Rastit Family of Marseille, Sep 1938

Pamela Downing spent nearly four months in France between 1 September and 20 Dec 1938. A number of annotated photos have survived.

On 12 Jul 1938 Molly Downing‘s diary announces ‘French Girl Arrived’. This was Colette Rastit (b 8 Jun 1920) who was almost exactly the same age as her daughter Pamela.

Pamela Downing with Rastit family (l-r): Madame, Grandmere, Marthe, Simone, Pam, Colette, Robert, Château Gombert, Marseille, Sep 1938

Pamela Downing with Rastit family (l-r): Madame, Grandmere, Marthe, Simone, Pam, Colette, Robert, Château Gombert, Marseille, Sep 1938

She was to stay with the Downings for the next six weeks when the two girls would return to France as part of a school exchange. The English term at Edgbaston High School did not break up until 27 Jul and that was Pamela’s very last day at school, aged 18.

On Saturday 23 Jul 1938 a party of 8 in two cars drove for the day from the Downing home in Edgbaston to go fishing near Presteigne on the River Lugg. Molly’s diary reports that Colette was not at all well, attaining a temperature of 102 on the following Monday.

The following week on 29 Jul 1938 Colette, seemingly fully recovered, went with the whole family to the Welsh coast at Harlech, not returning to Edgbaston until 19 August. On 20 August, Noel, Molly and probably Pam, all attended the wedding of Joyce Foulds and Archie Evans in Great Alne.

On 1 Sep 1938, the two girls, Pamela and Colette then returned to France together by train.

Photos then show two of Colette’s sisters and others in Versailles, presumably as they made their way south to the home of the Rastit family in Chateau Gombert, just outside Marseille

Molly’s diary records a crisis around the turmoil of the Munich Agreement with Hitler on 30 Sep 1938. Molly records letters both from Pam and M. Rastit and a discussion of whether Pam could actually fly home. As it was, events passed and Pam continued her trip.

Other photos suggest that after her six weeks with the Rastits, Pam met up with Helene Cordier in Oct in Tournus. She then attended a French Language school in Chateau d’Oron in Switzerland in November, returning home to Edgbaston on 20 Dec 1938. She subsequently attended Birmingham School of Art.

Colette herself married the following year on 18 Apr 1939.

Sources and Notes

Last updated on 24 February 2021 by JJ Morgan