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1936 - 1940

Edwina continued with her travels throughout the World until the War, extensively travelling to Europe, Africa and the Far East.  She ventured to places that Europeans had never been before, let alone female Europeans and this was part of the attraction, as the challenges of such visits were themselves the goal.  The danger and excitement or overcoming “the impossible” were a typical Edwina trait, and a trip along the 800 miles Burma Road (built by the Chinese as a supply road during their war with Japan).  It was said of her at this time - “She did so love confounding those who thought they knew best.”

On 3rd July 1939, Edwina’s father - Lord Mount Temple, died and Edwina inherited Broadlands and Classiebawn Castle in Co. Sligo, Ireland.  With  the turbulent political situation in Europe, War was inevitable and Edwina’s talents and energies were finally to have real direction. Their children, Patricia and Pamela were packaged off to New York, USA for safety to live with the rich Vanderbilts. Mountbatten explained that with Edwina’s Jewish ancestry, and his Royal connection - their children would certainly be a target for the Nazis in the event of an invasion to mainland England.  While her husband was at sea in HMS Kelly, Edwina moved into Kensington Palace with Mountbatten’s mother and Broadlands was turned over to the authorities to be used as a hospital, and Edwina became County President for London of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade in November 1939.  Unlike other aristocratic wealthy socialites, Edwina refused to be just a name on a letterhead, and actively raised funds and inspected hospitals.  


Edwina’s father -

The Rt Hon.

Wilfrid Ashley,

1st Lord Mount Temple

Clearly the dangers of having a husband in the War was always at the back of her mind, she knew that Mountbatten’s self-determination would mean that he would not shy away from danger. In May 1940 after HMS Kelly had returned to Hebburn following being hit during the Battle of Norway, grateful that her husband (Mountbatten) was safe she said - “It might be luck, but I believe it’s the St. Christopher medal he always wears that keeps him safe”. Sometime later, she said - “I feel things.  If anything should happen to Dickie I think I should know it before word came through from the Admiralty.”


Edwina in the uniform of the

St. John’s Ambulance Brigade

Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma

World War II brought the Mountbattens closer and their marriage became strengthened by working together. Edwina’s promotion in the St John’s Ambulance Brigade was almost as swift as her husband’s in the Royal Navy, and in 1940 she was appointed Deputy Superintendent-in-Chief of the entire Brigade. During the Blitz, Edwina frequently visited air-raid shelters to raise morale and improve conditions.  She refused to wear a tin helmet, and always appeared immaculately dressed in uniform - often people noticing that she appeared fearless, with not a hair out of place and a smile for everyone.


Portrait of Edwina by

Salvador Dali (1940)

1941 - 1944