Press & media
Goodman, Geoffrey (4 of 9). Oral History of the British Press
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2008-02-18, 2008-02-29, 2008-04-16, 2008-04-28, 2008-05-19, 2008-06-11, 2008-07-07, 2008-07-21
British Library, London
Goodman, Geoffrey, 1922-2013 (speaker, male)
Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)
Part 4: LSE moved to Cambridge in 1940 and at that point GG left with an interim degree and joined the RAF. GG disguised his age, making himself a year older, in order to join as aircrew. His mother was quite ill and was upset at him going. His father took it well. His mother had been admitted to University College Hospital at the time. For the first year of his training he came back as often as possible. His father was still working as a messenger. [7:31] The Battle of Britain ethos was very much in GG's mind and he wanted to learn to fly. The bombing of London affected them greatly in Camden Square. His mother would go to the shelter there. Description. GG and his father stayed in the basement flat. Houses in the square were hit with heavy damage. GG admires his parents having gone through bombardment, and the problems in the first world war as well. The underground stations must have been an appalling experience, with few sanitary facilities, in spite of the camaraderie. [16:34] GG remustered after five months to air crew training in Torquay, followed by Derbyshire, Northern Ireland and Cranwell for the Whitleys and Wellingtons planes. He ended up in North Yorkshire with 149 squadron bomber command. They moved on to Lancasters, 115 squadron. The rate of loss on bomber command was 50%. Going home on leave was an emotional problem, he would escape to the pub. Half way through his second tour he had a bad experience, they got the plane back, but GG had to go to hospital. The loss of a friend was another bad experience. They did not have a great feeling about bombing Germany. GG had been on the receiving end in London. It was an appalling thing to do but it had to be done. The Germans started it. He kept "Jew" on his identification tag. They didn't know what was happening in the concentration camps.[28:28]Then GG joined a Mosquito squadron at Benson doing photo reconnaissance from 1943-45. There was no armour. They had to photograph bombing sites before and after. The plane had six cameras, flying very low or very high (30-35,000 feet). He was based in France, Germany, Italy and Norway. The Germans had submarine pens up the Norwegian coast probably for use for escape by the Nazi leadership. They had a base at Trondheim. GG still visits friends, and cemeteries there. Their main base was between Kiel and Hamburg. The Tirpitz battleship was a target, finally bombed in 1944. Convoys for Russia and America were attacked from Norway. [37:30] A bomber is very vulnerable, due to the limited height it could reach, and its load. Survival was just luck. Towards the end of the war, the Luftwaffe had very good planes. Photo reconnaissance with no guns, meant that you had to rely on manoeuvrability. There were four very large cameras fitted in the sides of the plane, and usually one in the front and one in the back. You had to arrange the cameras for a certain angle and height, and keep the height. Details. [44:30] They had vivid pictures of Pienemunde, experimental station from 30,000 feet. Thick cloud was obviously impenetrable and you might have to go somewhere else. Arctic areas were clear, warmer areas more hazy. It was 544 squadron. As pilot GG had to keep the plane steady while the navigator managed the cameras. [48:54] The whole command was based at Benson, the film was taken to Medmenham where it was pored over and analysed for the intelligence services. Example: being asked to take photos of the ball bearing factory at Augsburg. You could not send too many planes at once. The photos of the bombing of the dams were blown up for the mess at Benson. Keele University has a whole lot of these photos. GG has not seen them, though he has taken his grandchildren to the RAF museum at Hendon. [54:59] For D Day they moved to Tangmere for two months, low level flying. Then they moved near Paris, moving east when Kiel and Hamburg were liberated to Utersen. They were in Norway when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945. They were stunned. One thing they had to do there was to look after Austrian prisoners of war, very horrible Nazis, and they showed them the newspapers. They were stunned at the scale of the destruction and desolation. There was relief, but the price of success had not really begun to sink in, it was almost disbelief. With the bombs GG had dropped, if you hit the target you were lucky. [1:03:38] We didn’t talk very much to outsiders. There were girlfriends. GG met his wife when he was still in uniform. In the services club in Hamburg