Interview with Wal Goodwin


Interview with Wal Goodwin


Wal Goodwin grew up near Melbourne, was conscripted in the Australian Army but was discharged due to his father’s reserved farming occupation. He later volunteered for the Australian Air Force and received his initial training of meteorology, Morse code and semaphore in Sydney, plus basic combat training – including dismantling and reassembling a Bren gun blindfolded. He recalls a march through crowded streets of Sydney. Wal took flying training at Narrandera by Link Trainer and then Tiger Moth but stopped due to tonsillitis. Further training was undertaken at Point Cook on Oxfords. Next, he awaited embarkation to England at the Showground and Melbourne Cricket Ground. Delays ensued, contracting mumps and then, after departing Australia, Italian prisoners of war and Polish female refugees were added to the sailing vessel at Durban, South Africa. In London, Wal saw barrage balloons and the destruction of the Blitz. In Brighton, Wal listened to an accurate broadcast by Lord Haw Haw and undertook an instrument flying course. He assisted in the control tower at Haverfordwest, then transferred to Milford Haven for aircraft identification. Wal’s destroyer accompanied a convoy to Cherbourg following D-Day. Wal crewed up at RAF Moreton in Marsh and converted to Lancasters at RAF Winthorpe before being posted to 463 Squadron. He completed a decoy operation when the war ended. Unable to contact RAF Skellingthorpe, they landed unassisted and returned to a party at the control tower. Wal was invited to a function at the Duchess of Devonshire’s residence in Knightsbridge where he danced with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. He remembers flying Cooks Tours. On return to Australia, Wal missed comradeship and struggled to adjust to civilian life; working on the family farm despite hoping to remain in the Air Force.




Temporal Coverage




01:31:39 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


AGoodwinWJ170607, PGoodwinWJ1701


AP: This interview for the International Bomber Command Centre is with Wal Goodwin who was a pilot with 463 Squadron on Lancasters. The interview is taking place at Wal’s place at the Basin in Melbourne, in Victoria. My name’s Adam Purcell and it is the 7th June 2017. Wal, we might start at the beginning if you don’t mind. Tell me something about you early life. How you grew up and what you were doing before the war.
WG: Oh. Well, my father was a farmer and we had conscription and I put in, in the Army for quite a while and then they decided because I was a Reserved Occupation they kicked me out, which I didn’t complain about. Not that I had any complaints out there either because they knew I had a driver’s licence so I had the, quite often had the job of seeing, driving the CO around in a beautiful new [unclear] [laughs] which was much better than doing route marches. But after I got back, about three months later I enlisted in the Air Force. But I had to wait to be called up and there were a lot of things that we had to learn because there was so many subjects we had to know which were way above whatever I had done. There was maths. And I was very lucky in one respect. There was a Post Office fellow, a guy that worked in the Post Office down in Boronia and he taught me Morse Code which was a great thing because a lot of the fellas were scrubbed because they couldn’t handle Morse Code. You had to be able to take and send twenty six words a minute and there was no way of faking it. You had to get it accurate and if you weren’t accurate you were out. And I was a bit lucky with the maths side of it. I did a correspondence course for, for the three months I was waiting and so that got me back on track but it was way above what I had done, learned at state schools. So that was a help. And then when you went to Bradfield Park, the initial training course at Bradfield Park was really nothing to do with flying. Although there was a lot of ground work and all the subjects we had to learn as well and there were, which were only be about a hundred guys on the intake I was on and they all wanted to be pilots but there would only be fifteen I think that qualified to go on to elementary flying. So I was posted to Narrandera to do elementary flying and I was a bit lucky there because if you couldn’t go solo in in six hours you were scrubbed. Anyone could learn to fly but there’s a time limit on it and if you couldn’t do it in six months, six hours you were out. Well, I was a bit lucky really because one of my mates [Salle Colewall] for some reason he couldn’t fly and he was filling in his time at that stage in the office. And when I was younger I used to get quinsies which were an abscess on the tonsil which are pretty painful things and I was home on leave from Narrandera one night and going back and I felt this quinsy coming on. So I went straight to this doctor and they put me into the hospital in Wagga Wagga and took my tonsils out which took me off course for about six or eight weeks I suppose. Quite a while. And part of the recuperation we were sent to a farm at a place out of Wagga at a place called Mangoplah where Charlie Harper had a farm. And it was quite an experience because there again because I had a driving licence. Mangoplah was quite a few miles out of Wagga but they used to go in to Wagga Wagga for their shopping and they got me to drive their Ford truck and the roads were all corrugated and I’d never met corrugated roads before and I, going, driving slowly. And a lady said, ‘The only way to handle these roads is go like hell.’ [laughs] So I tried and it worked. But I was there for probably five or six weeks recuperating and when I got back to Narrandera because I hadn’t had any flying experience in that time and according to my records I wasn’t there. But that’s when [Salle?] came in handy because he was in the office and said, ‘He couldn’t be because he was in, in hospital.’ So I was back on course again with a different instructor and I can remember he told me to do a slow roll and I told him I’d never been taught how to do it and he told me I was a bit of an [embarrassment ] But I proved to him I hadn’t because I went in that way and came out [unclear] [laughs] So I finally finished my course in Narrandera and then we were posted to Point Cook to Airspeed Oxfords and that was quite an experience flying a twin-engined Oxford after a Tiger Moth. Tiger Moths, you could, you could do anything in a Tiger Moth so a very very safe plane. But there was a couple of guys who were scrubbed from there as well. One guy was about to take off and the CO was taking me out for a test and suddenly he said, ‘Taking over.’ And he taught me so much in that five minutes that I never forgot. He turned the thing around, right around. So actually down and put the plane down right alongside the chap who was about to take off. He was taking off with, they had a little luggage compartment in there, just behind the cockpit and that was open. He was flying, taking off without opening and he never flew again. And another one he was a bit unlucky in a way, he landed downwind which another thing you recommend because Tiger Moths didn’t have any brakes and he got, before he went in to the drain at the end of the runway he managed to stop. He got out and turned this thing around and took off the other way. But the CO happened to see that so he never flew again either. There were all sorts of reasons why they were scrubbed. Anyhow, flying Airspeed Oxfords was quite an experience. The, my instructor was, he used to fly air ambulances in Sydney in peacetime and everything he’d tell you was just like taking candy from a baby which it was eventually. We, we learned an awful lot on the Airspeed Oxfords. They were, I was lucky really when you had, you didn’t have a choice but we got either posted to Ansons or the Oxfords and I’m glad I had the Oxford because they had hydraulics whereas the Ansons you had to wind everything up and down. And they were very safe plane but the Oxford had a few quirks about them. If you had a dent in the cowling that would put up the stalling rate by quite a few kilometres an hour but I managed to get through it all alright. And then we had to do a cross country flight up to, oh it was around almost to Ballarat and then back down again but you had to find your own way. It was common knowledge. Everyone that had done the course before would tell you when you did that all you do was follow the line. There’s a [unclear] plantation with a ring fence. You follow that down and you go straight [laughs] on to Point Cook. That was a big help but one fella did low flying down Geelong Road and he got a bit low down and took the tips off the propellers. He didn’t fly again either [laughs] But from there I was posted to embarkation depot in Melbourne. We started out at the Melbourne Showground and while I was there I got the mumps so, I missed the [unclear] By the time I was cleared of the mumps all the guys that I’d trained with they’d already been posted. I don’t know where they went. A lot of them went to England but not all of them. I never kept track of it after that. And then we moved from the Showground to the Exhibition Buildings for a few months and from there we went to the Cricket Ground which was quite an experience staying at the Cricket Ground. And eventually we went. We were posted. We went on a Dutch ship, the Niew Amsterdam which was a pretty big ship and we went from there and then we stopped off at South Africa and Durban for about four weeks because they took on about five hundred Italian prisoners of war and about the same number of Polish women. Girl refugees which were going to England so they had to change the ship over so everyone was segregated and of course it was quite an experience. Pretty well uneventful until we got up to Freetown and they took on supplies and one silly guy decided to buy a monkey. I don’t know what he was going to do with it but fortunately they found out before we sailed that he had a monkey so they, that was the end of his monkey. We went unescorted all the way because it was a pretty fast ship and it did a zigzag course which took a bit of getting used to but they reckoned that way you to go so submarines wouldn’t be able to get it. So we finished up in Scotland and went by train from there down to Brighton on the, right on the English Channel. And the first night we were there they had, there was an Englishman who had just defected to the Germans. His name was Lord Haw Haw and he used to do a radio broadcast every night in English to the English people and that the intelligence was pretty accurate because he heard that there was a group of Australians had arrived in Brighton that night and they were going to give them a warm welcome. So we had a quite a lot, a lot of planes going over and they dropped bombs where we were in Brighton and one of them was shot down and it crashed just a couple of streets away from the hotel we were staying at. And for me we, there were so many pilots around. There was. They didn’t know what to do with them so they sent us back to a private airfield flying Tiger Moths again. And from Tiger Moths we had one guy [Danny Maddox] was his, he was a civilian who ran this, this Tiger Moth station and they were all civilians and one of the guys [Danny Maddox] decided, he had a girlfriend and he decided he was going to go and see her in the daytime when he was flying. The only trouble was he tried to land at an airfield, in a wheatfield and he tipped it up. So, he rang the CO, told him he'd crashed a plane and the CO said, ‘Is it flyable?’ He said, ‘Oh, if you send a couple of guys out to stand it on its wheels it’ll be alright.’ [laughs] From there we did a, what they called a BAT course. That’s where you, a beam approach. You did everything by radio. You couldn’t see the instruments. You had to do everything on your instruments of course. It was quite, quite an experience. I really enjoyed it but it taught me a lot about instruments though. At Narrandera we used to do what they called a link trainer which was just, they all called them the horror box because if you could do it they were like a simulator you could do anything in the things but you never crashed. And quite often at night time I’d go back and do another course on on the link trainer because it was, I think that helped me a lot but this instrument flying one was really something. But we found flying in England was a lot easier, especially at night time than it was in Australia because in Australia at night time all you had were flares down the side of the runway and you had to come in until you virtually lined the flares up all in one line. I mean, you, that was it. You landed. But over there they had the control lights. If you were too low it’d be red. If you were on course it’d be green. If you got too high it’d be yellow. So, you come in on this its green and they had a, you had to come in at a separated speed and you had to lose height at certain times otherwise they had what they called the outer marker beacon and then an inner marker beacon and then a cone of silence and you had to be about fifty feet when you came over the cone of silence and you had to pull everything back and you’re on the runway. Which was really good. But from there I got sent on a [pause] down to a place called Haverfordwest in South Wales on flying control duty in the, in the control tower where it was getting, and it was quite funny really too. They had a radio channel that was monitored twenty four hours a day. It was called Darkie and if anyone got in to trouble they’d press Darkie and they, they would be directed to the nearest airfield. Well, this night there was a fella calling up for Darkie and we couldn’t get him. He’d got the, had the transmitter down all the time because we couldn’t get him. But it’s a funny thing I’ve often wondered about that. I reckoned he just must have just gone off into the night and crashed. But in reading a report from a, in a book that I got a bit after the war this guy he was doing his OTU at, in Scotland and the navigator should have been able to tell him where they went, where they were but the navigator had no idea. It was night time and it was cloud and the navigator didn’t know where they were, the pilot didn’t know where they were and they just kept on flying and eventually he was very lucky because the clouds broke up and underneath him was the Isle of Man and he was able to land on the Isle of Man. But in report he was, he was afraid he was going to be scrubbed because of that but in the report it said the navigator was the one who really got the blast. But he said to him as a navigator he wasn’t very good but as a pilot he was proficient. Well, I was there for another couple of weeks and this was after the D-Day landings and there were planes flying backwards and forwards across the Channel and the Navy was shooting at everything that came in sight. So they put me on a destroyer at Milford Haven as aircraft identification and they were taking a convoy of ships up the Channel to Cherbourg or what was known as a Mulberry Harbour. That was a harbour that was built up in Scotland [coughs] Built up in Scotland and it was, it was a huge thing. It was about a mile long. How they did it. We got there without any problems and we were on the way back to Milford Haven when the admiral was on board the destroyer I was on and he got a call to go to Portsmouth and I was, I’ll never forget it, I was on the catwalk on this destroyer when it turned around and I was up to my knees in water. Anyhow, we got to Portsmouth. Portsmouth, and from there got posted back to Haverfordwest and then the next day I was sent to Moreton in Marsh for OTU. That’s where I first met my crew. They put a whole load of us pilots and all the guys in a big room and we had to pick a crew. We’d nothing. We knew nothing about them at all except that they’d done their course and must have been proficient in whatever it was they were. I was very lucky. I managed to get a crew which we all got on very well with. Yeah. And the only one that I didn’t get was the flight engineer. He, they sent me a flight engineer and he came from Newcastle but he was quite a nice guy too. But we never had any problems. We just, we all got along very well with and we finished our OTU. The only thing was