Lee escaped from Egypt setting off with Roland Penrose for Europe, but the situation quickly deteriorated due to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Together they returned to London, where Roland was assigned to give lessons on camouflage techniques, while Lee worked as a photographer for the fashion magazine Vogue. She was initially turned down by the director of the time, photographer Cecil Beaton, but she was later accepted as most photographers had been forced to enlist following the outbreak of war.
Lee Miller during her first year at the magazine shot only commercial photographs, despite the fact that bombs continue to fall incessantly on the city and the paper for publishing fashion magazines was rationed.
To escape the boredom of commercial commissions and the circumstances imposed by the blitzes on the city, Lee embarked on a new project, the publication of a photographic book entitled “Grim Glory: pictures of Britain under fire”. The book was aimed at the American public with the intention of showing the reality of Great Britain under bombing and coincided with Lee Miller’s most creative period since the Paris years. Her approach was fully surrealist and each image lends itself to multiple levels of interpretation. The book was a huge success and some of the photos in it were reproduced in newspapers around the world.
When American troops arrive in London in the winter of 1941-1942 to prepare for the liberation of continental Europe, Lee applied for accreditation to the American military as a war correspondent, which would open many doors and possibilities. Lee Miller had now been an expatriate for twenty years but the thought of being able to exploit her citizenship had not crossed her mind until some of her compatriots who emigrated to London suggested the idea. Among them was also the photographer of the magazine Life, David E. Scherman, who would become her great friend, lover and traveling companion for all the tragic events she was to witness.