Interview with Barbara Bulleyment


Interview with Barbara Bulleyment


Barbara Bulleyment worked at a department store in Boston until she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and was initially stationed at 16 Maintenance Unit Stafford and then 209 Maintenance Unit at Broughton. She recounts her life as an equipment assistant, how leisure time was spent and about the cook catching a pheasant to eat.








00:50:34 audio recording


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DE: Try again. This is an interview with Barbara Bulleyment. We’re in Brigg. It is the 3rd of June. My name is Dan Ellin. I’m terribly sorry, can you -
BB: That’s alright.
DE: Start that again?
BB: My parents were farmers in New Bolingbroke and I worked in a large department store in Boston, in the millinery department and one of the assistants had already left to do war work and so I was, I didn’t have to go straightaway and eventually I got my call up papers and I went to Bridgnorth.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And I did a month’s training there and then I went to Bridlington on the equipment course for about six weeks and after that I was posted to 16MU in Stafford. And when I got there I was told that would be it. I would never move to another station ‘cause once you got to 16MU station they never posted you anywhere else. But eventually I was posted to 209MU in Broughton near Brigg and I stayed there until I was demobbed sometime in March. 19 - 1945.
And while I was in Broughton people from the village used to invite us to their homes and I, myself and a friend went to this lady’s house and eventually her brother came home from Rhodesia and so I got to know him.
DE: What had he been doing in Rhodesia?
BB: He was in the RAF.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And he was, he’d gone there for training to be a pilot but in Rhodesia he couldn’t fly there so he changed and he became an electrician. And eventually we got married in June 1946.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And came to live in Broughton because he worked for the council and by then the camp had closed and the council had took it over and modernised the huts and with my husband being in charge of that in, at the council we managed to get the officers’ quarters which was very nice. And we stayed there for about three years until we rented a property in Brigg. And
And then we eventually bought this house on the Bigby High Road.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And unfortunately, oh I think it was about ten years ago, my husband died but by that time I’d become friendly with somebody and, oh I know what it was, it was a lady who, [pause] who bred cocker spaniel dogs.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And we wanted one so we went to see her and so she said, “Why don’t you join the Elsham Association?” which I did.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And, and I’m still a member.
DE: But you were never stationed at Elsham Wolds? It’s, it’s
BB: No I was never stationed there but because I was stationed in Broughton, we used, at Broughton it was all equipment stuff for aeroplanes.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And that’s how I could become a member and I used to think to myself well although I wasn’t on an operational station at least I did help with equipment for aeroplanes and helped to keep them up in the sky.
DE: Yeah. Quite right. So what sort of, what sort of equipment did they have in 209 MU?
BB: it was only, anything that you’d need to keep planes up.
DE: So was this, was this spare parts? Or
BB: Spare parts yeah.
DE: For the aircraft.
BB: For the aircraft. And we and we used to send parts out to other like, used to send them to Lindholme and all the stations around there.
DE: Ahum.
This is, I’d better – it’s my gardener.
Other: Morning.
DE: Alright. I’ll pause it then for a moment. Somebody’s knocked at the door.
DE: Ok so resuming the interview you were telling me about the, the spare parts and, and
BB: Yes.
DE: What it was like working at 209 MU? Did you – What, what was your role there? Your, your job?
BB: Well I used to issue whatever any, any, anything that maybe was, we’d get it through the post. And there was, there were fifty WAAFs and the majority of the airmen we thought were old but they weren’t. They were only about in say their thirties or forties.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And there was one lady, she was a cook, and of course the living quarters was in some woods and were some pheasants and one day she decided that she’d steep some raisins in some whisky and put them on a line to see if she could catch one of these pheasants which she did and she sat nursing it until somebody came and could take it away from her.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And of course the RAF officers had that for their meal one day.
