WHEN the poster went up it caused quite a stir - the landlord of the Belletts Arms was staging a bull fight to celebrate VE Day.

“The famous bull Ferdinand has been acquired at enormous expense,” declared the poster. “He will enter the arena at 3.30pm and will be engaged in mortal combat by that world renowned matador Senor Don Franco de Stansfillio Y Belleto”.

Word soon got round and it wasn’t long before the RSPCA was alerted. John Stansfield, whose father Frank staged the bull fight that memorable day in May, 1945, takes up the story:

“My parents, Frank and Lyn Stansfield, were landlord and landlady at the Belletts Arms in Dudley Hill throughout the war. I’d just turned five when it was VE Day. It came as a surprise to most people, I think the bull fight must have been a couple of days later, as Dad would’ve needed time to organise the poster.

“It was all done so he could sell more beer. He must have had an extension, as it says 3.30pm on the poster and in those days pubs closed at 3pm. I watched it all from the top of the ladies’ toilets. There was a crowd of locals watching.

“Someone from the RSPCA came round and told Dad, ‘You’re not allowed to have a bull fight’. He said he was doing it anyway, and they said they’d have him arrested. He played the RSPCA, and the police, who also turned up, as though it was a real bull.

“Dad laid out a circle of straw bales, with seats around, in the pub yard. There was Spanish music and he came out dressed in full matador costume - I have no idea where he got it from, maybe a local theatrical society. At the bottom of the yard were stables, there were no horses, they were used for storage. At 3.30pm there was a fanfare, then the ‘bull’ appeared from the stables - my mother in the head and my Auntie Mary in the rear legs. There was a mock bullfight, with toy swords, cloaks and cheers from the crowd, then my father ‘killed’ the bull and pulled off its head, to reveal my mother. It was a pantomime-style costume, they probably got it from wherever they found the matador costume.

“The RSCPA and police were hovering, ready to arrest Dad. It was a tense situation.”

John has fond memories of growing up in the Belletts Arms. He recalls RAF bomber crew servicemen coming in for a drink during the war, invited by local man Bob Hogg, who was in the airforce, and they had quite an impact on him. “I became a pilot in the airforce - I was inspired by those ‘giants in blue’ who came to the pub and had me running round with my arms sticking out, making ‘plane noises. I knew from age three that I wanted to be a pilot,” says John.

The resourceful Frank, who had served in World War 1 and worked for British Ropes during World War 2 as well as running the Belletts Arms, later celebrated VJ Day with a donkey race up Harris Street. “My mother and Auntie Mary were dressed as jockeys,” recalls John. “My main memory of the war is being told to go in the pub cellar in case of a bombing. But I remember the bull fight vividly. I wish I had a photo of Dad in his matador costume. Maybe one of your readers was there, and took one.”