British Empire Medal for Sully author, World War 2 heroine and campaigner
A SULLY woman says she is 'very honoured and extremely surprised' to have been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.
Eileen Younghusband receives the prestigious honour in respect of her services to education.
The 91-year-old, of Cog Road, was nominated for the Medal by staff at the Cardiff University Centre for Lifelong Learning, which she campaigned to save from budget cuts.
Eileen, who served as an RAF Filter Officer in the Second World War, completed a degree herself at the age of 87.
She was one of the first to achieve a Diploma in Higher Education after studying Spanish and Creative Writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, which was the equivalent of two years at university.
She went on to gain the necessary credits to complete her degree by studying sociolinguistics, philosophy and perspectives of complementary and alternative medicine at the Open University.
An author who has written two books about her wartime experiences and is currently writing her third, about influential people she has met during her life, Eileen said she was shocked when she was told that her name had been put forward by the Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning.
"I was very honoured and extremely surprised," she said.
"I had absolutely no idea about it.
"It was quite a surprise and an exciting way to start 2013.
"I’m just sorry that both my husband and son are not here to appreciate it with me."
She said that she had been a ‘strong supporter’ of the campaign to save the Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning when it was threatened through cuts in 2008.
"Some years ago, due to restrictions of budget, they were going to shut down a lot of the subjects, like music, Spanish and some of the creative writing classes," she explained.
"I was a great supporter of the campaign opposed to the cuts, as I realised so many older people studying there were finding that they were able to keep learning and meet new people.
"It was helping everybody to keep their life going."
She added: "We managed to restrict the courses they terminated and to retain quite a lot of the ones that would have been important to the older generation."
The Lifelong Learning centre played a role in helping Eileen publish her first book ‘Not an Ordinary Life’, and she soon followed it up with her second work titled ‘One Woman’s War’. She is now writing her third book which will be called ‘Men I have known’.
Eileen has also been approached by Hollywood director Robert Towne, who is writing a fictional screenplay about the Battle of Britain.
"I was flown to RAF Duxford in order to be interviewed by him," she said.
"He rings me up frequently for additional information acting as a technical advisor. That’s not bad at 91!"
She often recounts her personal war efforts as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and conducts talks within the community. She tells the story of the women in the Filter Rooms, who used a radar system to identify whether aircraft flying over Britain during the war were friend or foe.
"I gave 26 talks last year and I’ve got four more booked for January," she added, saying she is looking forward to her trip to Buckingham Palace.
"I have four or five offers from people saying they want to take me there!"