Betty Barnfield – memories of World War II

Betty was born in Bristol. Her family moved to Eastington in 1931 after her Grandfather, Charles Warner, asked Betty’s mother to help him at Green Farm Alkerton. They stayed there until Charles died on Christmas Eve in 1940 and the farm was sold in 1941. Betty then moved to the Hawthorns in Claypits, then later to Bath Road where they had the house next to Bath Road Garage built.

Betty’s mother took in an evacuee from Birmingham, a 5 year old girl called Olive. Betty was just returning from a trip to Stonehouse with a friend when they saw a coach pulled up outside the Village Hall. Out stepped Olive, very dirty and in ragged clothing held together with safety pins. Betty’s mother fitted her out with decent clothing and Olive later returned to her family a different girl. Olive’s brother came to collect her after about 18 months, and the family heard no more of her, so never knew if she survived the bombing in Birmingham.

Betty recalls just one bombing in Eastington, when a bomb dropped in ‘The Ham’ field at Millend, land which then belonged to John Warner. It made the largest crater in Gloucestershire at the time. Nobody was injured, but the stained glass window in what is now the Lady Chapel was broken. Pieces of the glass were found and the glass replaced in the window. If you look at this window now you will see that the stained glass does not form a pattern where it was pieced back.

People were not sure if the bomber was looking for a target such as Hoffman’s or Sperry’s, or whether the bomb was just dropped willy-nilly.

Betty remembers rationing and shortages of food in the war, but as everyone had a garden in Eastington vegetables and eggs were available.

Betty was 19 when the war broke out. Having first been apprenticed as a book-keeper for a firm in Stroud, she was then working for Ruberoid at Meadow Mill. Ruberoid evacuated their London staff to work in Meadow Mill. Some of the staff from London were housed at The Hill in Stroud where memorable staff parties were held.

At the age of 21 Betty was called up for ‘Work of National Importance’ and went to Sperry Gyroscope to work. After that, Betty went back to Ruberoid, going with them to London when the staff were returned there in 1946. She did not stay long in London as she wished to return to Eastington to be with Bob when he returned from Burma.

Betty remembers the American army encampment at Frampton – the Americans were camped in a field behind the green, with their tanks and half-tracks. Betty went out with one of the American soldiers, but it was just as friends. Betty commented that she could have married Owen Harris…
Betty remembers the Special Constable in the village, Joe Broomhall the butcher. At night he patrolled the village to ensure everyone was observing the blackout. If anyone was showing even the tiniest shard of light, Joe would tell them off.

Betty had known her husband-to-be Bob since they were school children, he was her brother’s pal. Bob’s mother encouraged Betty to write to Bob when he was serving in Burma. After he returned to Eastington in 1946 they started courting and were married in Eastington Church in May 1948. While Bob was in Rangoon he met an old neighbour from Eastington, Tom Shill! Tom was in a reserved occupation and was returned to England.

Betty and Bob shared many social activities. Betty was in the church choir for 49 years, and Bob was the church organist. Both belonged to the Eastington Concert Party, and gave plays at the Village Hall. Betty was secretary of Eastington Tennis Club until it was disbanded when the farmer wanted his land for other uses. There were two tennis courts and a wooden club house on land that is now farmed by Andrew Cozens.

Betty’s brother, Marston John Everett, who was serving in the forces, sadly died in 1944 aged 19. He had been waiting at Southampton to follow the D-Day landings to France when he went down with polio. He was first taken to an isolation hospital, then transferred to Gloucester. He died two days later.

Betty spoke of the wartime spirit, commenting that it was a case of having to hang in and survive.