Under Fire tells the story of June Spencer during the Blitz in Chelsea
Caret Press is pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of the first book in our list. Under Fire: The Blitz Diaries of a Volunteer Ambulance Driver by Naomi Clifford will be published on 7 September, the 81st anniversary of the beginning of the first London Blitz.
Summer 1940. June Spencer, a debutante and dress designer, signs up as a driver for the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service in Chelsea. It’s gruesome, dangerous and frightening work. Off duty, she appears to rise above it and spends her time shopping in the West End, dining at the Savoy and partying with the aristos, smart set and bohemians of Chelsea – but her wartime stoicism is only part of the story.
- The book sets June’s diaries in context and explores the little-known role of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service; in Chelsea it was staffed mainly by posh women and working-class men.
- June’s first-hand accounts paint a vivid picture of the contrasts of London wartime life – her accounts range from driving through the streets while under bombardment, to the aftermath of the destruction of the Café de Paris, to grand balls and parties in Lindsey House on the banks of the Thames.
- Her experience spotlights the complex emotional responses to the Blitz and to service on the home front.
- June befriended the future novelist Mary Wesley at Boskenna in Cornwall and encouraged her to ‘write a book about her friends’–decades later Wesley wrote The Camomile Lawn. June also numbered writers Patrick O’Brian and A.P. Herbert, artists Augustus John and Tom Dugdale, National Trust luminary James Lees-Milne and actor Constance Cumming among her friends and acquaintances.
- Recent inhabitants of Lindsey House on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, where June lived during the Blitz, include Mick Jagger and Roman Abramovich.
The Gutenberg editor uses blocks to create all types of
Naomi Clifford writes about people, mostly women, whose lives have not previously reached the
history books. Her website is naomiclifford.com
She is a co-editor of VauxhallHistory.org and a podcaster on The Door History Podcast.
Naomi is available for talks and to write features and comment. Among her published titles are
Women and the Gallows, The Disappearance of Maria Glenn, The Murder of Mary Ashford and These Were Our Sons.
Praise for Naomi Clifford’s work
‘Clifford tells her tale with sympathy and insight… a fascinating read.’ —Miranda Kaufmann on The Disappearance of Maria Glenn
‘[She] makes a memorial come alive–and records lives that deserve to be… Not Forgotten.’ —Ian Hislop on These Were Our Sons
‘The shock of reading of the sheer numbers lost… makes me look at our war memorial with
renewed humility and gratitude.’ —Joanna Lumley on These Were Our Sons
‘I can confirm that the actual contents are Very Excellent.’—Emily Brand on Women and the Gallows
‘Thorough research and convincing arguments — 200 years after a sensational UK murder, the author succeeds in her mission to correct “a missed opportunity for justice”.’ —Dean Jobb on The Murder of Mary Ashford