DE: Do you think that was a fair trade for the, for the booze that she steeped the raisins in?
BB: Yes [laughs].
And I was demobbed then and afterwards with my husband working for the council the council took them over the huts and made them into living quarters.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And so we were able to get the WAAF officers’ quarters and we stayed there for about three years.
DE: What were, what were the huts like when you were living there and working there?
BB: Well they just had the beds and, and of course they had the heating was a coke stove.
DE: Was it a large - large camp?
BB: No there was only about the fifty WAAFs and about fifty airmen. That’s all.
DE: Ahum and so how many people were there to a hut?
BB: I would say about twenty.
DE: Did you, did you mix with, with any of the airmen or did you have friends among the other WAAF?
BB: We mixed with the airmen when we went to, for the, for our meals.
DE: Ahum.
BB: Because there was just the one dining hall.
DE: What was the food like?
BB: Reasonable. We got used to it.
DE: And while you were working there did you do shifts or did you -?
BB: No we worked about 8 o’clock in the morning till about say five at night.
DE: And what did you do in the evening?
BB: Mostly we’d go into Scunthorpe. Maybe to the pictures or something.
DE: And how did you get to Scunthorpe?
BB: I think there was some vehicle on the camp that took us.
DE: Ahum.
DE: Did you go anywhere else for, you know, during your time off?
BB: I think we might have gone into the village of Broughton.
DE: Ahum. What was in Broughton?
BB: Only the pubs.
DE: So did you, did you go, gp for a drink with some of your friends then?
BB: Yes.
DE: Which pub did you go to?
BB: I think there’s a, there was the Dog and Rat. Sometimes to the Red Lion and sometimes in the village they would put a dance on
DE: Ahum
BB: Which we’d go to. And when I got leave I used to go home.
DE: How did you get, how did you get home?
BB: Sometimes I’d get on a bus and sometimes I would try, I’d try to hitch home. And sometimes there was a train from Lincoln late at night and I’d get on that and get to New Bolingbroke Station and sometimes my father would meet me from there.
DE: Ahum.
BB: He would ride a bike and bring me a bike as well.
And um
[Phone ringing]
BB: Who’s that one?
DE: That’s yours yeah.
DE: Right. Resuming the interview again after a phone call. You were talking about going home on leave and your father meeting you with -
BB: Yes.
DE: With, with bicycles.
BB: And sometimes I would try and hitchhike with somebody and give me a lift.
DE: Ahum.
BB: If not I’d get to Tumby Woodside Station and sometimes the porter would walk with me and otherwise I’d just walk home on my own and sometimes I’d get home and my parents didn’t know I was arriving so I climbed through the kitchen window and they’d find me there.
I’d get up in the morning and [pause] then when I went back I could always get on a train from New Bolingbroke station to Lincoln and the railway line passed through my father’s land and I could always wave to my parents. And then I’d get to Lincoln and I could manage to get a bus back to Broughton and then,
DE: Was it easier to get home from Broughton then from Stafford then?
BB: Yes I always got, I used to walk to the camp at Stafford to the station there and it was about a three mile walk.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And then I could get, I’d get a train from Stafford to Lincoln.
DE: Was, was the work very different at Stafford to, compared to Broughton?
BB: Not really. And I know, I remember, I got to Lincoln Station and the train only went to Tumby Woodside and somebody told me that I wanted to have a word with the engine drivers and that they would take me on to Tumby Woodside Station. And one of them said you may as well work, do some work while you’re here so they got me shovelling coal on to the train.
DE: What was that like?
BB: It was, I suppose you just took it in your stride.
DE: Ahum.
DE: Can we go, go back a little bit further and well, did you have a choice about joining the WAAF or did you - ?
BB: Oh yes I did I [pause] you could join any, any service that you wanted.
DE: Ahum.
BB: I don’t know why I joined the WAAF but I did. I didn’t regret doing it. In actual fact I quite enjoyed my life in the forces.
DE: Ahum. So can you remember when you, when you did join?
BB: December 12th 1941.
DE: And how old were you then?
BB: Twenty one.
DE: Ahum so, and then what happened you were called up to go to?
BB: I went to Bridgnorth first.
DE: And what was that like there?
BB: It was just a training camp. And the first time I went I met some people, some other people who were joining the WAAFs and we decided one night that we’d go out and get into Bridgnorth itself and we lost our way.

