Bravo 22: The D-Day veteran and the military wife

Barbara Hurman
Barbara Hurman

An innovative show acted out by and telling the stories of the local armed forces community comes to the Waterside later this month, from March 26 to 28. The cast, which range in age from 15-89, consists of nine veterans, three Service personnel, two military wives, two cadet instructors and a Reservist family member. Several back stage and front of house roles have also been given to people from the armed forces. Below we tell the stories of two of the people involved in Contact, produced by Bravo 22 Company.

“WOMEN’s WAR STORIES NEED TELLING”

Helen Barrett

Helen Barrett

Barbara Hurman, 89, from Aylesbury, is a Second World War veteran who served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a sergeant from 1943 to 1947.

She volunteered to join the Army when she was just 17 years old in order to help the war effort. As a proficient typist, Barbara joined the Royal Signals Corps where she became a Teleprinter Operator. Working at the vast underground communication centre at Fort Southwick in Portsmouth, she would send and receive messages via the teleprinters regarding troop movements.

She remembers being on night duty before D-Day on June 6 1944. After finishing duty and going to bed, she was woken by friends early that morning to watch gliders carrying troops across the Channel and the bustling activity in the harbour ahead of Operation Overlord.

Following D-Day she volunteered to go abroad and joined the Central Mediterranean Forces, serving in Italy for two years. She was in Bari on VE Day but continued to serve in Italy and was posted to Milan, Caserta, Naples and Padua until 1947 when she returned to be demobbed.

Barbara said: “You don’t tend to hear so much about the work that women did to help win the Second World War and that’s why I was so keen to contribute my story to the Bravo 22 Company project. Women played a valuable role – at home and abroad – and that should be acknowledged more. I am really enjoying meeting all the different people involved in the project.”

and hearing their stories and I can’t wait to read the final script which will combine all our different – yet shared – experiences of life in the Armed Forces.”

CHALLENGES FACED BY MILITARY WIVES

Helen Barrett’s husband is an RAF physiotherapist and the family currently live at RAF Halton.

The 37-year-old mother of three has had to uproot her family many times, moving all over the UK in support of her husband’s Armed Forces career.

Helen gave birth to her first child while her husband was serving in Afghanistan in 2009. She said: “I wanted to get involved with Bravo 22 Company to put the story of the military wife across. When my husband is deployed on operations, it’s suddenly as if I’m a single parent again.

“Many people aren’t aware of the challenges faced by Armed Forces families – every time you move location, you have to make new friends, find new school places for the children and find out where all the local services are, on top of learning to navigate a new city or town.

“Not knowing where you will be living in a year’s time is both exciting and unsettling for the family.

“I’m really glad to have the opportunity to share my story and I feel really close to those taking part in the Bravo 22 Company project already – all who have experienced similar difficulties in their own lives.”

>>> OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUPILS AND TEACHERS

The Bravo 22 Company team are asking local schools to get involved in a free workshop for pupils on Monday March 23 at the Waterside Theatre about the making of the project.

Those who come along will get the opportunity to meet some of the Bravo 22 Company team.

In addition, free tickets are available for pupils from local schools to see Bravo 22 Company in their first performance of Contact. The Company is offering a special schools performance on March 25 at 2.30pm as well as a question and answer session after the show.

It is also offering free places for teachers at the theatre on March 28. Those who attend will learn more about the exercises and lesson plans that are included in the education pack.

If you would like to be involved, email Bravo 22 Company Education Associate Liz Raba on liz@flametree
productions.co.uk

The project is run by The Royal British Legion, in co-operation with Aylesbury Waterside Theatre and Buckinghamshire Armed Forces Community Covenant and supported by LAMDA (London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art).