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A woman who worked for the Free French at their London headquarters during the Second WW has celebrated her 100th


A woman who worked for the Free French at their London headquarters during the Second World War has celebrated her 100th birthday at Woodbridge Lodge care home.   Bets Smith, whose mother was French, celebrated her big day surrounded by family, friends and staff. Among those attending her birthday party at the Kingsley Healthcare home in Burkitt Road, Woodbridge, was her daughter Carolyn, who lives in Knodishall, and her son Anthony, from Bury St Edmunds. Also joining the celebration was retired senior carer Lynda Pearce who joined the staff at the time Mrs. Smith arrived at Woodbridge Lodge 17 years ago. Mrs. Smith was born in Somerset but grew up at Langham Wick in Essex; after going to school in Colchester she attended a finishing school in Vevey, Switzerland.

At the outbreak of war, before getting married, she worked at the Free French headquarters with General de Gaulle. “I also helped my parents who turned their property in Langham Wick into a home for Polish, French and British convalescents,” she said. “Fortunately they had a large garden with an orchard and paddock which they quickly filled with chickens and geese for their eggs, goats for milk and pigs and rabbits for nourishing food.” She recalls running away to get married in London in 1941 – “my parents did not want us to get married” – in a ceremony at the Church of the Assumption, Warwick Street, attended by General de Gaulle.   The couple were initially stationed in Bury St Edmunds and Mrs. Smith later followed her husband around during the war to Lincoln, Yorkshire and Norfolk. She was very involved in charity work during the 1960s and 1970s and undertook fundraising for Cancer Research, League of Pity and Guide Dogs for the Blind.  

Mrs. Smith later worked for 16 years as assistant to her husband Johnnie who was secretary of Stowmarket Golf Club. Her husband died in 1993.   As well as three children – her younger son Jeremy lives in Australia – she has three grandchildren and two great grand children.    

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