Eileen Joan Nolan was born at Bournville, near Birmingham. Her father was a World War I veteran, later employed by Cadbury's as a technical adviser. She attended King's Norton Grammar School on a scholarship. In 1942, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and was posted to Halifax, Yorkshire. For much of the war she remained in the ATS's training branch. In early 1945 she joined the OCTU [clarification needed]and earned her commission; she elected to remained in the military, becoming a career officer in the Army, and rising to the rank of Brigadier.
- Junior commander (Captain at "B" Company 12 Battalion, Prince's Gate, Kensington; 1946)
- Staff Captain Q (quartering branch), War Office, responsible for moving freight to and from the Middle East
- Major, WRAC (at Tripoli, Libya; 1957)
- Home posting, WRAC (1963; Stanmore)
- Officer training wing, WRAC (at Camberley)
- Lieutenant-Colonel, WRAC (1967; posted to Singapore, where she commanded the WRAC; remit also covered Malaysia, Hong Kong, Saigon and Bangkok)
- WRAC College (1981; Sandhurst; women cadets took up residence in 1984, integral step in integrating women in the Regular Army)
Nolan retired as director in 1977 and was appointed CB.