Irene celebrates 100 years at her Pakenham home in Suffolk

Mark Westley Photography' 100th Birthday celebration of Irene Giles from Pakenham pictured with mayor of St Edmundsbury Patrick Chung and Irene's friends and family, son Max Bacon with his wife Janet, their son Paul and grandson George. ANL-150306-171712009
Mark Westley Photography' 100th Birthday celebration of Irene Giles from Pakenham pictured with mayor of St Edmundsbury Patrick Chung and Irene's friends and family, son Max Bacon with his wife Janet, their son Paul and grandson George. ANL-150306-171712009
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Centenarian Irene Giles who marked her 100th birthday on Wednesday is lucky to be alive.

As a young woman Irene was working in London during the Blitz and came close to death on three dramnatic occasions.

This week as she celebrated her centenary in Pakenham she looked back on a life of hard work but one enjoyed with a good sense of humour.

Irene has lived in Pakenham for the last 18 years but was born in Abbess Roding in Essex, the daughter of a farm worker.

She went to work as a cashier in a south London department store at the age of 14 and then moved back to Essex working in the haberdashery department of a store before again moving back to London.

She married Arthur Bacon and had her first son James.

During World War Two Irene had three close shaves. In one a bomb dropped outside the store she was working in. Luckily the blast went in the opposite direction demolishing buildings across the road. Then when Lord Haw Haw warned of direct hit on the shelter in Camberwell Irene took heed and escaped the death the collaborator had predicted.

Finally she returned home from a day’s work one day to discover her home had been totally destroyed.

Irene also worked in the laundery receiving office in London which passed laundery and clothing on to families who had been bombed out.

She returned to The Rodings and had her second son Richard and while in Essex worked as a senior leading firewoman at Chelmsford Fire Control where she met her second husband Leonard Giles. Irene also ran a large Post Office in Chelmsford.

She moved to Pakenham at the age of 82 and lives with her son Richard, known as Max, and daughter-in-law Jan who ran the village Post Office there for many years.

This week Irene was treated to high tea at her regular Monday Club and on Tuesday there were celebrations at the Blackbourne Day Centre in Thurston.

Max said: “Mum has a good sense of humour and is very straight forward. She’s had a hard working life but one with humour. She’s young at heart.”

Irene has two sons, 15 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.