Barbara Gull nee Hubball was born in September 1928. She lived in Bradford Street, Walsall in a large detached house with her younger sister and mother and father, who were both in the beauty industry. They owned businesses in Walsall and Lichfield and were quite a wealthy family.
Barbara went to St. Matthew’s Church School and the family spent their weekends taking tea in the countryside at a tea shop and farm owned by the Mellors, who her parents were friendly with. Barbara and her younger sister had holidays at the farm prior to the Second World War breaking out.
Barbara’s father was in the Merchant Navy during the First World War, and she remembers him telling the family that the expected war would be awful. She thinks that he had already made plans for his daughters to stay with the Mellors on the outbreak of war because when they heard the announcement on the radio their father simply turned to them and told them to get their kit ready. They left that afternoon. As she was well prepared for the possibility of being evacuated, Barbara doesn’t remember being too bothered when it actually came. She knew she would see her parents most weekends when they would come in the car or by train, and she already had a great fondness for Mrs Mellor, or “Aunty June”.
Barbara went with her and sister and two cousins to stay at the Mellors, and the four of them shared a bedroom in the attic at the farmhouse. They were expected to help with collecting eggs and feeding the chickens, which Barbara really enjoyed. Whilst they were there they shared a school with the locals and she can remember noticing the difference between the small village school in Colton and their former school where there were more teachers and more classrooms.
During their stay in Colton there were two sets of evacuees from Westgate-on-Sea and London. Aunty June was in the Women’s Institute, and Barbara was chosen to go with her host to help with one set of new arrivals. She can remember thinking how horrible it must have been for these children and you can hear how Aunty June ended up with another three evacuees by listening to the audio clip below:
Barbara can remember a little frostiness from the local children when she and her family first arrived, but once the rest of the evacuees started arriving en masse, she was treated much more like a local. On one occasion she was asked by Aunty June to take the trap with her cousin and fetch donations of clothing from the farm houses in Colton to take to the soldiers at Rugeley Station returning from Dunkirk. One lady had put some women’s bloomers in a bag and she can remember the soldiers putting them on and acting the fool.
None of the other evacuees stayed long, and although her sister stayed quite a bit longer, Barbara went home to take her Eleven Plus and to attend the grammar school in Walsall. She wanted to stop in Colton, and the bombing only really started in Walsall once she had returned there. She felt unsafe and can remember watching the bombs dropping from her bedroom window at night. She loved her time in Colton, and continued to have holidays there in the summer long after she had gone home.