Daughter of a baronet and first cousin once removed of Winston Churchill, she joined the Mechanised Transport Corps as a fully trained mechanic and ambulance driver during WWII, serving in Libya, Syria, Palestine, Italy, France and Germany. Ahead of her time, Anita bemoaned 'first-rate women subordinate to second-rate men' and, as the English army forbade women from serving at the front, joined the Free French Forces in order to do what she felt was her duty.
Writing letters in Hitler's recently vacated office and marching in the Victory parade contrast with observations of seeing friends murdered and a mother avenging her son by coldly shooting a prisoner of war. Unflinching and unsentimental, Train to Nowhere is a memoir of Anita's war, one that, long after it was written, remains poignant and relevant.
With a new introduction by Penny Perrick.
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By Jean on 06-09-17
An Absorbing Memoir
This book was first published in 1948. Anita Theodosia Moira Leslie (Nov 21, 1914-Nov 5, 1985) was born in Ireland and was the daughter of a baronet and a cousin of Winston Churchill via his mother. Jennie Churchill was Anita’s great aunt. Anita followed many of her peers in volunteering for active service in World War II. She served in the mechanized Transport Corp as a mechanic and ambulance driver. (Princess Elizabeth also served as mechanic and ambulance driver but had to stay in England). Anita served in the Middle East and Egypt and then in Italy, Northern France and Germany. She was award the Croix de Guerre, the French Military Award given to foreign military personnel who served in France during WWII. Her family was friends with General Alexander so whenever they were in the same area she always had either lunch or dinner with him. Because of her family status, she moved in the upper circles in the Middle Eastern countries where she was stationed. I found her discussion of Palmyra, Syria interesting as the archeologist gave her a tour. I thought her descriptions of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus were most interesting considering what has happened to these cities today. I found her discussion about meeting with Churchill at Checkers when she was returning to France after visiting her ill mother most fascinating.
The memoir is well written in the style of writing typical of the era and displays the typical “stiff upper lip” of the British. As an ambulance driver, she saw many of the horrors of war. She said the worst was Nordhausen Concentration Camp. She was assigned to evacuate the surviving prisoners. Some of the desensitization from war comes through in the writing. This is a common factor to anyone who has seen and lived through the horrors of war. Leslie spoke several languages and was fluent in French.
Anita Leslie went on after the war to become a prolific author and biographer. She wrote over seventeen books several of them about the Churchills. She wrote “Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill” and “The Marlborough House”.
The book was nine and a half hours long. Deryn Edwards does a good job narrating the book. Edwards studied at the Guildhall school of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. She is a singer and audiobook narrator.
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