GG met Jack Hallows who was running an army newspaper called the “Soldier”. He asked GG to work with him, as they now had nothing else to do at the end of the war. GG’s navigator Charlie was a good amateur photographer, and they both did a number of assignments for Soldier. They went to Holland to do a piece about the Canadian army. The final assignment was to go on an UNRAR train (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation) which was trying to provide basic living facilities to liberated central Europe. They were transporting horses from Ireland to various communities to help revive agriculture again. GG and Charlie boarded the train from Hamburg to Prague, living with the horses. This is how he met his wife [1:13:25] Margit’s family were nearly all wiped out at Auschwitz. She had gone on a Kinderstransport train to Liverpool Street in 1939. She moved to Glasgow to stay with an aunt, trained and worked as a nurse there and in London. After the war she went back to Prague to see if she could find her family. One brother had survived. GG and Charlie went to a restaurant, where they met two girls who could interpret for them. They corresponded. Margit’s family had been prosperous food merchants in Marienbad, which had been taken over. Her brother tried to re-establish the business but then went to America. Margit came to London and they got married. In Prague at the Old Synagogue there is a memorial to Margit’s parents, Freudenbergova. Even now Margit finds it difficult to talk about it. Their daughter, Karen is a social worker, now involved in holocaust matters. GG doesn’t talk about the war. [1:23:05] GG was demobbed in March 1946. He got a job on the Evening Standard as a night reporter through a friend, working for Ronnie Hyde. He worked on a feature In London Tonight, going in at 6 pm and being busy most of the night, for stories for the first edition going out at 8.30 am. They would go to nightclubs, theatres, concerts. GG interviewed Paul Robeson, which was a fantastic experience. Just listening to the quality of his speaking voice was memorable. Then in Jermyn Street, at a place run by Ricou Dajau he established a good link, and Gigli came in after Covent Garden. Story of getting him to sing. GG enjoyed that period [1:31:46] GG got married in 1947 at St Pancras town hall registry office. His mother was fragile, and his father still worked as a senior messenger. GG got them a flat in Muswell Hill. His father died in 1960 and his mother lived for another five years. GG and Margit found a room in Bayswater, with the use of a bathroom. She worked in Barclays Bank where she interpreted. The Standard was a very good paper, with Low and Vicky, high quality serious articles. One evening GG was in the Clachan pub and met Paddy Monkhouse who was London editor of the Manchester Guardian. GG started there on Monday. The office was over the post office in Fleet Street quite near El Vinos. Paddy went to Manchester as deputy editor later. He was a wonderful newspaper man and remained close friends. GG owes him an enormous amount. The job at the Guardian was the tops for GG . [1:40:00] At the Standard the editor was Charles Wintour. GG would go in at 5.30 when the remnants of the staff were there. The Shoe Lane premises were very ramshackle, the paper was printed there too. Details. There were overhead wires to take the copy from the desk to the comps, shouts of “boy!”, reporters were in and out all the time. The subs desk was a horseshoe dominating the room. There was clatter and excitement which was infectious. It was rumbustious. The last edition would go onto the presses about 5.30 pm and there was a “fudge” which was the stop press column. There were three London evening papers, Evening News the biggest circulation, then the Standard and the Star struggling. They were sold on the street by newsvendors on every street corner. It has gone. This time on the Standard, and the Guardian and News Chronicle were the most exciting of his journalistic life. [1:49:52] It was difficult coming back to civilian life. GG’s mother was not pleased at his marriage, feeling that he could have been more of a practical and psychological support to her. She accepted Margit reluctantly. GG found it difficult to establish friendships with people who had not been in the war. Only after 3 or 4 years he began to settle down again. Meantime he made friends with people who had served in the war, particularly Ian Hamilton. In 1949 when he went to the News Chronicle he really felt he was back in the post war period. Margit also had difficulty settling. She recognised his responsibility to his mother, and felt the atmosphere. She was very fond of GG’s father, he was very fatherly, which she needed. His mother accepted her as a daughter before she died.
Life story interview with journalist Geoffrey Goodman