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 The End of World War II

 

The insignia of a Dame Commander

of the Royal Victorian Order (DCVO)

 

A young Jawaharlal Nehru in 1946

The last time Mountbatten had visited Australia, it was with his cousin 'David' - Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VIII (1894(1936)1972) and later The Duke of Windsor, but this time Mountbatten was "star of the show", with Edwina sharing the limelight.  Edwina loved the informality of the Australians and despite the grueling schedule of engagements, she enjoyed speaking to the many people who had taken the time to see The Mountbattens. She received hundreds of letters of gratitude from people she had met in prison camps or hospitals.

The year 1946 brought Edwina a surprise.  In the New Year's Honours List she was made a Dame of the Royal Victorian Order (DCVO) - which she told Mountbatten - "it was a complete surprise... I had no notification at all.  I believe the K & Q did it themselves."  The Order was founded in 1896 by Mountbatten's great-grandmother - Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and is in the gift of the Sovereign to recognise distinguished personal service to the Sovereign and Royal Family. Despite the award she would still remain styled as 'Lady Louis Mountbatten' and not 'Dame Edwina'. Also, it was in 1946 that The Mountbattens first met Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) -  an Indian lawyer who campaigned for Indian independence, who came to Singapore to visit the Supreme Allied Commander. This was a meeting of three great minds, and Edwina quickly became close friends with Nehru, enjoying intellectual discussions which strengthened daily. This was a friendship that was to endure and cause many tongues wagging about their relationship. 

At the request of their respective Prime Ministers - The Mountbattens were invited to the Dominions of Australia and New Zealand. In March 1946 they were welcomed in Canberra by Mountbatten’s cousin Prince Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974), the third son of King George V (1865(1910-1936), who had been appointed Governor-General of Australia on 30th January 1945.  The people of Australia were wildly excited by their visit and they much to boost post-War morale. They were the talk of society and whilst there, Edwina visited various hospitals and Red Cross units.

 

The Mountbattens with The Duke & Duchess of Gloucester in Canberra, Australia 1946.

Mountbatten is holding their eldest son - Prince William of Gloucester

 

A short film by Pathé showing Mountbatten and Edwina in Australia 1946

 

Edwina holding a koala bear whilst in Australia

The Mountbattens subsequently moved onto New Zealand, where once again Edwina visited hospitals and attending numerous events for the St John's Ambulance Brigade.  Mountbatten soon had to fly back to Singapore, but Edwina remained and continued her tour alone.  The punishing schedule took its toll on Edwina, and she commented in her diary that she was - "dead beat - 22 speeches in NZ in 12 days".  Despite being tired, Edwina always managed to spend time with former patients or former prisoners who she had met years before in Malaya, Thailand or Sumatra, wanting to know how they were coping with overcoming their past.

 

Edwina talking to some former prisoners from Australia and New Zealand

 

Edwina inspecting nurses

for the St John's Ambulance Brigade

At this time, there was mounting discussion on what Mountbatten (now the ex-'Supremo') and Edwina would do next after the War.  They both had high profile careers which the challenges of World War II only strengthened their zeal for professional self-determination and his ultimate goal on becoming First Sea Lord. Mountbatten's cousins - Prince Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974) suggested that Mountbatten succeed him as Governor-General of Australia and King George VI (1895(1936-1952) proposed the idea that Mountbatten should be some sort of Chief of Staff to the Minister of Defence.  As speculation increased that Mountbatten would be appointed Viceroy of India, Mountbatten told Edwina - "I really want to go back to the Navy, as you know, and don't like the idea of governing... but if ever it became unavoidable I know that you would make the world's ideal Vicereine."  Edwina's career was also under scrutiny, for she had turned from socialite and heiress to an internationally respected expert on hospital welfare and care and frequently called upon for her practical advice on such issues.