Interview with John Louis Goldby


Interview with John Louis Goldby


John Goldby was born in Kent but the family moved to London the year after. He was inspired to join the RAF when a schoolfriend joined and became a Spitfire pilot. John believes that it was a mid-air collision with a night fighter that led to his crash. He became a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft 1. He kept a detailed diary of events leading to his eventual liberation and return to the UK. After demob he was soon bored with Civvy Street and returned to the RAF. He had an interesting post-war career including time as air attaché to the British Embassy in Paris.







01:30:05 audio recording


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit and



AGoldbyJL171025, PGoldbyJL1701


DM: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is David Meanwell. The interviewee is John Goldby. The interview is taking place at Mr Goldby’s home in Keston in the county of Kent on the 25th of October 2017. Ok, John. Well, if you’d like to perhaps kick off. Tell us a bit about where you were born and about growing up.
JG: Yes. I was born in Bexley, Kent in 1922. The next thing, the following year the family moved to Sidcup and my home until I joined up was in Sidcup. I went to what was then called the Sidcup County School before that was then turned into a grammar school and I went, started there in 1931 and I stayed there until the end of the summer 1939. From there on I, until I joined up I worked for a private bank, Brown Shipley and Company in the City of London. And I worked for them until I joined up in May 19 — 1941.
DM: What, when you, what prompted you to join the air force as opposed to going into another service?
JG: Well, my reason for the air force was I had a friend who was at the school who was about a year older than I was and as soon as he could join anything he joined the air force and became a Spitfire pilot. I thought that’s just the thing. One, one great advantage is if something happens to you when you’re at ten twenty thousand feet up there’s a chance of something might come to your rescue in those twenty thousand feet. Whereas if you are shot on the battlefield that’s where you’ll lie. And if you fall in the water in certain circumstances in the Navy that’s where you’ll end because the water is very cold. I stayed with the bank until such time as I, as I was actually called up because until I was eighteen I wasn’t allowed to go. But when the time came in 1941 I joined and I was, had been recorded as being fit for either pilot or navigator training. Because at that time it was the beginning of the expansion of Bomber Command to the four engine aircraft which meant there were now there was a bomb aimer and a navigator and as it happened the extra body and above that was a flight engineer.
DM: Where? When you say you signed up and then you were called up?
JG: Yes.
DM: To go and train. I assume that was the next thing.
JG: That’s right.
DM: Where did that happen? Where did you go for that?
JG: They were, the receiving wing as it was called was in Babbacombe in, in Devon and I went down there on the 31st of May 1941. After a couple of months or so then started ground, with air crew ground training. Morse code and all that sort of thing. Aircraft recognition. The sort of basic things which would then enable me to go on to flying training. In fact, some of my ground training was up here at Kenley which was a fighter aircraft airfield and was involved in the Battle of Britain or had been by the time I got there. And that was a number, there were quite a lot of these actual operational stations which housed training. Ground training for aircrew. Eventually, having done ground training I was then allocated a position in Air Observer School for training, as they were called then air observers. And the one, and then they were allocated on the basis of alphabetical order. And there were five of us in on the list whose initial was G. And the five of us who’d been looking forward to going to either South Africa or Canada or somewhere exotic like that found ourselves going to the Isle of Man. And I thought what a jolly place to be for the cold winter because that’s where I started training in October 1941 and I stayed there until May 1942. And then it was to Operational Training Unit. And in those days Operational Training Unit, the individual aircrew got together and formed a crew. It was virtually sort of go and find someone who you liked, feel you would like to fly with. It wasn’t mandatory as far as I know who you were allocated or I was and then people were added of course. A pilot who was in army uniform and in fact he had opted to change to aircrew which of course you could do if you wanted to go aircrew. And that’s another thing with the police. The police were allowed to leave and join up for aircrew duties. And so we had, we had a lot of police in our intake if you like who’d done all sorts of jobs in the police. And I flew, we used to fly in pairs on navigational training. And the extraordinary thing really for navigational training we were flying Blenheims which were actually operational aircraft. And it was the fastest aircraft I think I flew in the whole war. That’s — and I flew with a chap who had been a policeman in Glasgow. Actually, he was a mobile policeman. Anyway, the bombing training was from Hampdens, both of those aircraft were of course twin-engine. And then, and air gunnery we flew in, again in Blenheims firing at a drogue. And the training there lasted from the October ’41 to May ’42 and then back to this country. And then in the June on we went to [pause] can we stop it for a moment?
[recording paused]
JG: Still training. An Operational Training Unit which was at Stanton Harcourt which was a subsidiary to, or satellite to RAF Abingdon. When having or while we were there my pilot went on the first thousand bomber raid in, in May ’42 as a sort of, as a second pilot. Then in June, on the 25th of June ’42 we flew as a crew to Cologne in a Whitley. That was on the three days before my twentieth birthday which was the 25th of June 1942. We flew on the 25th. Did I say 25th? The 28th of June is my birthday.
DM: Right.
JG: Did I make a mistake there?
