1941 - 1946
In 1941, The Mountbattens visited the USA. Edwina was there on behalf of the British Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance Brigade to thank those who had raised over £5 million for the cause. Mountbatten himself coached Edwina in public speaking and the couple were received with warm affection. Once again, Edwina’s smile, memory for statistics, names and occasions made her a real star in the USA, and it was always remarked that she made people feel like they were her personal friend.
Edwina was appointed Superintendent-in-Chief of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade in 1942 and made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1943. Other honours were to come including the American Red Cross Medal, but unlike her husband she was not obsessed with titles and honours and always saw them as a tribute to the organisations which she worked for.
The insignia of
a Commander of
the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
A formal portrait of
Edwina in her St John's Ambulance Brigade uniform
Edwina inspecting St John's Ambulance Brigade volunteers
in Reading, Berkshire in 1943
In October 1944, Edwina had just returned from the Netherlands, and received a signal from Mountbatten asking for her to join him and to help him in the task of recovery after a great military campaign dealing with liberated prisoners of War, refugees and the dispossessed. Mountbatten’s 'Forgotten Army' were making considerable gains and it was up to both Mountbatten and Edwina to bring peace and stability to the region. Soon, it became safe for The Mountbattens’ children to return to England. Mountbatten had been appointed Supreme Allied Commander in South-East Asia and the War was progressing well for the Allies. Their eldest daughter Patricia, was now 19 years old and joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), and later left to join her father in Ceylon. Their youngest daughter, Pamela, was dispatched to a boarding school, but it meant that Edwina could spend time with her.
Edwina & Mountbatten outside Buckingham Palace) following Edwina
being awarded the CBE
Edwina arrived in Karachi on 9th January 1945 and like a whirlwind she swept through camp after camp, hospital after hospital ensuring that people were treated well and cared for appropriately. She soon flew onto Delhi and was met by Mountbatten, for a brief meet. Edwina then went onto Bombay, Calcutta and then onto Burma, working with her husband directly and The Mountbattens became a morale boosting team, able to bring good cheer to the Allies servicemen wherever they went.
A short film by Pathé about Edwina inspecting hospitals in India
Following the defeat of the Japanese Empire, Mountbatten called again for Edwina’s help to assist with the literally thousands of Allied servicemen who had been held in Japanese prisoner of War camps in dreadful and inhumane conditions. Mountbatten provided his wife with a limited remit and resources, but her excellent organisational skills and determination seemed to overcome bureaucracy and in this work, Edwina helped to save many lives.