Second World War

Olive’s Story

Mrs Olive Starbuck of 2, East Grove, Bingham, formerly of Langar, was born in Great Yarmouth on 16 August 1926, the youngest of 7 children. Her maiden name was Halls. Unfortunately, by 1939 her father was dead, but Olive lived with her mother in the north of Yarmouth, attending a local girls school, where she recalls all were well- behaved young ladies. Life in Yarmouth during the war was not much fun, the beach was mined, covered with barbed wire and consequently “out of bounds”. Also, there were frequent low level intruder raids, aiming for the docks, so life was fairly dangerous.

Of Olive’s three older brothers, two were in the Royal Navy, and one was in the Army. Of her three older sisters, one was a W.A.A.F.; the other two were married, living in Yarmouth. One day a visitor came to the School, and explained to the girls that they would be much safer to be evacuated to the country, but could only go with the permission of their parents. A rumour was current in the school indicating that the likely area for dispersal was Wales, and as Olive was a lover of music, especially singing, she was keen to go, but was faced with getting her mother to sign the paperwork. This she overcame by getting her oldest sister to sign, in lieu. The die was cast and so on 2nd June 1940, young Miss Halls at the tender age of 13 boarded the train at Yarmouth Vauxhall station, her party being accompanied by four teachers from her school, who were evacuated with the children. Olive has no idea of the route, because during the war all station names were removed as were all road signs, but the probable route was Norwich, Kings Lynn, Peterborough, and Grantham. She does recall, however, that at each stop the children were given food and lemonade by the Salvation Army. This gave her a lifelong admiration for that organisation. A further recollection was of the behaviour of the girls, all being perfectly behaved, causing no problems for the teachers.

Evacuees arriving at Bingham station in June 1940 probably from somewhere on the East coast.
Photo originally appeared in “Bingham’s children of the twentieth century” by Catherine Haynes and Hilda Smith.

On arrival in Bingham all the children were formed into two lines and marched down Station Street and Church Street into Cherry Street. In Cherry Street a “Head Lice” inspection was made and children separated into the infected and clean. Commotion broke out with many wailing children. Olive was the only child from her family, but where there were several in a family party, invariably the mothers had instructed the oldest to make sure they were kept together. But the billeting officer attempted splitting up families, causing grave distress to the children who in any case were in a traumatic situation. Fortunately the accompanying teachers objected and peace resumed. Eventually Olive’s party was taken into the parish church to await a bus for Whatton, Langar, Barnstone and Granby. Olive recalls sitting in Granby School, and a gentleman, whose name she remembers as being that of a tailor, not Burton but Hepworth. He told Olive and her friend Margaret to sit to one side and after a while took Olive and Margaret to his home in Granby. He lived with his two spinster sisters, with whom the girls became instant friends, and from that day were never allowed to pass the house without calling. The girls were then taken over the fields to Granby Station Farm Cottages and the home of Bill and Mabel Musson. Bill was a farmhand on the farm, which belonged to Mr.Branston. Mr Hepworth knocked at the door and Mabel answered looking at the girls in some surprise, and saying to Mr Hepworth, “But I asked for two boys!” Put yourself in the position of Olive and Margaret, who having been plucked from the bosom of their families, travelled almost half way across England, subjected to some horrendous experiences, and faced rejection. It must have felt like the end of the world! Mr Hepworth replied “Will you have them for a month until I can get you two boys?” Six weeks later Mabel told Mr Hepworth to forget the boys as she was happy with Olive and Margaret. The change of heart was probably brought about following a visit to Mabel’s mother at Hose. She had warmly embraced the girls and said that they must call her Granny. Olive told “Granny”, that the girls had a problem with how to address her daughter because Mrs Musson was a bit of a mouthful. Wise old Gran suggested they call her “Aunty” Mabel, which worked well and Olive spent two very happy years with Uncle Bill and Aunty Mabel. Life was good on the farm; unlike the vast majority of the population who lived on tight rations, there was always plenty of food, with fresh fruit in the summer.

The two other farmhands working for Mr Branston were Fred Baxter and John Starbuck.

For the parents of the evacuees a coach visit was arranged every six months, but on one occasion Olive recalls her mother visited by train. The journey from Elton Station to Granby was a problem, but Mr Branston arranged for a horse & cart to meet her at the Station.
One other memory was of a crashed German bomber in flames to the west of the farm cottages. Olive felt sure she was running fast toward the burning plane, but everyone ran past her!

Before leaving home in 1940 Olive’s mother had sewn a ten shilling note into the lining of her coat, in case of emergencies or to pay for the rail fare to return home if she was too unhappy. On her return to Yarmouth after the two year absence, her mother asked about the lump in the hem of her coat, and was surprised that Olive had not spent the money. Ten shillings in 1940 was probably the weekly wage of a farmhand; this shows how well Olive was looked after that she never had need to spend the cash, but then again there were no shops in Granby!

Following her return home Olive wrote to everyone at the farm, thanking them for their individual kindnesses, and expressing the wish that they should visit her family if they came to Yarmouth. Some time later John Starbuck visited Yarmouth, and a romance began which led to his marriage to Olive in 1949. It was a fairy story after all!

Further, Olive recalls the staff at Granby School in 1940 as being:-
Mrs Morgan - Headteacher
Miss Stubbs
Mrs Perkins - ex Yarmouth

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