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:
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).
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.