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]
Several items of wartime RAF uniform, some supposedly once owned by 617 Squadron veteran Flt Lt (later Sqn Ldr) Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman, were recently sold on Ebay for a total of about £1065. These were the items listed:
The seller claimed that:
Back in 2009, I acquired a large military/aviation collection from a retired private collector. This Service Mess Dress was among the collection and originally belonged to one incredible man … The story goes that he bought these from a dealer that was specialist [sic] in abandoned / unclaimed storage units.
However, Benny Goodman, who is now 96 and who recently attended the 617 Squadron Association annual dinner, is adamant that this uniform never belonged to him. And he points out that he still has his medals (indeed he wore them at the dinner).
Another piece of clothing is this battledress uniform, which does not appear to have any nametags:
Although this may be a real Squadron Leader’s Second World War battledress, it would seem to be enhanced by the addition of a 617 Squadron badge on its sleeve. Most experts in RAF militaria would say that it was very unusual for a real pilot to have his squadron crest on his sleeve.
Although there is no claim that this belonged to Benny Goodman, it should be noted that when he finished his tour of operations in 617 Squadron, he was still a Flight Lieutenant. He did not achive the higher rank until his post-war service.
Two more items which did supposedly belong to Benny were these “service wallets”:
First of all, there was no such thing in the wartime RAF as a “service wallet”, for officers or other ranks. Second, Benny also denies having ever owned these. Indeed it is not clear why he would even possess two identical, unused wallets. It should be noted that similar wallets conveniently marked with the initials of 617 Squadron officers have also occasionally surfaced on Ebay.
Apart from the wallets, all the items in the sale would seem to be genuine Second World War material. In some, the value has been enhanced by adding the name of a known veteran to the nametags. The seller may themself not have been involved in this process, but at the very least they should have tried to ascertain whether or not these items definitely belonged to Benny Goodman before making a tidy profit.
Once again, a strict warning should be given to anyone thinking of purchasing similar material on Ebay: be very careful what you buy, and look for direct provenance.