DM: That’s ok. So your birthday’s the 28th of June.
JG: 28th
DM: You flew on the 25th.
JG: The 25th
DM: A few days before. Yeah.
JG: Having finished there at OTU we then went to RAF St Eval. And the policy at that time was that crews that were now finished OTU, certainly from 4 Group went down to do a number, or several months’ worth of flying in Whitleys in, on an anti-submarine role. An anti-submarine role.
DM: So, St Eval is in Cornwall. Is that right?
JG: Cornwall.
DM: Yeah.
JG: That’s right. We, we used to fly ten hour sorties from there and when we came back the next day we were absolutely clear. We didn’t do anything that day. In fact we couldn’t probably hear anything that day but because the conditions of course in the Whitley are pretty cramped. But we had to do the ten hours and the following day was a free day. The next day we were briefed on what the flight was to be the following day. And that was the pattern. And you had a free day, briefing and then the next day you flew. I did, as far as I can recall — one of the problems I have is that my, I never retrieved my logbook following becoming a POW when all my stuff was taken and distributed. So, one way or another I didn’t ever get my book back and I’ll say a bit more about that later. Anyway, after that, after our period down there in Cornwall we came back up to Yorkshire to the, to a Conversion Unit on the four engine aircraft. And that was when I joined or after that period in a, in the Marston Moor was the Conversion Unit in Yorkshire. And we flew then with, now with the extra crew the [pause] I suppose we spent about a month there and then as a crew we went to RAF Linton on Ouse and joined 78 Squadron which was at that time commanded by Wing Commander Tait, T A I T. Known as Willie Tait and who ended his career, I suppose it would have been when he took on the final sortie against the Tirpitz. He, I don’t know — there was a programme on last night. Was of the 617 Squadron and the, and the nine aircraft that flew on this final sortie and demolished the Tirpitz, it was about the fourth or fifth time they’d done it. Had not had a big enough bomb which of course had to be designed by Barnes Wallis who was the author, if you like, of the bomb, the bouncing bomb. Anyway, Willie Tait was a bit of a frightening man. He was not popular because he was so blooming strict and didn’t fraternise really with other aircrew. And it was particularly noticeable because Linton on Ouse was shared between 78 Squadron with Willie Tait and 76 Squadron with Leonard Cheshire and they were so different it’s hardly true. So, we arrived there in October and we started operations. Starting with what we used to call, or was called gardening. That’s mine laying. Which counted for only one operation. People disappeared on those things so how they could justify going down for, on a half an op, I don’t know. And I stayed there with 78 Squadron until March ’43. That was, that was’ 42. ’43, I had gone down at the end of February ’43. I was commissioned and I went down to London to get kitted out. I came back and I developed a raging throat infection. It turned out to be an abscess and I was put into hospital and I never re-joined 78. I then went on sort of sick leave and eventually I had the tonsils out at the time of my 21st birthday before then going on to the sort of thing that one did at the end of a tour of operations which was as an instructor. And that’s when I went in that year down to Moreton in Marsh flying Wellingtons. I stayed there [pause] I’m getting a bit. Will you turn it off a bit?
[recording paused]
JG: My time at Moreton in Marsh lasted until the spring of 1944. Following that I completed a bombing leader course at the Armaments School at RAF Manby in January 1944. At the end of that I then went to RAF Riccall. This was another of the Conversion Units. Yeah. And from there, after doing the bombing leader course I went from the — to this. To Riccall. RAF Riccall which was the conversion [pause] I’d better have it off.
[recording paused]
JG: Riccall. RAF Riccall, on a refresher course before joining a Squadron. And that’s where I was on D-day. So, by the time I reached 640 Squadron it was the end of June 1944 and that’s where I went to take up the post of bombing leader.
DM: When you went — so you were on your new base.
JG: Yes.
DM: You were now a bombing leader. Did you have a crew?
JG: No.
DM: Or were you a sort of a spare bod?
JG: That’s right.
DM: As they said.
JG: That’s right. Yes. Well, I’ve got in my notes down here. In that position I was supposed to stay. Fly no more than two operations a month which was not very much. And I was the one who selected when I would go and with whom. Sensibly and logically really the ones I went on I was actually taking the place of somebody in the crew who was not able to go on that particular flight. Illness or whatever reason. And I was flying, we were coming up to Christmas and I am sure that I had by that time I had done, I’d flown twelve operations and the one that I was going on was to be my thirteenth actually of my second tour. I decided that I was going to have to do at least one anyway in December. So I selected one on the 6th of December because that was where the usual permanent bomb aimer was ill. So, I took his place. So I was flying with that crew for the first time ever. The only one of them, of the crew, commissioned was the pilot. I knew him because we were both commissioned. But the rest of the crew non-commissioned I hadn’t met before even. And of course I made the great mistake that I’d picked the wrong one. It was, shouldn’t have been a particularly dangerous one but anyway over Germany and this is now where there’s a bit of a gap in what happened because I see I’m actually have been recorded as being shot down. I always doubted that because the manner in which we crashed. There was, we weren’t attacked by anything. And what I believe and I’m hoping I will get one day confirmation of this, we collided with a German night fighter. And the reason I say that is because in the report that I got back from the Air Ministry things apparently a night fighter was lost that night in that area and reported a collision. And the circumstances of the accident lead one I think to conclude that it’s certainly much more likely to have been a collision because from going from the pilot completely under control to immediately losing control and I conclude, and most people think it’s much more likely I think that we collided with this thing and it took our tail off because in no time at all we were in a spin. And as we spun down it was impossible to get out of the aircraft because the, what do you call it force?
