Memoir on the life of Jean Spears by her friend Cynthia Field



Memoir on the life of Jean Spears by her friend Cynthia Field


Describes meeting and becoming friends at RAF Huntingdon in late 1941. Writes of their work, common interests and activities including listening to classical music. Mentions promotions and change of job restricting meetings and subsequent postings. Continues with post war activities and on and off relationships.


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Two page printed document


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[underlined] Additional information about Jean’s life [/underlined] For Sally Spear.

It is not known when Jean joined the WAAF but she was already stationed at Huntingdon RAF when I arrived there in late 1941. We began to converse in the NAAFI and discovered many mutual interests, icluding [sic] artistic ones. It was such a joy having a cultural discussion for a change and to savour each other’s sense of humour.

Jean belonged to Intelligence and worked in the Drawing Office. She was fortunate to be amongst educated colleagues, who formed a group, including ourselves, to attend regular musical evenings at nearby Hemingford Grey. Borrowing camp bicycles in January 1942, we would make our way to the 12th. century Manor House, sometimes in moonlight, later on during light summer evenings. Mrs. Lucy Boston welcomed any local RAF personnel who cared to turn up to listen to classical records played on a wind-up gramophone with a huge horn. Interval refreshments were very civilised, in a candle-lit dining room with log fire blazing in a Tudor-arched fireplace, using “best china”. Mrs. Boston took an interest in Jean and wanted to draw Jean’s elegant hands, but the idea lapsed I believe.

A sequel to the evenings came about after Mrs. Boston died at the age of 98 in 1990. On behalf of Jean and myself, I wrote to Peter Boston, the son, expressing our gratitude for all his mother did for us at an impressionable age and at an extraordinary time.

He kindly invited us to the memorial service in October. Jean was to get a lift to Luton to take the coach to Cambridge, where we could pick her up. On the day it was worrying late when she arrived, but we managed to get to the church just in time. It was a hot day for Jean, in her already weak state, but she was determined, also, not to miss going to the house for refreshments afterwards. Sheer willpower enabled Jean to get through the afternoon and somehow to climb the stone staircase to the old Music Room, looking, amazingly, just the same as remebered. [sic] Finally we took Jean back with us to Birmingham and put her straight to bed.

Back to 1942, when our friendship underwent a test after my promotion to corporal and subsequently to sergeant, to qualify me for other work, albeit on the same camp, so that we saw less of each other for a time. Jean was anyway to be posted soon to RAF Benson, a photo-reconnaissence [sic] airfield feeding its results to the secret Interpretation Unit at Medmenham.

After the war we each attended London Art Schools, Jean at the Central School and myself at Goldsmiths College School of Art. We met from time to time – I remember her elder brother John, looking very impressive in his naval officer’s uniform, treating us to lunch at Vereeshwarmy’s rather grand Indian restaurant near the Mayfair Hotel (not sure of the spelling!). Jean would also visit me at my aunts’ Hampstead flat, where I lodged as a student.

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In 1948 I received a devastating reply from Jean after sending her an invitation to my wedding in July. She was in South Mimms Hospital awaiting an operation and would be unable to come. I visited her there on my own, finding her extremely apprehensive about her coming ordeal. Some family members were also there, with Jean obviously feeling everything was becoming somewhat overwhelming, despite trying her hardest to keep a grip on herself, poor lass. The family kindly took me off to tea and I was glad Jean would have quiet, but I couldn’t forget Jean’s agony of mind. Peter and I soon went together – she was calmer than when I last saw her – but still had not been operated on, and it was to be a long time for her to endure afterwards also. She was to become increasingly physically more and more vulnerable and less able to work.

There was to be a period of some 12 years when Jean and I were “incommunicado” to each other, I busy with children, but Jean later confessed she also withdrew for undefined reasons. We eventually took up with each other again quite as before. Jean had been living with an aunt in Bushey for some years, but she died, leaving her cottage to a cousin of Jean’s, although he did not need it as much as Jean needed a secure home.

Ultimately Jean came to live at her flat at 62 Claybury, Sparrow’s Herne, Bushey in 1968 and here, as Sally mentions, was converted to the Baha’i faith and found her spiritual anchor. She seemed happy there, but work was becoming impossible for her to manage and she had to give it up. Her last job was at a company called Elliots, no details remembered. Jean got to know Atherton, as Sally mentions, but was left bereft when her friend moved away to Bovingdon. Jean herself then felt she would move to Bovingdon, which became her last home, save for an unfortunate short-lived venture to try a care home in Devon. Her high expectations were the unfortunate reverse of being fulfilled and Jean was extremely lonely. She was, after all an urban person born and bred and did not realise how isolated it can be in the country. Jean had put her flat up for sale and she had let us have some of her furniture but thank goodness she decided, in desperation, to return, just in time to re-secure her flat and of course we saw to it that her furniture came back

Jean’s idealistic, uncompromising attitude on standards in every aspect of life, spiritual, moral, temporal, gave me encouragement still to keep personal integrity against the general trends in society. She loved the best, whether it be of courtesy, honesty, love, or the good things of our world – books, pictures, music, clothes. Had she been rich she would have delighted in using her wealth wisely and generously, even – and she [underlined] was [/underlined] lavish when she had any small windfall! Jean was a sort of Mrs. Boston, who was ev[deleted]e[/deleted]en more uncompromising, if possible, and far more daunting than our dear Jean. It was a blessing on me and my family to have known her.

Cynthia Grayburn Field.


C G Field, “Memoir on the life of Jean Spears by her friend Cynthia Field,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 4, 2023,

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