A St Neots nursing home resident says having faith and a tot of whiskey in the evenings are the secret to a long and happy life.

Hilda Shingler celebrated her 100th birthday at Ford House Nursing Home, in Eaton Ford, on May 16 after enjoying a celebration lunch with her family.

The 100-year-old, who received a telegram from the Queen and more than 50 birthday cards, said: "I have always had faith, not necessarily a religious faith, but I am a great believer in myself and my ability to live a full life. I am incredibly independent and determined and I think that is so important. I have honestly had a wonderful life."

Hilda was born and brought up in Folkstone, Kent, and remembers the Second World War and hiding under the stairs when the sirens went off. She also remembers American soldiers who handed out butter, sugar and stockings to the local women.

She travelled widely during her life with her husband George, who served in the army and she says he later took up teaching. and was a talented maths teacher. George died 18 years ago while the couple were living in South Africa, and Hilda recalled the day she saw Nelson Mandela at a railway station.

"I didn't really realise the significance of it at the time, but the people who were with him were very polite and helpful and made sure I got on my train."

Hilda made the decision to move back to England and lived in Milton Keynes for many years, but moved to Ford House six weeks ago. She was a skilled needle woman in her younger days, and made a wedding dress for one of her daughters and she says she always enjoyed cooking.

"It was difficult to leave my flat as I felt I was independent, but I am glad I made the move here as the staff are wonderful, so caring and compassionate. Everyone here is friendly and helpful," she said.

Hilda added that she had made friends at the nursing home and staff say she enjoys taking part in the regular activities that are on offer.

"I also think it is important to keep the brain ticking over. I see people using phones and computers and sometimes I just wish we all talked to each other a bit more, but that's modern life I suppose."

Hilda has three children, Tony, Suzanne and Carol-Anne, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

She has celebrated with her family in the last few days and was presented with three birthday cakes and several balloons.