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To War with Whitaker (Plain Foxed Edition)
  • ISBN: 9781910898833
  • Pages: 416
  • Dimensions: 110 x 170mm
  • Publication date: 1 September 2023
  • Producer: Smith Settle
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Binding: Cloth hardback
  • Trimmings: Coloured endpapers; silk ribbon, head- & tailband; gold blocking to spine
  • NB: Unlimited Plain Foxed Edition
  • Preface: Peter J. Conradi
Made in Britain

To War with Whitaker (Plain Foxed Edition)

The Wartime Diaries of the Countess of Ranfurly 1939–1945

Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly

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Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly and her husband Dan had been married for less than a year when he was called up in September 1939. Their characterful cook-butler Whitaker volunteered to go with him, but Yeomanry rules decreed that though officers could take their servants to war they could not take their wives.

Undeterred, however, Hermione acquired a visa from a shady travel-agent, secreted a Colt revolver inside her girdle and took ship to Egypt in pursuit. There she applied for work – though well-connected she had grown up impoverished and was an experienced shorthand typist – but was immediately deported by a fanatical Brigadier who sneered ‘You can’t expect me to believe that a Countess can type.’

Was she daunted? Of course not! She and Dan were madly in love and this sparkling diary, written on-the-hoof throughout the war, sees her jumping ship in Cape Town and returning to Cairo where she found work with SOE. When Dan was taken prisoner, she vowed never to return home until they were reunited. Working first in Jerusalem and then as personal assistant to General ‘Jumbo’ Wilson she met and entertained every kind of visiting celebrity from King Farouk and Lord Beaverbrook to General Patton and Evelyn Waugh. And behind her came Whitaker, a most unusual accomplice from a desperately poor northern background, resourceful, talented, self-educated, a piano-player, and so fat that the cinema seat breaks under his weight when he is watching Olivier’s Henry V.

Against all odds the three of them survived the war and fifty years later Hermione’s unique behind-the-scenes account was finally published. How fortunate that was, for she is the ideal diarist, observant, brave, unsnobbish and the perfect confidante.

‘An extraordinary story. No review can do justice to the writing.’ Sunday Express

‘Few diaries from any era could be as fascinating . . . this is truly compulsive reading.’ Woman and Home

‘These absolutely spiffing diaries offer a madcap, aristocratic window behind the lines of war.’ Daily Mail

Love, War and the Countess

I think it was my old friend the Evening Standard columnist Angus McGill who recommended Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly’s war diaries: Angus would have loved her unpretentious skill at conjuring up...

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