Actress Barbara Windsor described the journey from East End to Damehood in the New Year’s Honours as “truly like a dream”.

Joining the ranks of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren, Barbara, 78, said she was “very honoured, proud and extremely humbled” to receive her award for services to charity and entertainment.

Barbara Windsor



It’s Dame Barbara (Ian West/PA)

 

Famous for her roles as the buxom blonde in the Carry On films and as brassy pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, Barbara is an ambassador for Age UK, patron of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, a lifelong supporter of the NHS, and the face of the British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal.

“I am so very honoured, proud and extremely humbled by this honour,” she said. “I feel so lucky to live in a country I love, a job I have always adored which has allowed me to be in a position where I am able to help others.

Barbara Windsor launching the British Legion's Poppy Appeal at a London Tube station



Barbara is the face of the British Legion’s Poppy Appeal (London Underground/PA)

 

“For a girl from the East End born into a working-class family and an evacuee during World War Two, this is truly like a dream. I am so happy and blessed to say it’s real. God bless you all,” she added.

Barbara stirred up controversy in October when she told those who refused to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day to “sod off” on live television.

The Shoreditch-born star was awarded an MBE in the 2000 New Year’s Honours and a spot on the ‘cultural icons’ float in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee parade in 2002.

Barbara Windsor receives MBE in 2000



Barbara accepting her MBE from the Queen in 2000 (John Stillwell/PA)

 

Born in 1937 as Barbara Ann Deeks, Babs – as she’s affectionately known – has been no stranger to the limelight since she made her stage debut at 13 and her West End debut in the chorus of Love From Judy in 1952.

Her real breakthrough came when she starred as Agent Daphne Honeybutt in Carry On Spying, her first of nine films in the comedy franchise that would secure Babs’s status as a household name and put her on the path to national treasure.

Barbara Windsor in Carry On Again Doctor



Barbara in Carry On Again Doctor with Jim Dale and Hattie Jacques (Moviestore Collection/REX)

 

Playing to full effect her busty 4ft 10in figure, few fans will forget the risque moment in Carry On Camping in 1969 when her bra pings off into the face of Kenneth Williams during a strenuous outdoor aerobics session.

She was nominated for a best British film actress Bafta for Sparrows Can’t Sing in 1963 and a Tony award for best featured actress in 1965 during a Broadway stint in Oh! What A Lovely War.

But it was the role of battleaxe Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, which she has played on and off since 1994, that cemented her place in the nation’s heart.

Barbara Windsor and Mike Reid



Nearly 20 million viewers watched Peggy marry Frank Butcher in EastEnders (John Rogers/PA)

 

Peggy’s storylines saw her survive breast cancer and instigate a hate campaign against HIV positive Mark Fowler, played then by Todd Carty. She married Frank Butcher (Mike Reid), engaged in cat-fights with his ex-wife Pat, escaped two failed marriages, and lost and regained ownership of the Queen Vic pub countless times.

Her famous line “Get outta my pub!” rang in the ears of viewers long after her troublesome punters had been turfed out.