DE: Ahum
BB: And we finally got back to the camp and of course it was nearly midnight when we should have been in bed so we all got into our beds in our clothing when, when the duty officer came around.
Why I was at 16 MU because I was, I would become equipment assistant. I was in the barrack stores there issuing clothing and what not.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And I think that is why, when that I was sent to 209 MU at Broughton and
Am I repeating myself again when I say that we arrived at Appleby Station in Broughton?
DE: No, no, no.
BB: And we were just told, we rang up for transport and were told that the camp had closed down because it was a new one and there was nobody on duty there and that we were to start, they told us which way to come and that this somebody would meet us on the, on a bike and
DE: So was, were you posted to Broughton right at the very start of its existence?
BB: Yes.
DE: So.
BB: And that was 1943
DE: Ahum.
BB: And I stayed there until I was demobbed.
DE: So you think you were posted there because you had experience of
BB: Of MU.
DE: Ahum.
BB: Yes.
DE: So what was it like when, when you first arrived?
BB: Everything was new [pause] and I know when there were showers and no, they weren’t ever used and the WAAF officer said why weren’t the showers used so we said because there weren’t any curtains to make them, you know, private.
DE: Ahum.
BB: So eventually we got the curtains and we did use the showers.
DE: So how were getting washed before the shower curtains arrived?
BB: I think there were about, a couple of bathrooms so we used to have to try and get to the bathroom before anybody else did.
DE: And did it, did it start quite small? A small number of people or - ?
BB: No it never got any larger. It just, I think just supplied to the other stations around.
DE: Ahum.
BB: I can remember Lindholme, Old Finningley but we never sent anything to Elsham and I think Elsham was only used if we needed the MO. And all our mail went to Elsham.
DE: I see. Did you ever have any dealings with the MO?
BB: I don’t think I did. I don’t seem to remember.
DE: So what were the officers like at - ?
BB: Well they, there was only the one WAAF officer and two RAF officers and they were cause it was such, with it being such a small unit they were quite friendly.
DE: Ahum.
So were you all friends there together? Did you got on well or did you - ?
BB: Yes we all got on well together. And eventually the Canadians arrived in to the woods and some of the WAAFs got friendly with them.
DE: Ahum. So were the Canadians stationed there?
BB: Yes they were.
DE: What jobs were they doing?
BB: Do you know I don’t really know. It seems such a long time ago now.
DE: Did you make a friend with any of the Canadians?
BB: No I didn’t. I never used to bother.
DE: Had you met your husband by then then?
BB: I don’t think I had.
I’ve been going, since I heard from you about, I’ve been going through my head to think what on earth can I think about?
BB: What did you think about, about the war during the time?
DE: Well I suppose sometimes you’d think how much longer is it going on?
BB: Ahum.
DE: And of course we’d listen to the news.
DE: Did you have a NAAFI on the site?
BB: No. One used to come and we’d get whatever we wanted.
DE: How, sorry I don’t understand. How, how did a, how did the NAAFI?
BB: Well the NAAFI, in a van of some sort.
DE: Ahum
BB: I mean we did, we did get issued with coupons for cigarettes and chocolate but I used to swap my cigarette coupons for chocolate.
BB: Ahum.
DE: Did many of you friends smoke then?
BB: Some of them did but not a lot.
DE: You were saying that a lot of the men who worked at Broughton were, were, seemed older. Were the Canadians also a bit older?
BB: No I think they were younger ones.
DE: So can you tell me a little bit more about how you met your husband?
BB: It was when he came home from Rhodesia which it was then and he came to see his sister.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And then he, I was visiting her and she had a little boy about seven or eight. Her husband was in the army.
DE: Ahuh.
BB: And that, that time, that evening I was visiting his sister and my husband came and well eventually was my husband, he came, and he walked me back to the camp and I think I saw him a few times before he went back. And he went back to, trying to think where he went back, to a station somewhere in – oh I know where he went back. Is it Fenton?
DE: Ahum.
BB: And I know we were both wondering who would be demobbed first and I think I just managed it but I can’t remember the actual date but I know it was in March.
DE: Ahum. How did that make you feel?
BB: I think that, I think if I’d met him, I’d enjoyed my life in the, in the WAAFs, I might have stayed on.
DE: Ahum.
BB: But my job had been kept open for me but of course I never went back because three months after we got married so I was busy making my wedding dress and my sisters were bridesmaids - made theirs. And as I say the council took over the camp and we went into the WAAF officers’ quarters.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And it was [pause] and while, while we were there it was made into living quarters for us.
DE: Can I just go back a little bit more? You said you met your husband at, I guess, your sister in law’s house.
BB: Yes.
DE: Why were you visiting her?
BB: Because people in the village used to invite people from the camp. I suppose to [pause] they thought they were being kind to us.
DE: Ahum.
So you’d go to their, their houses?
BB: Yes.
DE: What would you do there?
BB: Well I think they’d give us a meal [pause] and it was just nice to get away from the, the camp.
DE: Were there, what were the living conditions on the camp like then?
BB: They were quite nice. Fortunately we had our own single beds and they weren’t bunk beds which was nice.
I’m not being very helpful am I?
BB: You’re doing wonderfully. I’m asking lots of silly questions.
DE: No you’re not because it it will probably bring some things back to me.
BB: Ahum.
DE: Did you ever get into trouble?
BB: No I [laughs] I behaved myself I think.
DE: Did you know anybody who did get into any trouble?
