Seventy-two years ago Clare Hollingworth had just joined London's Daily Telegraph. As her car crossed the Polish-German border scores of German motorcycle dispatch riders roared past her car. In the valley below, she spotted hundreds of tanks, armoured cars and artillery, ready to invade Poland. She was watching the outbreak of the second world war and was about to break the story of the century. On Tuesday, August 29, 1939, The Daily Telegraph front-page headline read: '1,000 tanks massed on Polish border. Ten divisions reported ready for swift strike.' If the report had been given a byline, it would have been her first, but 'we didn't do bylines back then', she told her great-nephew and biographer, Patrick Garrett. 'But she said it was a good thing, since it would only have worried her parents,' Garrett said. A native of Leicester in the English Midlands, Hollingworth, whose qualification for the job was a course in domestic science, was in Poland helping refugees to escape after Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia. 'She didn't talk much about it,' Garrett said of his great aunt who turns 100 in two weeks. 'But it is estimated that the group she headed saved 3,000 lives.' Hollingworth's journalism debut marked the start of a distinguished career took her to wars in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Vietnam, then to Beijing and later Hong Kong. When the Nazis retreated from Greece, she sailed for Athens and into the Greek civil war. When that conflict ended she went to Palestine with her future second husband, Geoffrey Hoare. Together they reported on the final violent years of the British Mandate, the foundation of the state of Israel, and the beginning of the Arab-Israeli wars. She and Hoare moved to Paris in the 1950s where she covered politics and economics. Hollingworth covered the war in Algeria a few years later, and the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s. In the 1970s, she was The Daily Telegraph's Beijing correspondent. Hoare died when she was 65. Hollingworth came to Hong Kong aged 70 in 1981, to research a book, The Great Helmsman (Mao and the Men Against Him). Though never intending to stay, she became so engrossed in the pre-handover negotiations that she never left. Garrett said it was the End of the Empire for his great-aunt, too. With the departure of her next-door neighbour, last governor Chris Patten, there was no more free swimming pool at Government House. With the closure of HMS Tamar, the British garrison on the harbourfront, she lost another of her private clubs. Nowadays, Hollingworth lives independently, with two helpers, her eyesight and hearing failing. She still makes frequent visits to her home-from-home since she arrived in Hong Kong 30 years ago - the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Central. A party to celebrate her 100th birthday will be held there on October 10. One of Hollingworth's last battles has been played out in Hong Kong's courts, with her financial security threatened by an unpaid debt. 'The battle is to get back a huge sum of money she is owed by FCC member Ted Thomas, who managed Hollingworth's finances,' said Garrett. 'After removing the majority of her Hong Kong savings, Thomas refused to provide an account of what he held and what he'd done with her money - until finally ordered to do so by a High Court judge.' Thomas, a public relations executive, still owes Clare more than HK$1.5 million but has so far resisted all attempts to get him to repay her. Garrett is exasperated with the situation. 'With so much money still owed to her, Clare's finances have become increasingly tight. Now, just maintaining her modest independent lifestyle is her biggest battle. Fortunately, she still has a handful of loyal friends who help her manage.'