ANYONE who lives to 100 is likely to have an interesting story to tell.

But when you have worked with Charles de Gaulle, had dinner with Rita Hayworth and been secretary to a Prince, the anecdotes of your life – and photo album – are a little more extraordinary.

St Helens Star:

That is the case for Irene Husain, who will celebrate her 100th birthday this Sunday, December 15.

Irene, born Mary Irene Blache, moved to London from France in 1919.

Her French heritage remained important to her and in 1941, aged 21, Irene joined Free French, the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War.

St Helens Star:

The movement’s military continued to fight against the Axis powers after the fall of France.

Her service saw her stationed far from home in Algiers, where she was greeted by tracer bullets on arrival, and under the direct command of General de Gaulle as the secretary of his Lt Colonel Bonnafe.

From there she rose through the ranks to become sergeant in the air section of the National Defence Command, then secretary to commander of the military cabinet before reaching the rank of lieutenant.

St Helens Star:

Irene and Tutti on their wedding day with Prince Aly Aga Khan

She was awarded the Commemorative medal for voluntary service in Free France and even declined the Croix de Guerre – awarded to those soldiers who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism – saying she had not earned it.

But the excitement of Irene’s life did not stop there. She was demobbed in 1946 and due to her good reputation became the secretary for Prince Aly Aga Khan – the son of Sultan Mahommed Shah, Imam of the Nizari Ismaili religion.

That position led to her meeting her husband of 25 years Abdulali ‘Tutti’ Husain, with Prince Aly and his wife – the famed actress Rita Hayworth – even hosting their wedding reception and acting as witnesses.

St Helens Star:

Irene, fifth from left, with General Charles de Gaulle

She returned to London in the 1950s and had two children daughter Zarina, who died in a tragic house fire in 2017, and son Jamil. With ailing health, she moved to St Helens in 2018 where her Jamil, a dentist based in St Helens, and her two grandchildren live. She lives in St Helens Hall and Lodge, Thatto Heath.

St Helens Star:

Irene with her son Jamil

Speaking to the Star, she said: “I am glad I did it [join the Free French] I am proud to be French and proud of the English for helping us how they did.

"When you’re young you are fearless.

"I’ve had a good life before the death of my daughter.”

So what does Irene believe the secret to her 100 years are? She says: “Look after your health, it seems small but that’s the one thing you can’t replace.

“It’s worked for me, I’m 100.”