WE’VE written about York’s redoubtable wartime Lord Mayor, Edna Annie Crichton, before. But as far as we know we haven’t, in recent times, published a photograph of her doing what she’s most famous for: visiting people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the Baedeker Raid of April 1942. So imagine our delight at finding this extraordinary photograph in a file at The Press.

There’s no caption. But according to Press reader Anne Sains, the woman in the centre is Princess Mary, and the man to her right is her husband, Lord Harewood. And the woman to the princess's left? That is very definitely Edna Annie Crichton. She’s wearing her mayoral chains of office, and is clearly on a walkabout with the royal couple, visiting bombed buildings.

We’re not sure which street this is - many were damaged during the raid. But Mrs Crichton is instantly recognisable.

She was the first woman ever to hold the office Lord Mayor of York. That was remarkable enough. But it was the way she carried out the duties of that office for which she will be long remembered.

At 2.42am on April 29, 1942, an air raid siren sounded in York. Then bombs began to fall. The raid began with flares and incendiary bombs. These were followed by almost 70 high explosive bombs. Estimates of casualties vary, but by the time the ‘all clear’ sounded at about 4.45 am something like 100 people had been killed, or else were so badly injured they died later.

The bombs wreaked havoc on buildings, too. Most of the railway station roof was destroyed, along with the booking hall and records office. The Bar Convent, the Guildhall and Saint Martin’s Church were badly damaged in incendiary fires. And by some estimates, a third of the city’s homes had been destroyed or damaged.

The Lord Mayor rose to the occasion. As the dust began to settle, she went from bombed home to bombed home. The Yorkshire Evening Press newspaper of April 30, 1942, said that she had been ‘an inspiration to citizens… working untiringly... superintending ARP arrangements, visiting hospitals and first-aid posts and generally alleviating distress among victims’.

And there she is, in our photo, walking through York’s bomb-shattered streets with the royal couple on her mission to keep people’s spirits up. An inspiration indeed.

Stephen Lewis