This photograph shows Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, in her role as head of St John Ambulance, addressing assembled crowds in the Vigo Road Recreation Ground. The occasion was the opening ceremony of Andover’s carnival, an event of week-long fundraising from Saturday 27 August onwards. It was particularly special in 1946 because it was the first carnival celebration since 1939; the outbreak of the Second World War in September of that year had put paid to the annual jamboree, as it did for much else besides.

Sitting behind in his cocked hat and mayoral chain is the mayor of Andover, Cllr George Donald Young, whose family were grocers in the upper High Street. His mayoress was Mrs Maud Sainsbury, who was then the manageress of music dealers Teague and King at 53 High Street. A few years later Mrs Sainsbury would become mayor in her own right - only the second woman mayor in Andover’s history - while the shop she once managed had become Sainsbury Fisher.

The countess was, of course, the wife of Lord Louis Mountbatten, then recently ennobled for his role in the Second World War and the couple were soon to go to India to oversee the partition of that country as the last Viceroy and Vicereine. Lady Louis, as she was known, had recently come back from Singapore and Sumatra where she had played a crucial role in evacuating the Allied prisoners of war. In Sumatra, the Japanese had instituted a savage regime of feeding that would have killed all the survivors within weeks. By prompt action in getting them all out, she saved most of their lives. Andover was well-known to her as she lived at Broadlands, Romsey, while her great friend and cousin, Marjorie, Countess of Brecknock, lived at Wherwell Priory.

Mayor Young had made an opening speech which was difficult to hear because of problems with the microphone and this is why the photograph shows it set aside. Lady Louis was well able to project her voice and she paid tribute to the people of Andover for all their efforts during the war, particularly in Civil Defence. The housewives of the town had borne the burden of standing in queues and putting up with shortages, as well as playing their part in the Women’s Voluntary Services, besides serving in the canteens, the offices, the factories and the shops. The generosity of the townspeople was well-demonstrated when a Red Cross and St John appeal for funds raised £10,000 from Andover alone - a magnificent result and she paid tribute to the support given to the National Savings Campaign and the amazing effort, together with Andover Massachusetts, in raising enough money to purchase a Spitfire. The speech went down well.

After this, the next task was for Lady Louis to crown the new carnival queen, 18-year-old Pamela Burden, whose father and grandfather had run Burden’s shop since Victorian times. Ever since the first carnival of 1924 each queen had been presented with an oversize key of gilded wood and this one for 1946 was signed by the countess; after 77 years, I wonder whether it is still in the Burden family? The junior queen was Christabel Harvey, the daughter of another High Street family. She had just had her 11th birthday, the week before the carnival.

Carnival Week in those days was a huge local effort. There were 28 volunteer members of the general committee which comprised many of the well-known worthies of the town who put themselves out to organise events. These included tennis tournaments, concerts, dances, an auction, fireworks, a swimming gala, a motor treasure hunt, tug-of-war, whist drives and a midnight matinee at the Odeon.

The highlight was of course the carnival procession that took place on the Wednesday night from 6.30pm. There were what now seem some quaintly-dated classes for judging such as decorated perambulators; errand boys with decorated bicycles; horse drawn trade vehicles, and tableaux on wheels – horse or motor-driven. Assembling at the Walled Meadow (which was then a large open space where Andover FC played), it wended its way down London Street, up the High Street, to Marlborough Street, Charlton Road and then back down Junction Road, Bridge Street and then up to the Guildhall where Queen Pamela distributed the prizes to the winning competitors. After a gap of seven years since the last similar event, Carnival Week was a welcome sign that life had returned to normal.

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