Tue, 28 Jul 2015
A LADY from Cold Ash who had tea with Hitler celebrated her 100th birthday recently.
When Monica Lightwood was born on July 10, 1915, Italy had joined the Triple Entente, the Lusitania had been sunk and the British Women’s Institute was less than a month old.
Born in Johannesburg, Mrs Lightwood then moved to what is now Namibia where it took her three days and two nights to travel to school by train.
Her father worked for South Africa’s mining ministry and while she was living in Germany in the early 30s, Mrs Lightwood was invited to tea with Adolf Hitler.
Germany needed raw materials and the Führer tried to convince the young Mrs Lightwood into bringing her father to Germany in order to open up trade negotiations.
Mrs Lightwood said that Hitler was extremely good mannered, entering the room and clicking his heels before bowing and kissing her hand. However, Mrs Lightwood said that she had to restrain herself from chuckling as she thought the Führer resembled a Dutch doll with his slight build, dark hair and ‘brilliant blue eyes’.
She said he was very persuasive, making her promise she would do everything she could to bring her father to Germany.
Mrs Lightwood said she left feeling excited at the prospect but her father was absolutely furious and she was sent to England, where ‘the best thing for her’ was to be educated.
However, she met her future husband, a pediatrician 17 years her senior, who said that he didn’t need ‘a highly-educated wife’.
As the clouds of war formed over Europe, Mrs Lightwood’s husband put himself forward for service in the Royal Navy.
Wanting to do her bit, Mrs Lightwood bought a farm in Beenham and joined the Land Army. She worked the farm for 20 years and said that the exercise and working outdoors had contributed to her longevity.
Mrs Lightwood said she was lucky as her father passed on the cottage in Cold Ash, where she still lives.
A great-grandmother, Mrs Lightwood has two sons Robin, a surgeon, and Max, a barrister, and her daughter-in-law is a judge.
Mrs Lightwood celebrated her centenary with a ‘wonderful party’ attended by friends and family from across the world under a marquee in her garden with Champagne delivered from France.
Former foreign secretary Lord Owen, who Mrs Lightwood said that she has known since he was a schoolboy, made a speech at the party.
“The party went on for a long time. I’m still tired but it was well worth it,” she joked.
Mrs Lightwood said she was very fortunate as she did not feel 100 years but had ‘old age in her genes’ as her mother lived to 97 and father until he was 86.