Biographical / Historical
Mary Barbara Wallis (known as Barbara) was born in London on 27 December 1922, the daughter of Owen Bernard Wallis, solicitor, of Hereford, and Margaret Giles (also the granddaughter of Peter Giles, Master of Emmanuel College Cambridge 1910-35 and Chairman of Girton College Council 1910-18). Barbara’s mother, Margaret Giles, was the sister of Elspeth Giles (Girton 1918) and Caterina Giles (later Easton, Girton 1921).
Barbara was educated in Le Havre, Hereford and Chislehurst and then spent a year in Oxford with a German family before going to Girton College in 1941 to study modern languages.
At the end of her first year at Girton she was called up to serve in the ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service] from 1942 to 1946, posted to Bletchley Park 1942-45 and then to BAOR [British Army of the Rhine, Germany], 1945-46, acting as translator for many of the war crime trials at Nuremberg.
Barbara returned to Girton 1946-48, taking a Part II in Archaeology and Anthropology. She then took a postgraduate Froebel teaching certificate, 1948-49, and taught in Bethnal Green, east London, 1949-50 before spending five years as a childcare officer in Reading.
In the mid-1950s, Barbara acted in various ways on behalf of Hungarian military personnel driven to Britain by the 1956 uprising. She also undertook a British Council post in Cairo and then taught in Tripoli for six years, returning to take up a post in higher education, joining Leeds University as a research fellow. This led to her appointment as Senior Lecturer and Warden-Tutor at Homerton College, Cambridge, where she remained for seventeen years, retiring in 1983.
[Notes drawn from Girton College Register Volume I, from Barbara Wallis' tutorial file and from an obituary by John Hammond in the Girton College Annual Review 2009.]