University of Oxford
5 files

Jean Swetnam's memories of evacuation, air raids and VE Day

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 20:10 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Jean was evacuated from Putney, first to Caversham and then, with her sister, to Lichfield. She hated it. She was shut in a cupboard when she was "naughty", and still suffers from claustrophobia. She and her sister were so desperate to get home that they planned to walk back to London. Eventually, they were so miserable that their parents came and picked them up, taking them back home to Putney in 1942. This was a private arrangement.

She has strong memories of nights in the Anderson shelter in the garden in Putney with her parents and sister. It was terrifying. Eventually, they changed to starying in the cellar which was much better.

Jean also remembers being at school during a raid. She was pushed into a ditch by a stranger during one raid for her own protection, which was frightening.

There was a great source of friendliness between people; food was shared etc.

Harry Wilson, Jean's father, worked in the 'Street Fire Party', Air Raid Precautions (ARP). The whistle that the contributor brought was his fire whistle. He was an upholsterer by trade. He was sent around doing miscellaneous work for the war effort, but had a bad leg so he couldn't serve. He died in 1946.

Olive Wilson, Jean's mother, was in the Women's Voluntary Service, as well as running the household. She also worked making woollen garments for servicemen. Jean said that her parents were always both around.

On VE Day, she went up to London to the Palace. There were massive street parties. As her father was a pianist, he pushed his piano into the street and played music.


Item list and details

1. Service record 2. Certificate of discharge 3. Prayer book

Person the story/items relate to

Jean Swetnam

Person who shared the story/items

Jean Swetnam

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

She is the person.

Type of submission

Shared at National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, Hampshire on 16 September 2023.

Record ID

114416 | RNM011