there’s something that I’d forgotten about until a couple of years ago when my rear gunner and mid-upper gunner reminded me that I’d, we were flying at seventeen thousand feet and suddenly started coming down, losing height and I can never, couldn’t get it back and we were coming down down down, getting lower all the time and everything was working as it should have been. I’d forgotten about it because, but when we got down to about six thousand feet I told them to prepare to jump out and when we got to about six thousand feet I was able to hold it at six thousand feet. So we finished the flight at six thousand feet but I reported it as an unserviceable plane, told them what the problem was but the next day we were posted to Winthorpe to the Lancaster. So I never really found out what the problem was. The only thing I can think of is that you had a constant speed propellers but [pause] you took off in fine pitch and then you put in a course pitch and from then on they took over and the only thing I can think of is that for some reason they changed over to fine pitch which would give you, you wouldn’t be able to climb very far on fine pitch. But that’s the only thing I can think of. I’d forgotten about it until just a few years ago when my rear gunner told me he always wanted to do a parachute jump. And he did two parachute jumps down at Wollongong but he said he was never so glad as the night I cancelled the order to jump ship. Now, I never, to this day I really don’t know what caused that. But then we went to Winthorpe. That’s where I met a guy that took me on a conversion course or an initiation course on Lancasters told me that he was very glad I was flying Lancasters and I never had any trouble. But the funny thing was there was an Englishman on the same course and he’d had no problem landing the Wellingtons and yet he reckoned he couldn’t land a Lancaster which doesn’t make any sense. I think he just didn’t want to go any further but I don’t know what happened to him. They took him out one day to an airfield that wasn’t used very much and they had him doing landings all day but I don’t know what happened after that. So from Winthorpe we were posted to 463 Squadron and [pause] I was, we were still on training at that stage and I can only remember they used to have a spoof raid which they called them, where the main course, main flight, the bombers would take off but this other lot would, one or two planes would take off a few minutes earlier and go on a different course and they’d throw out these strips of aluminium which they reflected on the German radar as planes that they didn’t know. And the idea was to get their planes up in the air somewhere away from where they, the main force was going. But the night war ended over in Europe we were flying on and all of a sudden all the lights came up all over the ground so I asked the wireless operator what was going on and he’d been listening to music so he didn’t know. Then he rang back and told me that the war was over and we had been recalled an hour earlier [laughs]. So we went back to base and I called up for permission to land which you have to do and of course and no one answered me. So I flew down over the control tower and never got any result from anyone. So I took a chance on what the wind was doing, what direction it was coming because we couldn’t see very much and when we landed we called up for transport to get us to go from dispersal back to the control tower and nothing happened. No one answered so we had to load all our gear for quite a long walk back to the control tower. And when we got back there all the guys were very much inebriated or had [laughs] had a little bit too much to drink. But it was quite a relief really to know that the war was over down there. And then we did several they called them Cook’s Tours. We took mostly WAAFs who had been in the offices around the place on these Cook’s Tours over Europe and showed them the bomb damage and all that sort of stuff and then that’s where instrument flying came in very handy because we were flying in cloud for oh, probably an hour. And it sounds silly but you, you swear blind your bum was six foot, six inches off your seat. You could really reckon you were upside down but you, that’s where I, you had to be convinced that the instruments are working. One of them might get out but not all them. And I finally got out of the cloud and when we came back I landed and the CO happened to be in the control tower and he, he said, ‘The pilot of that plane report to control tower immediately.’ I thought what the heck have I done? And he said, ‘That’s the best, best landing that I’ve ever seen.’ From there we did, we were supposed to go down to Italy to bring the prisoners of war home but it turned out that they had, in Italy they were all grass runways. So they didn’t have any concrete runways and they’d had a lot of rain there and the Lancasters that had gone down were all bogged. So we never went down there but the war was still going in, in the Pacific and the whole squadron were posted to, to go to Coningsby to do a conversion on to Lincolns. But the war ended over in Europe before, in the Pacific before we started on that so the next things happened pretty quickly from there on. That’s a photograph taken there of our squadron after the war. But we, we never actually got to Coningsby. I was posted back to Brighton and within three weeks we were on our way home. So that’s about it.