DM: The G Force.
JG: G. Yes. Really. You couldn’t lift a hand to get out. And then they, there was this crashing sound which I believed was we were hitting the ground. I thought well this is it but in fact within seconds I suppose it would be only I found myself outside in the fresh air on a dark December night. I had my parachute pack on because I’d already put that on as soon as there was an emergency and I opened that up and then descended by parachute. And there was not a sound or a sign of anything which was connected with the accident. So the aircraft had gone down. I was now floating down. Way behind it I suppose. And I don’t believe that was as a result of an actual physical attack. But being shot down it certainly wasn’t. The evidence points to that I think. I’ve tried to find out more about that. With a bit of luck my elder son who is coming down at the beginning of December is going to review records to see if he can find out any more about it. Or if there is any way one can get through Germany. I don’t suppose there’s anything anyway. They won’t have kept much of that sort of record. But we’ll see. But I’ve always had an open mind about this. So, how I came down I don’t know. But I came down in a flooded field. I didn’t realise at the time but I looked down and saw this expanse of water. I couldn’t make it out because we were nowhere near the sea or any large expanse of water. And I came down. I thought I had broken my right leg. I was holding my leg in both hands, both arms because of the pain and the trousers torn. Blood all over the place. And I went in left leg first and sprained my leg because it turned out to be a flooded field which was not very helpful. Fell over and got soaking wet. I spent a bit of time in some bushes trying to find out what was wrong with me if I could and then sort of get myself composed enough to move on. Eventually I did. I moved on in the direction of some houses. I knew by compass the heading of course. I had no idea where I was on the ground. How far I’d fallen before I opened the parachute. Anything like that. So, I eventually got into a farmyard and into an open cart and I examined my body to see what was wrong and also to get rid of my wet things which were very wet. The only trouble was I was going to have to sort of wring them out and put them back on again. Which I did. And while I was in the cart, presumably members of the farm came out, calling out, ‘Is there anybody there?’ Or what I assumed was what they were after. Of course, I kept quiet and they would go away and enable me then to start my escape. Eventually I got out of the farm. I realised I had just flesh wounds on my right leg. It was nothing really serious but my hands were cut, my face was cut. Anyway, off I went in the early hours of the next morning. The 7th. I was walking down a country lane actually with not a sound or sign of anybody when I was stopped by a guard, an armed guard who I believe to have come from the local Luftwaffe station. Anyway, by now I was a prisoner of course and from then on I spent a bit of time there while they organised my — oh no. What am I talking about? No. I was put into a hospital. It was a civil hospital run by nuns. And the four of us who had survived this accident which was me, the flight engineer, the wireless operator and the navigator we, we were not too far dispersed on the ground when we landed. So that they got us together and then planned, I presume what they were going to do with us. And fortunately for me the flight engineer and I were put into hospital where we were very well treated. The flight engineer was very badly injured. He’d broken all sorts of his body and the extraordinary thing is with him we were in this room together, we talked together all the time because there was no one else to talk to and he had not realised what had happened to him. Where he was. He could not remember anything following taxiing out to take off the night before. The 6th. And he never did as far as I know. But he was in a very bad way and he was still in hospital when I left which was somewhere towards the mid to I haven’t got the actual date of this. January. One day a guard appeared at my door and I was told to dress and follow him in about, at least six inches of snow outside and as this was going to be my first walk following the parachute descent I wasn’t too happy about it. But fortunately he had a bicycle and I was allowed to push it in the manner of the zimmer really while he walked beside me. We went to the local Luftwaffe station and then a few days later two guards arrived and started me on my way down to the Frankfurt. The Dulag Luft Interrogation Centre where I was, everyone was when you arrived there you go in to solitary and they liked to make it as unpleasant for you as they can. The bed was just two or three struts across the frame. A blanket and a pillow and that was basically it. If you wanted to use the lavatory you had to operate a little lever on the inside of the thing, of the room which indicated to the guard outside that you wanted to go. Whereupon they either came or they didn’t which was a bit, could be difficult. So you really had to plan in advance. And then of course once you were in there, you got to the loo as soon as you got there and if you wanted to sit down they shouted, ‘Come out.’ And made it, everything was made unpleasant. The food we had for breakfast we would have coffee, and [pause] I think that’s about it. But there would have been the bit of black bread anyway with nothing much on it. If anything. At lunchtime it would be a watery soup. And then an evening meal was the black coffee again and with bread and a bit of something on it. The heating, the room was heated by a radiator which was, made the room, when it was on it was unbearably hot. During the night they would turn it off so you would awaken frozen stiff. And that was where you stayed until they let, said they’d had enough of you in interrogation. There was nothing much really I could have told and everything that they had, they’d had members of my crew already through there so I was having to be careful about what I said. They said, ‘You were a flight lieutenant bomb aimer. You must have been the bombing leader.’ Which they knew quite a lot about but which I denied but whether they believed me I don’t know. But eventually I was on my way and the, we were after, yeah there was a spell while they gathered a number of people to make it worth shipping them off to a POW camp I suppose. But then we would go from there by train to the POW camp. We had no idea where it was going to be but we were led to believe it was somewhere in East Germany. And we then, we discovered eventually what our destination was and that we were going by train via Berlin. Which we were not looking forward to. But we were in ordinary carriages of compartments with ten in each. We took it in turns to sleep on the carriage rack. Luggage rack. Otherwise you couldn’t stretch out at all. After several days and I’m not quite sure how long actually but we arrived at Stalag Luft 1, and it’s address is Barth. B A R T H. In fact — will you turn it off again?
