“Dorea and Dodo produced an excellent meal of bully beef, salad, cheese and a cool white wine,” wrote Mary Borden (aka Lady Spears) in her memoir of setting up and leading the Anglo-French Spears Hadfield Ambulance Unit during the Second World War. The unit, 30 women drivers and nurses, was camping under the trees in the village of St Chéron, a village south-west of Paris on 9 June 1940.
As it was, their retreat, constantly on the move trying to stay one step ahead of the German advance through France, was perilous and they did not reach Plymouth until 27 June
Dodo was Dorothy Maud Annesley, 32, born in India, the daughter of Lt-Col James Howard Adolphus Annesley, CMG, DSO, of the 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers), who died in 1919, a casualty of the First World War. Dorea was her friend Dorothea Stanhope. Their friendship went back to at least the early 1930s; they shared a love of music – they were both members of the Onslow Orpheans, who raised money for charitable causes (Dodo played the saxophone) and of the Bandits, who played at Grosvenor House and the Dorchester, and both were keen skiers.
They were not only close friends but also neighbours. In October 1939, they were living at 48 and 44 Shrewsbury House in Cheyne Walk. Dodo was working as an estate agent and Dorea as a journalist and investment consultant. Around this time, they volunteered for the ARP ambulance service run by London County Council and known as the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service but by February 1940 had left to join Lady Spears.
After her escape from the Germans, Dodo did not join the next Hadfield Spears expedition, which went to the Middle East in March 1941. Instead, she and fellow Hadfield Spears veterans Priscilla (“Pip”) Scott-Ellis and Marjorie Fielden (who also initially joined the LAAS) raised funds for a 130-bed hospital military hospital for the Polish armed forces in Scotland. After running this for two years, she took over the organising of a similar but smaller hospital for the Polish armed forces, at 3 Culford Gardens off Sloane Square. In 1944, for her efforts, she was awarded the Polish Medal of Merit by Władysław Raczkiewicz, the Polish president in exile.
Dorothy Annesley died in 1983 and was buried at Downton Cemetery in Hampshire. Her gravestone simply gives her name and dates. No one passing would know anything of the extraordinary life she had led.
Before the war, Essyllt Priscilla Scott-Ellis (1916-1983), daughter of the 8th Lord Howard de Walden, volunteered as a nurse for the Fascists in Spain. Her Spanish Civil War diary was published in 1995 as The Chances of Death (Michael Russell Publishing).
In 1939 Florence Marjorie Kershaw (later Fielden) (1899-1969), daughter of a Lancashire woollen manufacturer, lived in Chesham Street with Diana S. Barton, another LAAS driver, and a few doors from Pauline Nagle.
Chelsea News (8 October 1943, 3B; 2 June 1944, 4F)
Mary Borden (1946), Journey Down a Blind Alley. London and New York: Harper and Brothers