Continuing my series on volunteer ambulance drivers in wartime Chelsea. Another of June’s colleagues at the ambulance station in Danvers Street was Josephine Bernard shown here at her wedding to John Francis Ainsworth at Chelsea Old Church in 1938. Most of the drivers for the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS) were women, and many of them were from the privileged classes (John Ainsworth later inherited a baronetcy from his father, which gives you an idea of the territory we are on). The authorities targeted these well-off women with adverts in the press and cinema precisely because they were more likely to be able to drive than poorer women and to have free time on their hands.
The service also attracted sizeable numbers of working-class men – former chauffeurs or motor mechanics – which must have made for some fun conversations as they bunked down for the night in the station shelter (I imagine lots of joshing and joking as well as class conflict). In 1939, as war broke out, 24-year-old Jo Ainsworth was living at 37 Bywater Street while her husband was a volunteer fireman at the substation at Hortensia Road. They were divorced in 1946.