[recording paused]
DM: Ok.
JG: I’ll go from where we left Dulag Luft following interrogation at about 1 pm on Saturday 13th and arrived at Wetzlar at 6am on the Sunday. Where that is I don’t know but the distance between the two camps was a little over forty miles. Here we stayed until the following Saturday living twenty four men to a room and eating three times a day in the mess hall. It was at this camp we had Red Cross clothing issued. Two — what they were I don’t know, two packets of American cigarettes and a subsequent issue of ten a day while we were there. Most important was the shower. My first decent wash in Germany. On Saturday January the 20th 1945 of course we’re talking about here a party of eighty of us left for Stalag Luft 1 situated at Barth on the Baltic coast. The journey was expected to last anything from four to seven days and we were there and we were provided with a half a Red Cross parcel per men together with a ration of a fifth of a loaf of bread per day. We travelled in a carriage. Ten men to a compartment and the coach was hooked on to those engines and shunted back and forth in the manner of a freight car. We never actually left the carriage throughout the journey. We ate very well but sleep was difficult and we were relieved to hear that we were making good time. On route we passed through Berlin where we had to wait several hours for the next and last connection. It was a sigh, with a sigh of relief that we left the capital and continued on our way. On Monday evening at 4.50 or 4.30 we arrived at Barth. We spent the night in the railway carriage and on Tuesday morning marched to the camp some three miles north. On arrival we had a shower and our clothing was deloused. Later we were issued with mugs but also knife, fork and spoon and palliases and pillows. Once again we slept in rooms built to hold twenty men. The beds they arranged in three tiers. That evening we had a very welcome bowl of hot barley soup. And our first night’s sleep since we left Wetzlar. And that’s that. The rest of it is really conditions in the camp.
DM: Were you reasonably well treated in the camp?
JG: Oh yes. Yeah. They had sort of given up on us really I think. The only thing is one didn’t mess about. If you didn’t, if you came outside your hut after curfew you could be shot. They wouldn’t worry about it. And while we were there I think at least one person was outside when he shouldn’t have been and was shot.
DM: Did you get news of how the war was going? Was there a sort of —
JG: Oh yes.
DM: A bush telegraph or —
JG: Yes. Yes. Well, there were some parts of the camp had radios of course. Secret radios. I don’t think we were ever issued anything by the authorities but we knew exactly what was going on. And eventually we got the news that we — of course Hitler was declared dead at the end of April. And the camp commandant on our side, he was the senior allied officer was a chap, an American fighter pilot and he he came on the communications system and said that the Germans were going to evacuate the camp. And he had said to them, ‘What will you do if we refuse to come?’ And they said, ‘We’ll leave you behind.’ And of course we knew that the Russians were getting very very close and the Germans were of course terrified of these murderous people who they, ahead of the regular organised army came up and just did what they liked. And their behaviour was dreadful. And the population was pretty well scared stiff of them. At the beginning of May, I’ve not, I haven’t got the date of it I think. Or have I? [pause] Yes.
