Northamptonshire woman, who served in the WAAF in World War Two, celebrates turning 100

Jill Wood is celebrating her 100th birthday in style, inviting friends from all over the UK, throwing a big party and enjoying champagne and cake

By Megan Hillery
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 10:12 am
Jill Wood, 100, holding her favourite birthday card. Photo by Kirsty Edmonds.

A Brixworth woman is celebrating turning 100 years old on Sunday (March 6).

Jill (Joan) Dorothy Woodsgrew up in London and moved to Northamptonshire in the 1970sso that her late husband, Charles, could work in the shoe trade.

Being born in 1922, Jill has witnessed historic events including World War Two, during which time she served as a corporal in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

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Jill pictured in a dress she made in Australia at Christmas in 1959.

She has always been extremely fond of travelling and has visited many countries including Spain, France, Poland, Switzerlandand Australia, where she spent three years as a 'ten pound pom' - a colloquial term for British citizens, who were offered £10 to migrate to Australia and New Zealand after the Second World War.

The Chronicle & Echo was invited to Jill's home on Wednesday, March 2 to have a chat with her ahead of her milestone birthday.

"I am amazed at how the time has passed so quickly," Jill said. She pointed to one of the many birthday cards on her sideboard, which had '36,525 days old' written on it. "That's my favourite one," she added.

Perched on the sofa was a worn teddy bear with a wonky smile, a missing ear and threadbare knitwear.

Jill Woods is celebrating turning 100 on Sunday (March 6). Photo by Kirsty Edmonds.

Introducing her old companion, Jill said: "'Ted' is 97 years old. He's a bit worse for wear."

Three giant pink balloons in the shape of the number 100 hovered in her living room to accompany the abundance of cards and gifts. If that was not evidence of Jill's popularity alone, she shared with us her birthday plans that left her booked up for an entire week.

She said: "I've got some friends coming down from Wales and then, a friend of mine from around the corner is allowing me to have her house for my big party so that is going to be just some bubbly and nibbles.

"I'm going out with my two special sets of friends to Rushton Hall so that's lunch and I've got another set of friends taking me to [another] lunch and then we are going back to one of their houses for champagne and cake. Then I have another friend visiting from Devon."

Jill fully intends to see her centenary celebrations out in style, assuring us that she plans to be "drunk from dusk until dawn."

Her whole family were in the Royal Air Force including her father, who served in the First World War, and her brother Jack, who flew in the Lancashire Bombers.

Jack and Jill - true to their names - were inseparable growing up. Jack, who was 14 months older than Jill, died in the Second World War at just the age of 22. He was initially reported missing because people saw his plane come down but it later emerged that he sadly did not make it.

When Jill was younger, she loved to ice-skate, play squash, swim, make her own clothes and travel by train to explore other countries. Nowadays, she enjoys reading books - particularly by Ernest Hemmingway.

Jill has always loved rescuing dogs. She spoke very fondly of one of her former rescue dogs, a Saluki called Jessie.

Jill said: "One thing when you have a dog, you can always talk to strangers. It is a great way to meet men."

One of Jill's closest friends is local carer, Gail, who she met in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Gail spotted Jill outside of a local Co-op store, where an employee was helping her with her shopping bags.

At this time, UK residents aged over 70 were advised to stay indoors and isolate as a Covid-19 safety precaution.

Gail said: "I jumped in front of her mobility scooter to tell her that she should not be out of the house - all over 70s are in Covid-19 lockdown.

"Little did I know, she was 98 by then.

"'Oh, my dear,' Jill said, 'I've been through the war in the WAAF, no virus worries me. But thank you very much of thinking of me, dear.'"

The duo exchanged numbers and Gail asked Jill to phone her if she never needed anything.

Gail rang Jill the following day to ask her if she needed anything from Waitrose and then did some shopping for her. This sparked the beginning of a beautiful friendship and now Gail regularly drops by Jill's home.

Jill, to Gail, said: "If you hadn't phoned me the next day, asking me if I need anything from Waitrose, I would not have rang you. I don't ask for help."

Turning back to me, she added: "She has improved my life beyond measure."

Gail said: "Back at you. You never know when you are going to meet a friend."

Jill said: "I went, 'I feel you are the same age as me.'"

Gail responded: "That did not go down very well."

The Chronicle & Echo asked Jill what the secret is to having a long, healthy and happy life.

Jill said: "Both of my grandmothers lived until 90, which was exceptional in those days.

"Luck is so much involved in it. I've never done anything to the extreme. I have always enjoyed food. In fact, I have more than enjoyed food. I still do all my own cooking, you know."

Jill, after pondering for a minute, added: "The absolute blessing of good friends. I know family are important because mine are all gone but friends are fantastic."

This newspaper asked if Jill had yet received that all-important birthday card from Queen Elizabeth.

Jill said: "No, it hasn't come yet. She better hurry up."