A Caerphilly borough woman is celebrating her 103rd birthday surrounded by family and friends.

Lilian Howitt from Cefn Fforest is marking the impressive landmark today, Saturday, November 20.

The National Wales:

Her family are planning a party, and are extremely grateful that the party is able to go ahead – after Mrs Howitt had a nine-day stint in hospital after a fire at her house.

“We’re so thankful for everyone who has helped,” said granddaughter Stephanie Davies. “Her grandson had a tortoise lamp and it fell over and it was smouldering. It must have been smouldering for a while until Wendy smelt the smoke but luckily didn’t go into full flames.”

There was smoke damage throughout the house after the incident on November 7, and Mrs Howitt was taken to Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr Hospital.

Ms Davies said the community rallied around to help the family get the house ready so that they could have her nan home for her birthday.

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“Ann Hiscocks from Dragon Blinds donated blinds for the house and Dave Connaway of Quality Carpets Caerphilly donated carpets, underlay and grips," she said.

“Wilko’s in Blackwood have also given a voucher. People have come and donated their time to help wallpaper and paint.

“If it wasn’t for the general public giving us things and helping – even people we don’t know – we probably wouldn’t be able to have her home for her birthday.”

The National Wales: Mrs Howitt with her familyMrs Howitt with her family

Mrs Howitt returned home on Tuesday, November 16.

Born just days after the end of the First World War on November 17, 1918, at home in Cefn Fforest, she was born at just 24 weeks.

“They couldn’t say she weighed less than a bag of sugar because they didn’t weigh her as she was born at home," said Ms Davies.

“She was wrapped in cotton wool and lint for the first 12 months.”

She was the third born of nine, and has outlived all her siblings.

The National Wales:

Mrs Howitt joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) during the Second World War. She was stationed out in Belgium where she met Robert Howitt.

“Nan said the other day when I asked her what she did in the WAAF, that she was ‘jack of all trades, master of all’ because she did a bit of everything,” said Ms Davies.

“They weren’t allowed to sunbathe while out in Belgium, but she went sunbathing and she went to the doctor who said she had a blister and that’s where she met bamp.”

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Mrs Howitt and her future husband, Robert, had a whirlwind romance while in Belgium and when Mr Howitt met her dad, he told him he was going to marry his daughter.

“He asked her to marry him over the phone and she said she’d tell him tomorrow,” said Ms Davies.

They were married six months later in 1945, and spent 63 years happy years together, before Mr Howitt died.

The National Wales:

After their marriage, Mrs Howitt left the WAAF in 1946 and brought up her three children Wendy - who is now a carer for her - Derek and Stephen.

“Nan did a lot of charity work," said Ms Davies. "Derek was disabled and nan did a lot of work with the charity Mencap.”

Mrs Howitt plays cards regularly – although her stint in hospital was the longest she’d gone without playing, and without seeing her family. “I think it’s what keeps her mind active,” said Ms Davies. “We call her the queen of hearts.

“She’s amazing. From the time she was 99, she kept saying she wouldn’t be here for another year and yet here she is.

“When she was 101, she said how she’d never had a doll in her life, so we bought her a Reborn doll. When the fire happened, she sent the firefighters in to get her ‘Rose’. They thought it was an actual baby left in the house at first."

Mrs Howitt is believed to be one of - if not - the oldest women in Caerphilly borough.

Penblwydd Hapus, Mrs Howitt, from everyone at the The National.

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