When I was a child, I wanted to be a teacher or a detective. By sharing stories in the hope they help people think about the past in new ways and by making connections to solve puzzles (oh so satisfying) sometimes I feel I have achieved both those ambitions.
Here is an example: My diarist June mentioned another Chelsea volunteer ambulance driver, Margaret Bridges, several times without saying much about her. I had some information from Margaret’s entry in the 1939 Register, so I knew she was born in 1911 and worked as a secretary, and I had tentatively identified her on a family tree on Ancestry – but that was all. I had nothing much about her as a person.
Then I googled her name with the word ‘ambulance’ and found this ad for EverReady batteries from the magazine Popular Mechanics (Nov 1943), in which “pretty, attractive 30-year-old Miss Bridges” of the London Auxiliary Ambulance service explained to American readers why batteries were crucial to her work. And I learned details about what happened on the night of 16 April 1941, when the glass roof of the ambulance station was shattered by bombs, irretrievably, it turned out. Plus we have a photo of Margaret, albeit a small one, in her ‘tin’ hat.
I also found out from the piece that Margaret was of British and US parentage, which confirmed that I had the right family tree. She was the daughter of George Bridges, a British Army Colonel, and Amy Gunther from New York, who divorced when Margaret was young. After the war Margaret married a NY medical examiner George Molnar and started a family. She died in 1976.
A mini biography that adds to our understanding of the Blitz (I hope you enjoyed it) and a warm feeling of satisfaction from tying up ends for me.
*The ambulance service probably gave Margaret permission to do the ad for EverReady in return for a donation of batteries.