South Wales Echo

Eileen rewrites war mem­oir to teach chil­dren


WORLD War II veteran Eileen Younghus­band has rewrit­ten her award­win­ning wartime mem­oir for a younger audience.

Eileen, who turned 95 on Mon­day, hopes her story will help chil­dren un­der­stand the insecurity the world faces to­day and the hor­ror caused by the Nazi regime she fought.

With post-Brexit up­heaval im­pact­ing the UK and Eu­rope, the for­mer Women’s Aux­il­iary Air Force (WAAF) of­fi­cer be­lieves to­day’s chil­dren and young peo­ple need to un­der­stand Eu­rope’s his­tory.

Eileen, who vol­un­teered for the WAAF aged 19, be­came one of the key play­ers in the fight against Nazi bombers.

Work­ing in fil­ter rooms around Bri­tain she col­lected radar in­for­ma­tion iden­ti­fy­ing en­emy air­craft and warn­ing of air raids and worked at Bletch­ley Park where Ger­man se­cret codes were bro­ken.

Her orig­i­nal book, One Woman’s War, pub­lished in 2011, won the Peo­ple’s Book Prize and in­cluded con­tri­bu­tions from wartime sol­diers’ sweet­heart Dame Vera Lynn and Win­ston Churchill’s grand­daugh­ter Emma Soames.

Eileen, from Sully in the Vale of Glam­or­gan, hopes her chil­dren’s ver­sion will be a “legacy book” to help fu­ture gen­er­a­tions un­der­stand the causes and con­se­quences of war.

“It is my hope that all chil­dren will read my book. I think it is re­ally im­por­tant to en­gage with young peo­ple about World War II.

“World War II was a piv­otal mo­ment in our his­tory.

“I feel my book helps to make a sense of the in­se­cu­ri­ties we all face at the mo­ment.

“In truth I am not go­ing to be around for­ever but if my story can live on from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion this will be won­der­ful. ”

Leav­ing school at 16, Eileen, who fi­nally gained a de­gree aged 85, couldn’t af­ford to go to uni­ver­sity as a teenager.

In­stead she joined the RAF as a “clerk spe­cial du­ties” and had to sign the Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act to work in the top-se­cret fil­ter room col­lect­ing radar in­for­ma­tion key to fight­ing the Nazis.

A tal­ented lin­guist and math­e­ma­ti­cian, she was sent to Bel­gium in the dy­ing days of the war to cal­cu­late where Nazi rock­ets were be­ing fired from with no more than a slide rule to help her.

Af­ter lib­er­a­tion she stayed to trans­late at the Breen­donk con­cen­tra­tion camp to help log atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted there.

Dur­ing her work in the fil­ter rooms she saw the in­va­sion fleet head­ing for the D-Day land­ings and re­ceived the coded warn­ing of the first V2 rocket at­tack on Lon­don.

“Our cal­cu­la­tions not only told the pi­lots in their Spit­fires and Hur­ri­canes where to find the en­emy, we also de­ter­mined where air raid warn­ings would be sounded and where res­cue boats would be sent to pick up downed Al­lied air­men. Truly th­ese were life-and-death de­ci­sions,” she said.

Eileen, who was one of the small group of vet­er­ans asked to speak at the Bat­tle of Bri­tain me­mo­rial ser­vice in St Paul’s Cathe­dral, said she had al­ways be­lieved women’s con­tri­bu­tion to win­ning the war has not had enough at­ten­tion.

“When I wrote One Woman’s War I wanted to shine a light on the work done by the women of the fil­ter room. At the time our po­si­tion in his­tory had al­most been for­got­ten. Now I am so proud that the women’s con­tri­bu­tion has been ac­knowl­edged.” ■ Eileen’s War by Eileen Younghus­band is pub­lished by Candy Jar Books priced £6.99. It is avail­able from www.can­dy­jar­

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