JG: Yes. We were following Hitler’s death. Then things were collapsed on the German side quite considerably. But before that, in the March we had, we had the RAF prisoners had a briefing in which we were told that plans were afoot for us to break out of camp. The whole of the camp would break out. The RAF would act as armed guard to the main body of prisoners going back west who would have been American. And as we were going, ‘How do we break out of this place then?’ ‘Arms will be dropped to you,’ we were told. This was the sort of rubbish that came from Whitehall. You know, that sort of thing. Absolute, well as I say complete rubbish. And we came out of the briefing and we were flabbergasted. And I was, walked out with a pilot from 4 Group who had been the pilot of a Halifax which was involved in a head on collision over Cologne. I can’t imagine anything much worse than that. Having a aircraft — and he was the only survivor. But the fun, or interesting thing it was the first occasion he was wearing a seat parachute. Up until then the pilots only had the ordinary pack which clipped on. Whereas, they had, at the end of the war, a bit late, at the end of the war they were issued with a seat pack so that if something happened and the aircraft came adrift [pause] Is it on? Then they would get away with it and it was the first occasion he’d worn it. And of course this was the first occasion he really needed it. You know. He said, well he thought it was rubbish and we were a bit taken aback and alarmed. Because if people were going to the extent of dropping arms to us they obviously wanted us to use them and we, having got that stage in our lives having survived we didn’t want to stick out our necks much longer. Particularly now. It’s obviously at the end of the war. Hitler is now dead and things are going to move quite fast. Anyway, we, we sat waiting for news of our evacuation and it was, nothing seemed to be happening until a group captain from our own side got through to the lines in Lubeck to allied headquarters to find out what was going on. Only to find of course nothing was going on. But as a result of that arrangements were made for the US Air Force, 8th Air Force, the B17s to come and pick us up and take us home. Adjoined, quite close to the camp was a Luftwaffe base which by now of course the Russians moving in it was now part of Russia as far as they were concerned. And no way were they going to allow any aircraft, allied aircraft in there until Eisenhower got behind it when he heard that we were not. He wasn’t going to have for a start any idea that we should break out and march west. It was the last thing he wanted. He’d got enough people rushing around the place. And he didn’t sort of want gash POWs. And so we were to stay where we were. And as a result of that RAF chap getting through to our lines and getting some action how much longer we would have been there goodness knows. And then [pause] now, I’ve got here at the end of the war, our time in the camp with the Germans. Now, having gone that Monday the 30th of April 1945 the Germans have been demolishing detector installations and equipment in the flak school which on this airfield. By the evening most of the items have left the camp and it looks as though we shall be left here in the care of the senior administrative office. Many heavy explosions in the flak school and on the aerodrome around. There was no count on today, parade tonight but the Jerry major appeared to be tired. At 9pm the somebody [pause] Well, anyway, 9pm we were told that from 8am tomorrow, that’s the 1st we would no longer be POWs as the commandant was officially handing over. We had an extra biscuit, butter and marmalade to celebrate. Tuesday the 1st of May — today the guard posts are occupied by Americans wearing MP armbands. That’s Military Police of course instead of the usual old goons which was our name for the German guards. A white flag flies over the camp. The rumours are thick and fast and everyone is wondering when we shall get away. The Russians are supposed to be pretty close. The latest is that they are two kilometres south of Barth. The bürgermeister of Barth is said to have shot himself. At 1pm we heard the BBC news and now at 14.20 we are listening to, “Variety Band Box.” Tonight at 22.15 approximately a Russian lieutenant and either a civilian or Russian soldier arrived. Cheers echoed throughout the compound. We’d been awaiting this for some time. Good Old Joe. The main Russian body captured Stralsund, which is on the coast, tonight, today. Listened to the BBC news. Public House time it to be extended on VE Day. I hope we’re home for it. At 22.30 it was announced that Hitler is dead. I hope it was one of Berlin, was in one of Berlin’s sewers. Perhaps these will capitulate now. Lights on until midnight by order of Colonel Zemke. He was the allied commander I was talking about. Special cup of hot milk at 23.15. More Russians expected tomorrow. Water shortage. On the Wednesday the 2nd the Russians said we were to march out and be packed in preparation to leave at 6pm. One Red Cross parcel issued to each man for the journey. We ate several meals in quick succession to get rid of our [pause] this is the one [pause] yes. We had to get rid of [pause] Red Cross parcel stocks. Share out the ones that we had left. Then we were told to be ready to march in the morning and a little later we heard that the march was not definite. Most of us left camp in the evening to have a look around. Some even got into Barth. Rumours are flying out, hope it’s true, British and Russians are supposed to have linked up in the north. Chaos reigned all day. Poor water situation. German armies in Italy and Austria surrendered to Alexander. Monty’s boys in Lubeck. Russian. Russians in Rostock. Berlin has fallen. Hamburg declared an open city. I’ve been told the airfield is becoming clear of mines. We may be flown out. Hope it’s true and that the kites —