AP: There’s your quick story. Can we go back and fill in some gaps?
WG: Yeah.
AP: How old were you when you actually enlisted?
WG: Pardon?
AP: How old were you when you, when you actually joined the Air Force?
WG: 1942, I joined.
AP: So, how, how old were you at that point?
WG: Twenty one.
AP: Twenty one. Oh, of course because you had been a farmer.
WG: Yeah.
AP: The farm wasn’t a Reserved Occupation. That’s what —
WG: Yeah.
AP: Yeah. Ok. That makes sense. Where were you when, when war was declared? What can you remember of that time? What were you doing? What were your thoughts?
WG: Well, that was [pause] well the Japs came in to the war when I was out at Seymour in the Army. So that would be, well ’41/42. ’41 I think it was. So, I would have been in the Army up there at that stage and as I said I enlisted in the Air Force in about six, would have been when I was called up would have been about three months later.
AP: What can you remember of 1939?
WG: Well, that would be, in those days I was just a farmer.
AP: Did you suspect when, when you became aware that war was on did you suspect that you would be involved at some point? What were your thoughts about that?
WG: No. To this day I don’t know why I enlisted in the Air Force [laughs] It was just something. I’ve no idea why I did that. Anyway, I decided I had to do something and I wasn’t really crash hot on being in the Army so I decided the Air Force would be better. You know. I had no idea. It’s funny because my younger brother enlisted in the Air Force just before I did. It’s funny how people, what their ideas are because she told him he could enlist in the Air Force as long as he was a rear gunner which was the most unrealistic thing [laughs] I mean, that’s the last job you’d want. But —
AP: So your brother did serve with Bomber Command as well? But did he —
WG: No. He was a fighter pilot.
AP: Fighter pilot. Ok.
WG: Yeah.
AP: Can you tell me much about the process of enlistment? What did you have to do? Did you have to do interviews and any extra training or anything? Any medical exams before you enlisted?
WG: We all had a medical exam and that was about it. And then we were called up and were put on a train and we turned up to Sydney and, where we did as I’ve said I didn’t do anything, learn anything really about flying except the theory of flight. That was about the only thing. But we had to pass in meteorology and so many [pause] There was about fifteen or twenty subjects we had to study. Law and administration and, as I said before Morse Code. That included aldis lamps and semaphore which was all part of it. I can’t remember the rest of the things. We had to be able to take a Bren gun apart and put it back together with your eyes closed which is quite a thing to do. But I don’t think there was anything. We did a lot marches in, in Sydney while we were there. Never did any marches in Melbourne.
AP: So, you mean like a march down the city street.
WG: Yeah.
AP: As a recruiting thing or just to get from A to B or —
WG: Oh no. It was just something they just decided to do. I don’t know why they did it but we did two or three. Three I think in Sydney. Marching down the street in Sydney.
AP: What did the local population think of that? Do you know?
WG: Oh, there was always a crowd of people out to watch it. But I don’t really know what they thought about it because we weren’t privy to that.
