Jessie Ravenna Sharman (b. 1892): War, Memory & Life Writing

Sharman’s husband was away at war for four years and in this time, it seems he played very active and important roles in the British Army. ‘My husband had now joined the forces and was in the Royal Ordinance Corps … by November 1915 was sent to help in the evacuation of stores and men in Gallipoli’ (Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 6).

War Poster 'Women of Britain Say - Go!'
War Poster ‘Women of Britain Say – Go!’

Through reading Sharman’s autobiography, one can clearly see how much concern she felt while her husband was away at war. Due to a serious lack of information, Sharman was left in the dark about the whereabouts of her husband; no letters were ever sent or received over long periods of time, which would have obviously been a terrible experience for her, not even knowing if he was alive and well. Luckily, this changed when her husband was relocated, ‘It was some time before I knew he was in Alexandria … from that time I got regular letters and cards but my husband was away for three years.’ It seems very apparent that although she was finally receiving information from her husband, this did not suffice and she ultimately wanted him to return home.

War Poster, 'Who's Absent? Is It You?'
War Poster, ‘Who’s Absent? Is It You?’

According to Sharman, World War One ‘dragged on for four years.’ The way in which she says this almost gives the impression that she deemed the war unnecessary and somewhat a nuisance. Sharman, in some ways, adopts a directly critical tone towards the war, but this is not always the case. When it comes to the role of being a teacher in the war, she embraces a much more nostalgic tone. When recollecting her memories from the war, Sharman says how ‘sometimes their [the pupils] dinners were served in the shelters. I do not remember in the teaching staff had any!’ (Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 8).Despite having a nostalgic tone, she also explains in her memoir that ‘The Second World War had broken out and teaching with periods in the shelters was a difficult job. ‘(Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 7). As they could be given a warning at any time, the consistency of teaching would have been much disrupted. ‘If a warning was in progress we had to keep the children until the All Clear sounded unless their parents came for them.’ Sharman was blatantly rather protective over her pupils as this would have been quite traumatic for young children.

Children in an Air Raid shelter, World War Two
Children in an Air Raid shelter, World War Two

It seems Sharman has a relatively hard time during both World Wars, with the absence of her husband and the difficulty of teaching her pupils in an unsettled teaching environment. Due to this, her memoir fails to represent any patriotic perspective; Sharman wished for both wars to be over as soon as they began.

Bibliography:

618 SHARMAN, Jessie Ravenna, ‘RecolIections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman’, TS, pp.8 (c.2,000 words). BruneI University Library.

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