It's my stop today on the Ambulance Girls blog tour and I am bringing you an extract from the book. This is from the first chapter so it is bound to get you hooked. Look out for the other stops on the tour later this week.
As death and destruction fall from the skies day after day in the London Blitz, Australian ambulance driver Lily Brennan confronts the horror with bravery, intelligence, common sense and humour.
Although she must rely upon her colleagues to carry out her dangerous duties, Lily begins to suspect that someone at her Ambulance Station may be giving assistance to the enemy by disclosing secret information. Then her best friend, Jewish ambulance attendant David Levy, disappears in suspicious circumstances. Aided – and sometimes hindered – by David’s school friend, a mysterious and attractive RAF pilot, Lily has to draw on all of her resources to find David, and negotiate the dangers that come from falling in love in a country far from home in a time of war…
Tuesday 15 October 1940
Blood, warm and sticky, was trickling down my forehead. Something sharp must have nicked me as they pushed me through the narrow gap. Never mind, I was inside.
‘Hullo,’ I called out. ‘Anyone there?’
The words disappeared into the darkness as my torchlight flicked over the mess of plaster, wood and debris. In the fug of soot and dust and ash, my breathing was shallow and unsatisfying, which added to the sense of impending doom that had gripped me the moment they shoved me inside.
The trickle of blood on my forehead had become exquisitely itchy. When I lifted my gloved hand to wipe it away, the leather was harsh against my skin and felt gritty. Now my face was bloody and dirty; I probably looked like any child’s nightmare.
Whatever was I – Lily Brennan, schoolteacher from Western Australia – doing here, crawling into the ruins of a bombed house, playing the hero, when the children were most likely already dead?
But what could I do? Really, there was no choice.
I had arrived with my ambulance partner, David Levy, to find a familiar scene of devastation, bleached to aquatint by the moonlight. Piles of rubble stood in the middle of what had been a row of Victorian dwellings. They towered in gaunt ruin against the sky, between shapeless wrecks of masonry that showed the signs of a direct hit. Men’s voices, brisk and business-like, emerged from the gloom, between whistles and the occasional shout. Short flashes of torchlight appeared and vanished in the darkness, as rescue workers sought doggedly for signs of life in the ruins.
When I emerged from the ambulance, the warden had looked me up and down as if I were a prize cow at the Royal Show. As he did so, the letters on his tin helmet had stood out brightly in the moonlight: ‘ARP’. They stood for air raid precautions, and I had felt inappropriate laughter bubble up in my chest when I got a good look at him. How could this small man protect anyone from the destruction London had suffered in the past five weeks of air raids? And yet there was a quiet authority in his slow nod to me, and in the way he had then turned to throw a cryptic comment to the men standing behind him.
‘She’ll do; she’s thin enough.’
Levy, who had come to stand beside me, laughed at that, saying, ‘I think she might prefer to be described as slim.’ There had been no answering smile from the warden. Instead, he gestured at the ruins of what had been a house. ‘We’ve got two infants buried under the rubble there,’ he said. His clipped, precise voice did not at all obscure the horror of those words.
‘At least one’s alive – or was alive until a half-hour ago – because we’ve heard a baby crying. We understand they were left sheltering under a solid kitchen table before the bomb hit. Problem is, the place is just holding together. If we disturb the site too much it’ll bring the rest down on top of them. It looks like someone slim – as slim as you, miss – could squeeze through. You’d need to crawl through to the kitchen at the back, find the kids and bring them out. Think you can do that?’
Levy knew I had a horror of tightly enclosed spaces. ‘I’ll go,’ he had said. ‘I’m good at squeezing through ruins. I’ve done it before.’
‘There isn’t the room. You’d never get in.’ The warden sized me up with another quick glance and challenged me with his eyes.
Extracted from Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows (Ebury Press, in paperback £5.99)
I would like to thank Ebury for the opportunity to take part in this tour.