Dambuster of the Day No. 39: Brian Goodale

Goodale

Pic: Simon Goodale

Flg Off B Goodale DFC

Wireless operator

Lancaster serial number: ED929/G
Call sign: AJ-L
First wave. First aircraft to attack Eder Dam. Mine dropped accurately but no breach caused. Aircraft returned safely.

David Shannon’s crew was only finalised three weeks before the Dams Raid with the arrival at Scampton on 20 April 1943 of wireless operator Brian Goodale. The crew’s members came from quite disparate backgrounds but nevertheless they worked well together and became an important part of the backbone of the squadron. Dedicated fighters in the air, they were serious revellers on the ground, and thereby added greatly to squadron morale. Goodale, tall and thin with a slight bent and thus known widely by his nickname ‘Concave’, was described by his colleague Len Sumpter as being ‘a bit of a character with a drink in his hand’.
Goodale was born on in Kent on 12 June 1919 and joined the RAF at the outbreak of war. After training as an observer, he became a wireless operator/air gunner and served a full tour of 28 operations in the Whitleys of 51 Squadron, starting in September 1940. During this time, he received the DFC and was commissioned. Then, after a period instructing, he was summoned to Scampton to join 617 Squadron when the call came to find an experienced wireless operator for the Shannon crew.
Some of the escapades in which Goodale were involved after the Dams Raid have passed into Squadron folklore. Prominent among them is the trip by train from Lincoln to London for the investiture at Buckingham Palace, where he had to be locked in a lavatory after a drunken trouser-removing incident. Fortunately, Adjutant Harry Humphries managed to retrieve them, crumpled and dusty, before anyone became too offended. Many of these incidents were recorded by Paul Brickhill in his 1951 book The Dam Busters – items which add to its period charm.
Goodale became the squadron’s Signals Leader in September 1943 and carried on flying on operations with Shannon for another nine months until he was posted out to another training centre. He was awarded a bar to his DFC. He stayed in the RAF after the war and retired as a Squadron Leader in 1961. He then had a career in business, including five years working for the armaments manufacturers Short Brothers in Northern Ireland.
Brian Goodale died in 1977 in Bury St Edmunds, and is buried in All Saints Church, Hawstead, Suffolk.

Survived war. Deceased.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources:
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002
Harry Humphries, Living with Heroes, Erskine Press 2003

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Back on operations, 1943 and 2013

pic-lanc-dxb

Lancaster W5008, borrowed from 57 Squadron, photographed at Blida in Algeria in July 1943 on 617 Squadron’s first operation after the Dams Raid. It was piloted by Plt Off Geoff Rice. [Pic: Lancaster Archive]

A bit like 617 Squadron in the summer of 1943, this blog seems to have gone into a fallow period. However, operations are about to resume and we hope to resume regular posting from next week. This will include completing the Dambuster of the Day series.
It was actually 70 years ago this week that a 617 Squadron detachment returned to Scampton following the first two operations since the Dams Raid two months previously. Guy Gibson was technically still in command of the squadron, but Sqn Ldr George Holden, who had previously commanded 102 Squadron in 4 Group, had been posted in and would shortly take charge. As he had previously flown Halifaxes, Holden had to become familiarised with flying Lancasters, but by Thursday 15 July he was ready to lead one team of five aircraft to Italy; David Maltby would lead the other. Gibson saw them off, watching from the marshalling point with Harry Humphries. For many of the crews who flew that day, it would be the last time they saw him.
The mission was to bomb two electricity transformer and switching stations, at Aquata Scrivia and San Polo d’Enza. Because these were beyond the ‘out and back’ flying range of the Lancaster it would be necessary to fly on to another airfield to refuel and reload. Blida, some 30 miles from Algiers, now in Allied hands after the victories in North Africa and used as a launch pad for operations in the Mediterranean, was the obvious choice.
Everyone was delighted with the chance of getting their knees brown, so they packed sunglasses and tropical kit and stowed their service issue suitcases and kitbags in the body of their aircraft. It was a long flight but largely without incident, and with very little opposition en route or over the target. David Maltby reported that he had bombed on target at San Polo d’Enza and seen blue flashes. One bomb and some incendiaries had ‘hung up’ but they had later successfully dropped these on the Genoa–Spezia railway line at Sestri Levante. He landed at 0745, having taken off from Scampton at 2215. Les Munro’s aircraft was damaged by shrapnel from his own bomb casing – damaging the bomb aimer’s panel and bursting his starboard tyre. This meant that his landing at Blida was dodgy, but he brought it down successfully.
Blida was fun at first. For many of the British aircrew, this was the first time they had set foot outside the country. There was wine to drink, exotic fruit and food to enjoy, sunshine to bask in. Lots of photographs were taken. But then the weather closed in, which meant the contingent had to stay for a total of nine days.
Eventually the crews got away and were instructed to bomb the docks at Leghorn (Livorno) on the way back to England. Again, it was a long flight, taking off from Blida at about 2100 on Saturday 24 July, bombing soon after midnight and landing in England after five o’clock in the morning. Again, the bombing was uneventful, done on a time-and-distance run from Corsica, and everyone got home safely. 

Great excitement greeted their arrival as the crews had loaded up the aircraft with souvenirs, crates of fresh fruit and vegetables and bottles of Benedictine and wine. Mick Martin was wearing a red fez when Harry Humphries met him at the dispersal point.
Gibson was now on the point of departure. He had been to lunch with Winston Churchill at Chequers on the Saturday, where he was told that he would shortly be going to America under the auspices of the Ministry of Information. He finally left on Tuesday 3 August, after fitting in a trip to see a local nurse, with whom he had been involved while his wife was in London.
Round about the same time that the Blida contingent landed at Scampton another 779 RAF bombers were also touching down at other bases all over England, following a massive attack on Hamburg. This was the first of four devastating attacks in the next ten days on the North German city. For the first time, the crews dropped ‘Window’ as they flew over enemy territory, strips of tinfoil designed to confuse the German radar, and it worked well. So well indeed, that on the night of the second attack on 27–28 July, a firestorm was created in the densely built up residential district of Hammerbrook when all the fires joined together and started sucking the oxygen out of the surrounding air. The firestorm lasted three hours and only subsided when all the burnable material in the area was consumed. It is estimated that 40,000 people died.
The name given by Bomber Command to the series of raids – Operation Gomorrah – with its connotation of a city being destroyed by the wrath of God was aptly chosen. Here was Arthur Harris’s ‘area bombing’ strategy being used to its full potential.
Doubtless there was discussion in the Scampton messes between the 57 Squadron contingent, who participated in the Hamburg raids, and the 617 Squadron aircrew, who did not. There was certainly resentment that 617 Squadron was not being sent out on operations, a feeling that must have been intensfied when on 29 July nine aircraft were dispatched on a really soft trip. They went on a ‘nickel run’, dropping leaflets on cities in Northern Italy, and going on to Blida again. Seven of the nine flew back two days later, while Les Munro and Joe McCarthy had to hang about waiting for essential repairs.
Discussion in the mess was academic since by early August, it had been decided that 617 Squadron was not going to be used for run of the mill bombing operations, even on mass raids which needed hundreds of planes. They were to use Upkeep in further trials, and they were earmarked to try out the new ‘thin cased’ 12,000 lb High Capacity bomb which was nearly ready. Their next mission, which would be to bomb the Dortmund Ems canal was already being planned.