JG: I heard earlier today that we’re in contact with London, Washington and Moscow to see what they intended to do. Or for us to do. A colossal [pause] comparatively speaking, announced all day. The water situation a bit better. From midnight tonight we use Russian time. An hour in advance of our present time. Friday the 4th — airfield expected to be clear by 2pm. All Germans in northwest Germany, Holland, Denmark, Heligoland were ordered by Admiral Doenitz to surrender unconditionally. This is to take effect from 08.00 tomorrow Saturday the 5th of May 1945. Saturday the 5th of May — a Russian general inspected our barracks in the morning. In the afternoon Marshall Rokossovsky to some [pause] oh no, came to report with Colonel Zemke. A very tough looking bunch. One of the generals made a speech to some of us in Russian. An American colonel arrived by jeep from our lines and made final arrangements for our evacuation. Wish they would get a move on. Listened to a radio recording of the signing of the unconditional surrender by the German staff. The commentary was by Monty. The 6th. Sunday the 6th — still waiting. The colonel repeated his former broadcast saying things were being done for our evacuation. Monday the 7th — a lieutenant colonel of the 6th airborne Division came to Wismar today to reassure us and we needed some reassuring too that we could expect to be flown out within the next few days. He could not say which day it would be but would definitely be only a matter of a few days. Question — how long or short is a few days? Apparently, we shall be flown back to England. Good deal. Other POWs are still being flown back by Lancs. [pause] Daks and Commandos are being used. Twenty five in a Dak, forty in a Commando. Most POWs have to be helped into aircraft. They were given a shock here. We shall run like stink when the kites come. I’ve heard that tomorrow is VE day and the following day a holiday. I’m bloody annoyed that we’re not going to, we’re going to miss the celebrations and so is everyone else. Saturday, Sunday the 6th of May — saw a Russian concert this afternoon and it was very good. No one or very few understood a word but what the hell. Monday the 7th of May — at the moment, 21.50 Russian time someone, I think it’s Alfredo Campoli, is playing a composition on the violin which I heard once at one of the St John’s socials. St John’s being the Parish church in Sidcup where I come from. It has just been announced that the BBC have broadcast a message to the effect that Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Pomerania has been liberated and the next of kin are being informed. Goebbels, his wife and daughters took poison apparently. War ends after five years and eight months. Unconditional surrender made at 2.41 French time today to Field Marshall Montgomery. Location Reims. Or Reims. Tuesday the 8th of May — I’ve just heard the prime minister’s speech declaring that the European war is at an end. The ceasefire officially takes place at 00.01 tomorrow. Wednesday, May 9th but fighting, except for some of the Resistance in Czechoslovakia ceased on Thursday morning. It is VE day and this morning I spent some time sun bathing on the peninsula north of the camp. I hope soon to be doing the same in England very soon. Listened to the King’s Speech. I guess the family were listening too. Do they know where I am? I wonder. And did they hear the announcement on the radio last night to the effect that we had been liberated by the Red Army. Lancs landed in Germany for the first time and flew back with four thousand five hundred POWs. Come on boys. Let’s get out of here. Wednesday the 9th of May— sunbathing again today. Allied parade this morning. A Russian officer made a speech to us. Same old story. Be patient for a few more days. Plenty of rumours floating around [pause] At 08.00 hours on BBC radio all men at Stalag Luft 1, Barth, near Stralsund, Pomerania, Germany are to remain in the camp and not make for the allied lines. Well, I don’t know whether anyone did. Thursday, the 10th of May — on KP again today. You know, that’s cleaning up the camp. Ten thousand more POWs flown out by five hundred BC aircraft and we’re still here. Colonel Zemke made an appalling speech again tonight. He’s going to get out all souvenirs. The rumour is that all British personnel are going to be taken by transport to Wismar and flown home from there. Also, that we should have been there yesterday. Group Captain Weir is said to have gone to try and get us out. He may have split with Colonel Zemke. I hope so as Zemke hasn’t a bloody clue. Listened to ITMA. Last time I heard it was on Wednesday the 6th December. I was changing in my room for the op and could hear it on someone else’s radio. That was of course the day on which I went down in Germany. Friday the 11th — sunbathed again today. There’s a meeting of the wheels, you know they were the top men, tonight. Final arrangements for our evacuation are said to be the subject of discussion. Group Captain Weir seems to have been arranging with the Russian commander of the area, Colonel General Batov for aircraft to land here to take us out. Colonel Zemke has just announced that aircraft expected here tomorrow or on Sunday. Russian passports are being signed up in preparation. It really looks as if we are going to move soon. Squadron Leader Evans had to fill in forms of interrogation which he signed. This gives us clearance, a clearance chit to be presented on arrival in England which should hasten our departure from the Receiving Centre. A cabinet order said that all POWs are to be with their families within twenty four hours of arriving in England. Length of leave is uncertain. Nearly eighty thousand POWs have been returned to England so far. There can’t be many more. Eisenhower has just repeated his, ‘stay put’ message. The 12th, Saturday the 12th — Group Captain Green on parade this morning said evacuation was to begin this afternoon. Sick quarters are first on the list. Then come the British personnel in the following order and its by blocks eight, nine, ten, eleven etcetera. So we were in a good position. What’s the betting I click for a cleaning job which would mean a delayed departure. At 2pm the first US aircraft arrived at Barth aerodrome. Two Daks for hospital cases and the rest Fortresses. Joe here is in charge, that’s me, in charge of operation [unclear] so I shan’t get away until tomorrow. The rest of the boys in the room buzzed at 3pm. Six lads and I stayed from 3pm until 9pm cleaning up. What a bloody awful job. Managed to get a shower at the end of it. Packed for the morning, nearly losing my fags as the Yanks still in the compound were on the prowl and almost swiped them. Saturday the 13th of May — paraded at 6.30am and after roll call we marched out to the airfield. At 7.30am the first Forts arrived. We were then split into groups of twenty five and as each Fort came around the perimeter track we embarked. That was Sunday the 13th. We were airborne at 8.30am and flew fairly low direct to England having a very good look at Bremen and Hamburg enroute. As we were using Russian time we had to put our watches back one hour to correspond with double British summertime. PBST. We landed at Ford in Sussex at 11.30. This completed the trip I set out on on December the 6th last. It took a bloody long time for my liking. Too long. I have recalled the following dream I had some time during my incarceration. Obviously, it was prompted by my fear that my family didn’t know my fate in the dream. I returned home to reassure the family that I was safe, in reasonable shape and in a POW camp. Having told the family this I prepared to leave, much to their puzzlement. ‘Why,’ they asked, ‘Did you, now home do you propose to leave?’ ‘Because I’m still a POW and my place is in that German POW camp,’ [laughs] I replied. And that took me to the end of the war.
