I never knew my grandmother, but I clearly remember being told that once, after a dinner party in India, many years after Independence, she was asked who she had sat next to, she replied saying that he had been a most amusing dinner guest, and when asked if he had been black or white, she simply could not remember. The color of skin was inconsequential to her.
She spent her youth, and twenties, dazzling the world with her good looks and charm, but later in life became consumed by a passionate desire to help human suffering. Her childhood though was by no means ideal. Her mother died shortly after the birth of her sister. Her father was ill-suited to look after two small girls, who were then left mostly in the care of governesses.
With the start of the world war she knew she had found an outlet for her longing to do something really worthwhile, and threw herself into the war effort.
At the end of the war came the overwhelming problem of repatriating prisoners. My grandmother’s experiences proved invaluable, and when the Japanese revealed the existence of two hundred and fifty unsuspected camps in remote, dark areas of the Far East, my grandmother decided to go herself, as every hour counted, if lives were to be saved. It was arranged that she would locate the camps, investigate the situation, and signal to Singapore for essential requirements, which would be delivered by air drop. What she found was beyond belief, prisoners starving, tortured and near to death. Red Cross and St. John workers were flown in and so successful were the arrangements that within six weeks 90,000 prisoners were saved.
After the war it seemed my grandparents lives might return to normal, until they were asked to take on the terrifying responsibility of becoming the Last Viceroy and Vicereine of India, and preside over the transition of power. Indefatigable, my grandmother once again threw herself into welfare work.
When she died, only at the age of 59, the Indian Parliament stood in silence, in her honor, recognizing the untiring service she gave to their country.
Her willpower and sheer determination often left a trail of excitement, amazement and admiration where ever she went. She led an extraordinary life.
To see this in pictures click here: http://www.pinterest.com/indiahicks/edwina-mountbatten/