Major Georgina Atkinson, who has lived in Boscombe for twenty years, was born in Trieste, Italy in January 1914 and worked as a minister of religion in the country until The Salvation Army was banned by Mussolini in 1940.
Georgina entered The Salvation Army’s college to train officers (church ministers) in Rome in 1936 - the same year her future husband Matthew Atkinson was entering training in the UK.
In 1940 Mussolini declared The Salvation Army banned because of its links to a London headquarters. Some officers found themselves imprisoned; Georgina, however, wandered the remote areas of Naples in the early days of WW2 to avoid arrest.
After she had been living on the run, she found herself back in her hometown of Trieste, when The Salvation Army was permitted to engage in work to support the troops in 1943 by offering physical and pastoral support.
Georgina met Matthew during WW2 after he resigned from being a Salvation Army officer in order to sign up with the British forces. Matthew, as part of the liberating forces, found himself injured in Italy and made contact with the only visible presence of The Salvation Army. Georgina and Matthew spent a few days together, fell in love, and conducted a postal romance until in 1949 when Georgina left Italy to marry in the August and join him to share ministry in Scotland.
Georgina moved to the UK in 1949 and has served all over in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Italy and then England. Matthew passed away suddenly in 1978 and Georgina carried on working for International Headquarters in London.
Major Georgina in uniform
A birthday celebration was held at The Salvation Army in Boscombe, Bournemouth, on Thursday with friends before a family celebration on Saturday.
In 1994, at the age of 80, Georgina moved to Bournemouth and started attending Boscombe corps (church). At the age of 100 she sustains total independent living doing her own washing and ironing, shopping and walking to the church, on the occasions the bus doesn’t run.
Her youngest son Dario, 58, said: “I visit regularly and when I arrived to spend a week with her at Easter last year, she told me she had been cleaning the tops of her kitchen cupboards. I assumed she used a step ladder to do that. Her response was that she had found the step ladder didn't get her high enough to clean the cupboard tops so she had used it to access the work surface, had then hauled herself to stand on the work surface in order to complete the cleaning task!”
He continued: “She is very humble - a multi linguist and hates being in the limelight. The next few days will leave her embarrassed and uncomfortable at times but that very humility is why so many people cherish her and she will find herself the object of their attention and well-wishing.”
Major Georgina with late husband Major Matthew outside St Paul's Cathedral in London
Major James Williams, who supports retired Salvation Army officers from the church’s national headquarters, said: “Retired officers are the backbone of The Salvation Army. They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge into the present day. Retired officers were once fully engaged in ministry work and, like Major Atkinson, continue to fulfil the call of God in their lives and in their community even beyond active service.”