DM: So, that was the diary you kept.
JG: Yes.
DM: When you were in the camp. Yes.
JG: That’s right. And that I didn’t much do much until the last days. Little point really.
DM: So, you obviously then had leave after you got home.
JG: That’s right.
DM: Repatriation leave.
JG: Yes.
DM: When did you actually leave the air force the first time?
JG: I don’t [pause] I’m not sure that I’ve got it.
DM: It doesn’t matter precisely.
JG: Yes. It was —
DM: It was in 1945 was it?
JG: Yes.
DM: That you left.
JG: That’s right. Yes. What happened was that after the end of leave, which was extensive I did an air traffic controller course and I ended my days in the RAF as an air traffic controller at Henlow in Bedfordshire. And it must have been September I think. I’m trying to think when I got it [pause] Righto. Thank you.
DM: When you left the air force —
JG: Yes.
DM: What did you do in Civvy Street?
JG: I had a number of jobs. The last one was an, with an insurance company called Friends Provident. They’re still around. Quite a minor one I think. But I had, the first job I had was [pause] air freight. It was a company that dealt with arranging air freight in and out of the country. We were based in Victoria. It was a fiercely boring thing. And —
Other: You didn’t go back to Brown Shipley did you?
JG: No. I often wonder what would have happened had I because Brown Shipley’s still around.
DM: What prompted you to join up again in 1949?
JG: The fact that I was bored stiff and really and I was by now living in what we used to call digs in Reading and coming home to Sidcup at the weekends. And I didn’t really enjoy it much. And so it was when this announcement was made I thought, ‘Oh I can’t do worse than this.’ And if I’m going to go back on my terms because what I want now I want to settle down. If possible to get a house. I want to make some solid progress and get employment which I can guarantee until normal retirement age because I’ve not got much in the way of money. Certainly the RAF would provide the income that I was looking for and if I can get in with my flight lieutenant rank. And also, I actually had the nerve to talk about a permanent commission. And to my amazement that’s what happened. And I’ll never know whether the chap who was by now Air Marshall Sir John Whitley who had been the station commander at, at St Eval in 1942 when I was there and whom I was interviewed by him on the way to getting a commission and I wrote and reminded him of that. Whether it had any affect I just don’t know. I’d like to think it did and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he hadn’t sort of put a recommendation in on my behalf. Anyway, that’s in I went. And 31st of May 1949 and I — my first Squadron. I went having done a number of courses to 1949. Refresher navigation courses. I then went to a course where I went as a navigator to a pilot whose name was Wing Commander Oxley and this was a organised — I’m not sure what exactly it was called but it was at [pause] now —
JG: I have to turn this off again. I’m very sorry.
[recording paused]
JG: Obviously then, this refresher training thing I was posted.
[pause – doorbell rings]
JG: To RAF Swinderby at an Advanced Flying School and where we flew Wellingtons and I flew with the pilot Wing Commander Oxley between September and November. In late December of ’49 I was posted to Number 236 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Kinloss, Scotland flying Lancasters. Until April the 5th of April when I was posted to 38 Squadron Luqa, Malta flying Lancasters on maritime operations.
JG: Apart from maritime operations which included various Naval and air force. Naval and air operations, training operations and also on air sea rescue duties.
JG: At the beginning of 1953 where I was then posted to Number 1 Maritime Reconnaissance School. And that was at St Mawgan in Cornwall. And during my time there I found myself recruited to take part in the Queen’s coronation and I, for the spell which included the coronation I went up to Henlow. And we were trained in basically marching long distances. And I took part in the actual Review on the 2nd of June 1953. And then subsequently in the July I took part in the Queen’s RAF Review of the — at [pause] well I think it was the RAF Review. The Queen’s Review of the RAF took place at Odiham in Hampshire. And that was [pause] I haven’t got the actual date. Later in 1954 I was posted to headquarters, 64 Group Home Command at Rufforth, York as PA to the AOC. Non-flying apart from accompanying the air commodore and visits. From ’56, September ’56 to the 23rd of January I attended a Bomber Command Bombing School, Lindholme. Navigation training for the V force. In summer that year I was posted instead to Air Ministry, London Air Intelligence Branch. And in October 1960 I was posted as assistant air attaché, British Embassy, Paris. I retired from the RAF in May 1962 and in September I joined Shellmex and BP Limited soon to become separate companies. I stayed with Shell until retiring in June 1982. And that’s really leaves me coming out.
DM: The, near the beginning you were saying that because you were a POW.
JG: Yes.
DM: You didn’t have your hands on your logbook.
