A former Second World War servicewoman who became a one-time chauffeur to French resistance leader, Charles de Gaulle, celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday January 28.
Centenarian Olivia Jordan – who has been a resident at the Elmbridge Retirement Village in Cranleigh for almost 16 years – was treated to a birthday cake and presented with flowers by staff and fellow residents to mark the milestone.
She was also presented with a letter of congratulations from The Queen.
Olivia enjoys a fulfilling life at village, socialising with residents, and only stopped her passion of riding horses a decade ago.
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The well-travelled retiree has led a full and eventful life.
As a young girl, she had the chilhood only many could dream about; skiing holidays, riding horses, playing viola in a family quartet and speaking fluent French.
She grew up in Kent and spoke French with her French governess (speaking English only once a week on the governess’ day off) before being sent to a German Finishing School at the age of 17.
It was here that not only did Olivia learn also to speak German, but met Adolf Hitler in Munich before he came to power.
She amusingly recalls: “He was rather short!”
After the outbreak of World War II, and having grown tired of living in England, Olivia travelled overseas and joined the French Army; with her language skills playing an active role in her gaining employment as General Charles de Gaulle’s chauffeur.
Back in London, she volunteered her services to use her language skills resulting in her being recruited to work in the British Embassy in a section allocated to the French, hence her meeting with General de Gaulle.
And as if that wasn’t enough wartime excitement, Olivia had a lucky escape from a bomb during the Blitz which hit a dance floor she had only just vacated; deafening her but killing others.
These days, Olivia – also a recipient of the military honour the Second World War Croix de Guerre medal - enjoys life at slower pace; although she is still able to converse in French with her bilingual grandchildren, some of whom live in France.