During WWII, female servicewomen were subjected to sexual assault and discrimination.
Men were expected to dodge bullets, while women were expected to avoid advancing men.
Jean enjoys sharing extraordinary tales of bravery and secret missions as a code and cipher officer for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Egypt and Italy during WWII.
She admires the sense of responsibility she had at such a young age, as well as her subsequent love of travel and adventure.
However, her letters to her sister Pat, a Wren serving in England, conceal a darker story.
The behavior of fellow soldiers was a source of worry.
Jean was frequently harassed by the opposite sex when she was just 18 years old.
I wish men didn’t automatically assume that if they take you out, they can kiss you whenever they want.
I went to the club last night with a naval type… I had a great time on the way home…
Jean was a member of the Fany (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), an elite force that sent more women overseas than other female services because it was assumed that Fanys who had received private education would know how to behave.
“It was hard because one had been taught to be polite, and you felt it was somehow your fault if men got the wrong ideas,” she says now, at the age of 96.
During World War II, the British government was more concerned about “promiscuous” servicewomen than servicemen.
Women were reluctantly drafted into the war effort, with conscription beginning in December 1941.
It was feared that having girls serve in uniform away from home would lead to “immorality.”
In 1942, a Parliamentary Committee was established to investigate the female military in order to put an end to “rumours derogatory to the services.”
The men’s services were not subjected to a similar investigation.
Anne, a former junior commander with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, told me about her war last year.
She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS – Britain’s female army) when she was 18 years old and was one of the first ATS girls to serve on the Continent in 1944.
“They didn’t want to send out girls who would find men and male advances difficult to cope with, so we had to go through a sort of health check, which included finding out about your views on relationships with men.”
Many of the girls had lived in sheltered environments:
UK news summary from Infosurhoy.
Female servicewomen discuss the sexual assault and double standards they faced during WWII.
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Female servicewomen on the sexual assault and double standards they experienced in the Second World War