JG: That’s right.
DM: And you didn’t get it back. And that was one of the ones that was ultimately destroyed I assume.
JG: Yes. As far as I know if you want to record it.
DM: It’s going. Yeah.
JG: When I came back I made enquiries and I discovered that in October or November 1960 [pause] Either ’59 or ’60. When did I go? [pause] Yes. It would be October 1960. A decree had gone out earlier that year, no in that month, it was certainly while I was in Paris the Air Ministry issued a decree to say that the, there were a lot of logbooks unclaimed and unless you claimed the thing by whatever date it was, I don’t know, they would be destroyed. And so by the time I came back and I didn’t know that, I didn’t get that news while I was in Paris and I can’t, and I’m surprised they didn’t think to tell people all over the place. Or else I just missed it. But anyway the fact is then any enquiries I made just drew a blank. So, there’s no point really. It isn’t, doesn’t exist anywhere unless someone thought oh I’ll have this. But why they would do that I don’t know.
DM: No.
JG: I can’t imagine it’s of any interest to anybody but me. But it’s been a nuisance really because [pause] well just all I’ve got, I’ve got it here but the as soon as I rejoined of course I got another logbook and that’s the one I’ve got. But it doesn’t help looking back at things that happened during the war.
DM: No.
JG: The only one of interest that, it was an event which occurred while I was on 78 Squadron at Linton on Ouse and it’s documented actually in Bomber Command records. It — we took off from Linton on the 11th of December 1942 heading for Italy. So, we were virtually a flying petrol tank with one or two little bombs. Anyway, we took off and immediately one of the engines caught fire and the situation was such that we had to get out of it. Out of the aircraft. Fortunately, Linton is not all that distance from the North Sea, although it is the other side of Yorkshire. And so what we proposed to do, the initial plan was to drop our bombs in the sea or where they could be safely dropped and come back and land. But the situation was getting rapidly out of hand and so it was a question of dropping the bombs first thing and then, if possible to have a crash landing somewhere. However, and as I was a bomb aimer down in the front I had to get rid of the hatch so that we were going to drop out of it. That’s the way we were going to go. But I soon had to tell the pilot, ‘We’re going to be far too low to bale out.’ So, he said, ‘Well, I’ll see if I can crash land somewhere.’ But by this time it was getting worse than that. He said, ‘I don’t know. I think I can reach the sea.’ And that’s what we did. We ditched in the North Sea. Just a few miles out, three miles out from Filey and we all got away with it. There was no, had we stayed much longer of course we could very well have burned up. But we did, we got down in the water and we got picked up. Interestingly enough we were picked up by fishermen who had just landed in Filey and had looked back to see this aircraft going into the sea and turned their boats around and came out to pick us up. And, but some of those poor chaps got some stick because what they should have done because some of them were lifeboatmen they should, they should have gone, and gone out with the lifeboat. So they weren’t very popular when the lifeboat did come out and found out some of their men were actually there having done the job for them virtually. Because we didn’t need any help other than something to take us back to land. Now, I was recently, a few years ago now I was contacted by someone by the name of Paul Bright who had written or was writing actually, he hadn’t finished it — a book called, “Aircraft Activity Over the East Riding of Yorkshire,” which included not only RAF but Luftwaffe things. How he got it I don’t know. Anyway, he had got the records of 78 Squadron and this ditching thing and he [pause] he got in touch with me via the chap who wrote 640 Squadron history and as a result of that I was, gave this chap Paul Bright all the information and he’s included it in his book. There’s the thing, “On a Wing and a Prayer,” about what happened from my time in 78. And I’ve been in touch with him. We’ve been, both T and I have met a number of times when we’ve gone up that way and also because the — we’ve been going up there to the Memorial of 640 and at the same time met Paul Bright. But I don’t know what’s happened. A book which I’ve got a copy of I think. A member of the family must have it but it’s, it’s a most extraordinary detailed book of what happened in the air over the East Riding during the war. And including what’s happened to various air crew including German air crew.
JG: And I’m in touch with him every time something significant comes up. Like today for example. I told him about the organisation that was going ahead on behalf of Bomber Command in that area. And I don’t know whether he has been in touch but of all the information I’ve had of course is via Carol and her visits up there.
DM: Ok.
JG: Right.
DM: In September 1944 whilst engaged on an attack on a synthetic oil plant the aircraft in which Flight Lieutenant Goldby was flying was severely damaged by heavy anti-aircraft fire. One engine was hit and rendered useless. Three petrol tanks were holed and a shell fragment entering the bomb aimer’s compartment damaged his equipment. Despite intense physical discomfort and shock Flight Lieutenant Goldby continued calmly to direct his captain onto the target. This determination and skill resulted in a successful attack. This officer has participated in many operations over enemy territory and among his targets have been such heavily defended areas as Essen and Duisberg. He is now engaged on his second tour of operations and in his capacity as bombing leader has been a source of inspiration to his section and has materially contributed to the high standard of efficiency attained. And therefore, the DFC was awarded.



David Meanwell, “Interview with John Louis Goldby,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 24, 2023,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.