AP: Was it, was it a serious thing or was it like a joyful thing or, what was the mood on a march like that?
WG: Well, no one complained about it. It was just something we did. At one stage after we, when we were in England we were posted up at [pause] north of England and they had a lot of what they called six weeks wonders. There was a guy trained in administration but they didn’t know how to handle anyone. And I can remember at one stage that we were all marching, we still had to do marches and we were marching past a, I can’t remember [pause] it was, if it was for some reason the guys just kept dropping off. This fellow was in front leading the marching and by the time he got back to base there was only half a dozen guys behind him. And the day we were passing out up there unbeknownst to the, the officer in charge they all decided they would silent hop. Normally when you stopped you banged your foot down like that. It was something that always happened and this day when he called out, ‘Halt,’ there wasn’t a sound behind him. He spun around. Everyone was there, which rather surprised him. He thought he’d lost them all [laughs] While we was there this chap came in in a Lancaster and it was probably one of the worst landings I think you’d ever see. He touched down and up and down and up and, and when he finally got it down there a big roar went up. And I remember the last flight I did in England was at a [pause] I don’t know why I had to, I don’t know why I was there but there was a chap, Johnnie Blair. He was senior to me. I was only a flying officer and he was a flight lieutenant and I had to go along as his second pilot for some reason. This is what they called a gaggle where everyone just flew in a heap at night time and it was the worst flying I’d ever seen. I was tempted to take over many times but I thought well, he’s, he’s my senior, it wouldn’t go down too well. But we got back alright and I never saw him again. That was just a few days before we were posted to Brighton and the funny thing is he joined, he was a pilot with TAA in those days and this was quite a few years after the war and I was up at Mildura and I was there having a meal and this guy come in and he looked. He came over straight away to apologise. He recognised me even though he was a civilian pilot and this was quite a few years after. He reckoned he didn’t know he was going to fly that night and he had too much to drink [laughs] But he remembered that years afterwards.
AP: Oh dear. That’s great. Ok. Well, we’re talking about flying. Tell me about your first solo.
WG: Oh, it was uneventful. I did everything. No drama at all. That was on Tiger Moths. We had a lot of funny experiences because the airfield at Narrandera, they had a satellite field a few miles away where we flew. And I can remember one day these, the pilots used to get really cheesed off with it because they didn’t want to be instructors on Tiger Moths and this guy undid his straps on his parachute and walked out on the wing and sat there on the wing. The Tiger Moths, you could fly them with your hands out at the side really. They were, I don’t think any Tiger Moths crashed while I was up there. I think if you crashed you’d have to have done something silly. They were, they were a reliable plane. Yeah. I don’t think I had any dramas. When we were at Point Cook we had what they called a crash mate. There were, there were two of you and one guy would do his hour or whatever flying or whatever he had to do and then they’d change over. Well, my crash mate, his first solo flight was from Werribee and they’d, and he was coming in to land at the same time as another plane and they were both killed. So that wasn’t a very good experience. We didn’t know what happened to him. We only found out afterwards. So that taught me to make sure you knew everything that was going on around about you. Which reminds me, when you were coming in to land you always had to call up for permission to join a circuit and you always had to go downwind, crosswind and then put it, come back downwind and this guy he was supposed to meet his girlfriend that night and he decided to come straight in. I could see him coming and I thought well I’m not getting off the runway for him and he had to land on the grass alongside, just behind me. And unfortunately for him the CO happened to be in flying control and saw that. He didn’t go out that night. He was a bit of a rat bag but he was still flying a couple of years ago. He was flying, delivering newspapers down to, well down as far as Eden. Dropping them off. So, he was still flying so he must have been able to fly all right.
AP: Didn’t set him back too much. What can you tell me about Narrandera? The airfield. How did you live there? What sort of things did you do on a typical day?
WG: Well, I was lucky in one way. My cousin had trained at Narrandera and my brother had as well and they got to know a Mrs Andrews who was the wife of the doctor and we could go and spend a weekend when you couldn’t go and come home and get back in time for anything. So we, quite often we’d spend a weekend with the Andrews family which was quite good. Otherwise, we just stayed on the station.