BB: I don’t think, I don’t think so because there not being many of us with us only being the fifty WAAFs and fifty airmen.
DE: Ahum and that time in Bridgnorth. You got away with it when you snuck back in?
BB: Yes.
I know we seemed to have gone miles then before we eventually found our way back in to the camp.
DE: Ahuh. What had you been looking for when you - ?
BB: I think we were just going to get out and, and maybe have a look around. Probably get something to eat.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And where did you say you had your trade training?
DE: At Bridlington.
BB: Bridlington and it was, it was a bad winter and I think hotels were taken over as classrooms.
DE: Ahum.
BB: We’d be sitting in our classrooms and you could see the, which we thought it was ice coming in from off the water and in Bridlington we were in private accommodation there and I was with
I can remember the, I know it was 44 Promenade - the name of the, where I was billeted and there were, there were some middle aged ladies [pause] who for a while after I was demobbed I did keep in touch with them ‘cause I remember when we got married they sent us some teacloths as a wedding present.
DE: The people you were billeted with?
BB: Yes.
DE: Ahh so they were quite nice. They were quite nice and friendly?
BB: Yes and I did keep in touch with them but after a while
DE: Ahum
BB: It just, you seem to, it fades away.
DE: Yeah. Did you write a lot of letters then? When you were -
BB: No I used to write home every day, week to my mother and father.
DE: Ahum and did you get a lot of letters from home as well then?
BB: Quite a few.
DE: Did you ask for things? Did they send you - ?
BB: No I can’t remember. I know if I came back after I’d been home on leave I’d have a little case about like that.
DE: Ahum.
BB: In fact I’ve still got it.
DE: Have you?
BB: Because I had two sisters. One stayed at home to look after the farm and one sister joined the nursing reserve.
DE: Ahum.
Did you have any brothers?
BB: No.
DE: No.
BB: Just the three sisters. Two sisters.
DE: Were you ever homesick then at any time?
BB: No I can’t say I was. I might have been when I first went but once you’d got there and settled down and you made friends and you thought to yourself well you were in it make the best of it.
DE: Ahum.
BB: I know when I was in Stafford I took home a little kitten. And I know that, that time I did stay somewhere overnight and of course I had this little kitten - had to go somewhere and I thought, I hope it’s still there when I get up in the morning and it was.
DE: Ahum
BB: So I took that home and I think I even took another one home.
And I remember one night I couldn’t find anywhere to sleep so I met, I came across some men that were doing fire watch and I told them and so they told me not to worry and I stayed the night with them.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And the next morning I got the train from Lincoln home and I remember my mother and father told me to never do that again but of course in those days you didn’t have to bother about anything happening to you.
DE: Ahuh. No, there was far worse things happening all over the place wasn’t there?
BB: There were.
DE: Yeah. How did you feel when the war ended then?
BB: Do you know I know that of course we were at Broughton and we all got on to this sixty foot trailer and we went into the village of Winterton.
DE: Ahum.
BB: And had some drinks as I can remember.
DE: Was there some late night partying then?
BB: Yes it was I think.
It, it seems so long and long ago that I bet when you’ve gone I shall remember something.
DE: Oh that’s always the way. Yeah. Yeah. That’s always the way.
BB: That’s when I’ll remember something and I know, you know since I heard from you I thought I must remember to think of things.
DE: I think you’ve told me an awful lot. You’ve done very well.
BB: Thank you. My friend is hoping to take me to see this in Lincoln.
DE: Oh the memorial?
BB: Yes.
DE: Yeah. What do you think about that?
BB: I think it’s really good that you know that there should be something with so many, there being so many aerodromes in Lincolnshire.
DE: Ahum
So you were happy to settle down around here then after the war?
BB: No, I know when my husband said that when he went back to work that he would try and move away from Brigg but of course he was born and bred and we never did move away.
DE: Ahuh.
BB: [unclear] whether it brings me back that I can remember anything.
DE: I’ll just press pause again for a moment.
BB: Ok, its recording again. You were going to tell me your service number.
BB: 439661 - that was my service number.
DE: And when, when did you, when were you given the number?
BB: Do you know that I can’t remember?
Do you know I’m not sure. Before I went to Bridgnorth that
I probably went to Lincoln. That’s in the back of my mind
DE: Ahum.
BB: And I might, they might have given it to me there.
‘Cause I know I did go with, with somebody else from the department store where I worked in Boston and I never saw here again.
DE: Ahum.
BB: Because she went on a different trade.
DE: How did you get to be assigned to become an equipment assistant?
BB: I think it was because I had worked in a shop before. I worked in the millinery department of this shop in Boston.
DE: Ahum
BB: Where you thought nothing of selling hats at four and eleven pence a time and if you sold one for about twelve and eleven pence you thought you’d sold the world nearly.
DE: So did they, did they give you a choice of trade or was it just,
BB: No, no I just made up, made up my mind I think. I thought well I think I thought I’d be happy to be an equipment assistant.
DE: Ok. Well I think we’ll end it there. Just another couple of questions again that I should have asked at the beginning. What was your maiden name and your date of birth?
BB: Watkinson W A T K I N S O N.
DE: Thank you.
BB: 28 4 20 so I’m quite an old person.
DE: Ahuh yeah well thank you very much.
BB: I hope I’ve been of some interest.
DE: That’s been smashing. Thank you.



Dan Ellin, “Interview with Barbara Bulleyment,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2024,

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