A wartime volunteer has won an online book prize for her celebrated memoir – at the age of 91.
Eileen Younghusband, from Sully, was barely out of her teens when she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and worked in filter rooms around Britain, collecting vital radar information identifying enemy aircraft and warning of air raids.
She was later posted to France to prevent rocket attacks and, when war ended, was sent to Belgium to interpret at the liberated Breendonk concentration camp.
Her book – One Woman’s War, published by Cardiff publishing company Candy Jar – recalls her life at war and in post-war Europe. It beat 12 other finalists to win the non-fiction category of the People’s Book Prize.
Eileen, who was awarded a British Empire Medal in this year’s New Year’s Honours for her wartime work, said: “I would like to thank everybody for voting for me. I am delighted.
“However, I do feel some of the recognition must go to the small band of women who went to war and contributed to victory in the filter rooms of RAF Fighter Command in the defence of Britain. I dedicate this award to all of them.”
As well as sending out warnings of air raids, Eileen and fellow filter room officers located allied pilots in distress, helped launch air-sea rescue and guided coastal gun crews.
On the map table Eileen saw the invasion fleet heading for Normandy on D-Day and received the coded warning of the first V2 rocket as it approached London.
Her work was so secret she could not even discuss it with colleagues.
It was not until 1980 that Eileen learned some filter room information came from Germany’s secret code machine Enigma, cracked by teams at Bletchley Park.
Bletchley, now a museum, has placed an order to sell her book, as has London’s Imperial War Museum.
The People’s Book Prize is a literary competition open to all published authors and is judged solely by the general public with voting online.
The annual prize was started in 2010 following the death of its founding patron the writer Dame Beryl Bainbridge.