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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 January 2008, 12:18 GMT
Woman celebrates 110th birthday
Minnie Smith
Minnie Smith fell in love during World War I but never married
A woman who was born during the reign of Queen Victoria and has seen three centuries and two world wars is celebrating her 110th birthday.

Minnie Smith, who now lives in Rookstone Salvation Army home in Sydenham, south-east London, was born in Bermondsey in 1898.

The youngest of four children, Miss Smith has worked as a maid, a cook and a lady's companion in London.

Although she can no longer hear or see, she is mentally fit and loves to sing.

On her 110th birthday Miss Smith received a special birthday card signed by the Queen, the seventh such card since she completed a century.

Her nieces Josepha Strange, 85, and Sylvia Bond, 80, said their aunt started working as a maid at the age of 14 in 1912, the year Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.

Miss Smith fell in love with an Australian soldier called Noddy who came to stay at a house where she was working during World War I, but as her mother disapproved of the relationship the soldier left after the war, her nieces said.

My aunt was always a bit of a rebel - she would never wear her little cap that was part of her maid's uniform
Josepha Strange, Minnie Smith's niece

Miss Smith never married and a black and white photo of Noddy still stands on her dressing table.

Mrs Bond said: "It was a bit of a tragedy really. She never fell in love with anybody else."

Mrs Strange said: "She's had a hard life. But I don't think she would have changed a bit of it.

"She's never had much money but she loved working in those big houses and that's what she talks about when she's able to go down memory lane.

"But my aunt was always a bit of a rebel. She would never wear her little cap that was part of her maid's uniform. But her employers loved her anyway."

During World War II, at the age of 41, Miss Smith moved in with a fellow maid Edith Rixon and the two then served the Salvation Army.

She moved into the home after living alone for years following her friend's death.

The "fiercely independent" woman is currently the oldest resident in Salvation Army care in Britain.

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