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IF you're a top Hollywood screenwriter and you're looking for personal insight into life during the Battle of Britain... who are you going to call? The answer, if you're Oscar-winning scribe Robert Towne, is to send a private jet straight to the Vale of Glamorgan to pick up a 92-year-old pensioner called Eileen Younghusband.

Cabinetmaker's daughter Eileen, from Sully, who spent much of her life running a hotel, has made it on to the Tinseltown rolodex thanks to the gripping autobiographies she wrote in her 80s after taking adult education courses at Cardiff University.

Eileen's books detailed her work collecting radar data in World War II for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.

Hollywood big shot Towne, whose work includes Roman Polanski's Chinatown and the first two Mission Impossible films, decided to pick her brains for his film project about the Battle of Britain with British producer Graham King.

"I wasn't intimidated because he was so gracious," Eileen said. "We got on really well. There aren't many of us left to tell our story."

Towne, whose credits also include The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde, sent a chauffeur-driven car to pick Eileen up from her home.

She was driven to Cardiff Airport where a six-seater, private plane was waiting to fly her to the meeting at RAF Duxford near Cambridge.

"It was such an exciting day," says Eileen, who was barely out of her teens when she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Working in filter rooms around Britain, she and other young women collected vital radar information identifying enemy aircraft and warning of air raids.

She told Towne how she and her colleagues made life-and-death decisions every day.

Eileen saw D-Day fleets heading for Normandy on her radar maps and received the coded warning of the first V2 rocket as it approached London.

Towne, who has been nominated four times for an Oscar and won one for his script of the 1974 film Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, spent more than two hours talking to Eileen.

"I could see he was really interested in my stories," she says. "He was lovely to talk to. He has twinkly eyes and a very soft, gentle voice."

Talking to Towne brought back memories of the most dramatic years of her life.

Eileen was in Belgium for VE Day, where she remembers wild celebrations. She came off shift plotting the whereabouts of Nazi rocket launchers to be met by two recently liberated British prisoners of war who told her the fighting was over.

"They'd been shot down in 1940 and I was the first British woman they had seen for years," she recalls.

Eileen, who had one son two years after the end of the war, has recorded her experiences in detail in her two books One Woman's War and Not an Ordinary Life.

At the end of her meeting at Duxford, Eileen was escorted back to the plane for the flight home, but her day didn't end there.

As the six-seater aircraft soared away, Eileen saw a Spitfire flying alongside.

Towne had arranged for it to escort her for the first 20 miles of the journey back home to Wales.

"The Spitfire was flying alongside and the pilot was waving from the cockpit," says Eileen. "As it left us it did a victory roll. It was so emotional.

I hadn't seen that since the war.

"The whole day was breathtaking."

The trip marks an eventful year for Eileen. Her third book, Men I Have Known, is due out next April, while One Woman's War will be published in paperback in January - both with Cardiff publisher Candyjar.


Eileen Younghusband, 92, with Robert Towne, and Eileen during World War II

The Spitfire escorting Eileen back from meeting Hollywood screenwriter Robert Towne

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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 16, 2012
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