Clare Hollingworth was a young reporter in her first week at Britain's Telegraph in 1939 when she broke the news to the world that World War II had begun. Hollingworth, who turns 105 on Monday, would go on to an illustrious career spanning a half-century as a war correspondent in far-flung places. Yet her exclusive at age 27 would remain her greatest scoop (though she also revealed that British spy Kim Philby had defected to the Soviet Union in 1963.) "Clare is a prodigy, one of those extraordinary people who has not recorded history but helped to make it," journalist Max Hastings told Time. "She was a pioneer among women journalists." In the prewar years, Hollingworth worked in Poland pulling strings that enabled more than 3,500 Jewish and political refugees entry into the UK. (The press nicknamed her the "Scarlet Pimpernel;" the British government suspected she let in spies.)
She was in Poland working for the Telegraph in August 1939 when she made a discovery: "scores, if not hundreds of tanks" on the German border, she said per Time. A few days later, on Sept. 1, 1939, she was awakened by tanks rolling past her window. She raced to call her editor. World War II was on. "I must admit that I enjoy being in a war," Hollingworth told the Telegraph. She was in a few of them, and won awards for her coverage of the Algerian War. The trail-blazer celebrated her 105th birthday on Monday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong not far from her apartment. Despite suffering strokes, heart attacks, and dementia, she can still walk with assistance and dines monthly at "her" table at the press club. "She was the first female foreign correspondent to break the glass ceiling so that someone like me can do what I do now," says Time’s Africa bureau chief, Aryn Baker.