Ton up for Benny Goodman

Sqn Ldr Lawrence (“Benny”) Goodman celebrates his 100th birthday today, 24 September 2020. He is well known for his service in 617 Squadron at the latter end of the war, but in fact he had volunteered to join the RAF at the outbreak of war in 1939 aged 18 and was mustered as a pilot in early 1940. After flying training in the UK, he was selected to be a Service Flying Training Instructor in Canada as part of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

He returned to the UK in late 1942, his ship having been torpedoed mid-Atlantic. As a result of his superlative flying skills, he was selected as one of the few ab initio pilots for 617 Sqn, where he completed 30 operational missions before the cessation of hostilities, dropping Tallboy and Grand Slam bombs on numerous targets, including the battleship Tirpitz and Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s nest’.

After compulsory demobbing in 1945, Benny joined 604 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force, flying Spitfire XVIs from RAF Hendon as a reservist. He re-joined the RAF in 1949 during the Berlin Airlift, initially flying Hastings in Transport command and finally retiring in 1963 after a tour on Canberra PR7s.

During his 21 years of service, he flew over 3,500 hours in 22 different aircraft types. He continued to fly as a private pilot until he was over 90 years old.

Since his retirement, Benny has been a great supporter of reconciliation with Germany, becoming a long-standing friend of the city of Arnsberg, whose viaduct he collapsed with a Grand Slam bomb. He has also promoted diversity through the RAF Museum’s Hidden Heroes programme and contributing to the RAF’s oral history. And, of course, he has been the greatest supporter of the 617 Sqn Association.

Benny was presented with a birthday cake and a greetings card by the Chief of the Air Staff at the RAF Museum last week, as shown above.

[Thanks to 617 Sqn Association]

“Dam’ping Their Ardour”: free Trenchard lecture

Historian Victoria Taylor is giving one of this year’s prestigious RAF Museum Trenchard lectures on Thursday 8 October at 6.00pm. It is called ‘“Dam’ping Their Ardour”: Operation Chastise and the “Dambusters” legend in wartime Britain’. The lecture will consider why Operation Chastise became a cornerstone of British wartime mythology, and determine how it became so firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of the British public under the blanket of wartime secrecy.

The story of the raid is well known to readers of this blog but much of the nation’s general impressions of the raid, however, have been coloured by post-war British popular culture, from Guy Gibson and Paul Brickhill’s books to Michael Anderson’s enduring film The Dam Busters (1955).

The considerable impact of these post-war resources upon the Chastise legend can be seen in the remark by pilot Flt Sgt Bill Townsend who claimed in the 1980s that ‘until that film was made, it was just another operation, wasn’t it?’

However, this wasn’t so, and how the raid’s success was promoted during wartime is the subject of the lecture, which will draw on contemporary newspapers, newsreels, cartoons and official correspondence.

The lecture is now being held online, but prebooking is essential. Free tickets are available here from the RAF Museum website.