Benny Goodman: What The Papers Say


Benny Goodman at the RAF Museum in Hendon, September 2020. [Pic: RAF Museum]

Benny Goodman’s death earlier this week has been covered on a number of news websites, amongst whom are the following:

Daily Telegraph (behind paywall)

The Times (behind paywall)

Daily Mirror

Daily Mail

The Sun

Daily Express

I’ve been through all those which are available to me.

The Gold Star for effort goes to the Telegraph, whose text had no obvious errors.

Sadly, the same can’t be said of the rest of the class. The Sun referred to Benny as “the last wartime pilot” from 617 Squadron. The Mail called him “the last surviving pilot” and went on to say that Johnny Johnson is the “last wartime member” of the squadron. The Mirror described him as “the last wartime member of the famous Dambusters squadron” and the Express called him the “last pilot”.

None of these statements are true: The last wartime pilot from 617 Squadron still with us is Flg Off Arthur Joplin, living in a retirement home in New Zealand. And as well as him and Johnny Johnson, who will turn 100 in November, there are several more wartime aircrew veterans from 617 Squadron still alive.

The saddest contribution to the Roll of Shame was probably that of the Express. This is the rather pathetic wreck of a newspaper which at one time dominated Fleet Street with a vast raftful of reporters. Its writers included legends such as James Cameron and Sefton Delmer, its editors were the likes of Arthur Christiansen and Bob Edwards. From the 1930s to the 1960s it prided itself on its coverage and circulation. The modern day writer who fills the legends’ shoes, Defence Editor John Ingham, wrote just 94 words in his contribution and compounded this paucity by including a photograph purporting to be Benny with his crew but which is, in fact, a photograph taken in 1942 of a crew from No 9 Squadron (published on this blog on 29 March 2011).

Express screenshot

This screengrab of a photograph from the Express website is in fact a 9 Squadron crew. It is the one skippered by Plt Off Charles McDonald RCAF, photographed in late 1942. Left to right: Sgt Frank Charlton, flight engineer; Flt Sgt Cyril Paley, bomb aimer; Flt Sgt Maxwell Coles, wireless operator; Sgt Victor Hill, mid-upper gunner (who flew on the Dams Raid in May 1943, in the crew of Flt Lt David Maltby); Flt Sgt Victor Nunn, navigator; Plt Off Charles McDonald, pilot; Flg Off John Crebbin, rear gunner. [Picture: Joe Paley]

If you come across any more obituaries please let me know. 

5 thoughts on “Benny Goodman: What The Papers Say

  1. Jenny Elmes July 22, 2021 / 3:27 pm

    Well done Charles for your research and facts and for putting the record right! They were mostly very misleading articles.

  2. Andrew July 22, 2021 / 3:46 pm

    Congratulations to Dr Rob Owen, the 617 Sqn Association’s Official Historian, for liaising so closely with The Telegraph (and the RAF Museum) to produce an accurate obituary for Benny. The Association did tell The Times (who published the same IX Sqn photo as the Express) that their photo wasn’t Benny prior to publication, but they chose to go to print nonetheless.
    Radio 4’s ‘Last Word’ should be broadcasting his obituary on 22 July…

    • charlesfoster July 22, 2021 / 4:09 pm

      Ah ha Andrew! It just goes to show that journalists can write accurate stuff if they know which sources to trust.

  3. brucehebbard July 22, 2021 / 11:08 pm

    To the best of my knowledge there are at least three ww2 era 617 Squadron members still alive.

    They are:

    Johnny Johnson Bomb Aimer and the only surviving member of the Dams Raid. UK

    John Bell Bomb Aimer UK

    Arthur Joplin Pilot Auckland NZ

    You have the 617 Squadron Historian Dr Robert Owen living in the UK who will confirm this and add any I may have missed.


    Bruce Hebbard

    Wanaka NZ

  4. Steve Gould July 23, 2021 / 9:27 am

    Hi Dad,

    This is the true version.

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