Early Childhood

Patricia-Anne de Montfort Welbourne, (later Jehan Rajab) was born in Brazil in June 1934. Her father worked for Cable & Wireless, a British telecommunications company and was stationed in Brazil at the time; however, a year later, in 1935,  they moved back to England. The family spent the next eighteen months in Hampstead, London, before being sent to Jamaica, where they lived for three years. The period in England, such as the time in Hampstead, allowed people working abroad an opportunity to be with their families, and this was the pattern of Jehan’s life until she was about fourteen years old; three years abroad and a year or a year and a half in England. These families’ lives were typical colonial lives in those days, and the British communities created ‘little England’ for themselves in foreign countries. Their lives revolved around work and typical British social activities, such as musical societies, cricket clubs and dramatic societies. Jehan’s first memories were difficult, such as the riots that erupted in Jamaica in the 1930s. The riots were caused by grievances the locals had against their colonial rulers, and so, for certain periods, British communities were in real danger. On one occasion, they were forced to leave their home and stay in a hotel, where most of the British community went during the worst periods. However, Jehan also had many pleasant memories of her time in Jamaica, often involving tea parties and special toys. Tea time and tea parties were an integral part of British life. Overall, Jehan’s memories of Jamaica were very happy. On the other hand, her mother retained negative memories of Jamaica for the rest of her life.

When Jehan was five or six, her family left Jamaica and returned to England, where they stayed for a while before being sent to the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. This was at the onset of the Second World War, and her memories of this time were much more vivid. Nonetheless, Jehan and her parents were in Plymouth waiting to sail to Cape Verde when Britain declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939. Her father went on ahead of them, urging both Jehan and her mother to remain in England; however, her mother decided they would join him, and in 1940, they boarded a refugee ship headed to South Africa. The Atlantic at this time was almost entirely dominated by German U-boats, making the journey particularly dangerous. Although Jehan and her mother left the ship once it had docked in Sao Vincente in the Cape Verdes, two days later, the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk on route to South Africa, with the loss of all life on board. Jehan and her mother left Cape Verdes in 1943 and returned to Plymouth, England. On one occasion, Jehan and her mother were standing onboard the ship’s deck with many Portuguese passengers when they noticed the periscope of a submarine come out of the water. While the other passengers shrieked and ran to the other side of the ship, Jehan’s mother, with her very British stiff upper lip, snapped at her to stay where she was and ensure she never exposed any weakness to the enemy. Once again, after spending time in England, her family was sent to Gibraltar. This was perhaps her favourite place from her childhood, and she made many British and Gibraltarian friends. At this time, she developed a strong love for Spanish culture, especially that of southern Spain. Spain was right on her doorstep, and she often took weekend trips across the border. However, before and after leaving Gibraltar, Jehan was sent to boarding school at Truro High School in Cornwall, where her mother also went to school and then to Ravenscroft, a school for young women focused on domestic science.

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