanked for what they had done during the last 14 weeks, which I was truly humbled by.

“They were really interested in what the colleagues did within Asda, how long they had worked for us and just wanted to know how they had been doing while working through the pandemic.”

After the couple arrived at the site, they were greeted by Peaches Golding, the Lord-Lieutenant of Bristol.

They were told of the work Asda has been undertaking with Business in the Community, a business-led membership organisation, as well as charity partners FareShare and the Trussell Trust.

Charles with Asda staff members
Charles with Asda staff members (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Ruth Cadenhead, 62, a home shopper based in Patchway, Bristol, spoke to the couple about Asda’s work with the charities.

Mrs Cadenhead retired from teaching two years ago and had been volunteering with Thornbury food bank, as well as at Eastwood Park prison.

“I’ve been working for Asda for about 12 weeks – since the call-out for extra help,” she said.

“Many, many people couldn’t get out for food and so deliveries were very important.

“In the shop, we have people doing shopping for many families and we assist them too.”

The royal coupled unveiling a plaque
The royal coupled unveiled a plaque marking their visit (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Richard Sigward, 74, a warehouse operator, has been working for Asda for 17 years and told the couple that he refuses to retire.

“The duchess was saying to me she definitely agrees that if people can work and are happy to do it, they should carry on,” Mr Sigward said.

“She said she refuses to retire herself. The prince was the same.”

At the end of the visit, Charles and Camilla unveiled a plaque marking the day.

Charles told staff: “Thank you, thank you very much everybody. You deserve a stiff drink after all this.”

The couple next visited the Turnbull & Asser shirt factory, where staff switched their entire production line to make scrubs for the NHS in the early stages of the pandemic.

Turnbull & Asser, which was founded in 1885 and makes luxurious shirts and ties for many famous clients including Charles, hired new machines and produced medical-grade NHS scrubs for eight weeks.

Charles and Camilla’s visit was held in the car park of the company’s factory in the Quedgeley area of Gloucester.

While being introduced to staff, Charles was told the firm also makes pyjamas and the prince asked one employee: “Are you the pyjama expert?”

He then asked: “Was it a very busy time trying to make these scrubs? You kept up with demand? Brilliant.

“It made such a difference and it made such a difference to the local GP as I managed to put them in touch with your beautifully made scrubs.”

Before leaving, Charles and Camilla signed the visitors’ book.

Speaking after their visit, managing director Jonathan Baker said: “We closed the factory on March 24 as we felt it was the right thing to do but we soon recognised there was a shortage of PPE and said what could we do.

“We were quite slow at first as it was completely different machinery but we got up to speed very quickly.”

He said the company was “grateful and humble” that Charles and Camilla had recognised its work during the pandemic.

“Really it is a credit to the team and they have been incredible through this and for them to have that acknowledged by this visit is quite incredible,” Mr Baker added.

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