AP: What was a day like? When you were learning to fly on a Tiger Moth what sort of things did you do on a typical day? How, how did it run?
WG: Well, as I said earlier quite often I’d spend time on the link trainer. Apart from that there wasn’t much else to do. I didn’t have any social habits. Really, really nothing in Narrandera itself. The town was very very small.
AP: Ok. Can you describe a link trainer?
WG: Pardon?
AP: Can you describe a link trainer? What did it —
WG: Well, it was like a big box and had all the instruments the same as a plane would have. You were completely enclosed in this thing and you could do anything. You could put it in a spin and whatever and, but you couldn’t hurt yourself. So the one thing we had if you did anything wrong you’re not going to hurt yourself.
AP: Very good. What about Point Cook? What was that like as an airfield to fly from?
WG: Oh, it was quite good actually. It was wintertime when I was down there and at that stage I was importing Vultee Vengeance planes which they came boxed and they were assembled down there and the pilots had taken [unclear] do a circuit to make sure they were flying alright. And I can remember one day I was walking behind one when he decided to rev it up and I was blown over and down the runway on my backside. But it was, it was only the bare necessities at an airfield. Nothing special about it. But they didn’t, they didn’t have concrete runways. They were all grass which meant you could fly in any direction but there was nothing special about it.
AP: You said you stayed at the MCG for a little while. That would have been something of an experience I imagine.
WG: Well, it was. A lot of things in the Air Force disappear and they did a stock take of things while we were there and it’s amazing how people would get off with things from the store room which, you’re not supposed to go to the storeroom only if you need another uniform or shoes or something. And it was amazing the amount of stuff that was missing. Which reminds me of another time we were between sometimes it must have been after [pause] no, it would have been before we started OTU. We were at a place called Burton and it had a coal dump at the back and they had a whole lot of fire buckets and things like that and one of the guys used to take the fire bucket into the town and sell them. And he sold buckets full of coal as well. They never caught him [laughs] And I remember he had a verey pistols and a cartridge you would fire if you were in distress or something land or something and there was a big flare at the end of it and one day I had one and I was trying to light it with a cigarette lighter and I was keeping well away from it because I knew that it was going to if it, if it lit it was going to go off. Well, two of my mates [unclear] and Bob Hines decided to take over and they were crouching over the top of it when it went off and they lost all their eyebrows and half their hair and everything else. They weren’t going to go to the doctor. They went to the chemist down the street.
AP: Yeah. Ok. So, when you get to England you said there was something like the first night there was a a Germans attacked.
WG: Yeah.
AP: What were your general thoughts about wartime England? What were your general impressions?
WG: Well, we had been through London in daylight and they had big barrage balloons up in the air and all the damage that had been done so you didn’t feel any sorrow for anything that happened over in Germany because London was pretty badly bombed. But we didn’t know that at the time it just it wasn’t until the next day we knew that the plane had been shot down. We, we knew the Bofors guns. They had Bofors guns all along the, the promenade so we, when we heard them going off but that’s about all there was to it. They didn’t last very long.
AP: What did you think of the civilian population and how they were handling things? Did you —
WG: Oh, it was amazing how they handled it really. A lot of them used to sleep at night under the railway stations in the Underground. London got a, it had done a lot of damage to the buildings and the houses but there were so many people who were spending their nights in, in the underground railway stations. Hundreds of them. They did that week after week. And it was funny when the what they called the buzz bombs they were just a little two stroke engine and a bomb and wings and they’d fly over until they ran out of fuel and then they’d crash. Well, the Hurricanes used to fly alongside them and tip their wing up and turn them out to sea so they crashed out to sea. So they didn’t do that much damage after they realised what they were. But then when the V-2s came along that was a different story because you couldn’t do anything about them. You didn’t know they were there until [pause] and I reckoned we were pretty lucky because we were at the Victoria Station and were about to get into a taxi when this woman for some reason wanted a taxi in a hurry so we said, ‘Take ours. Take it.’ And a V bomb came over just a few seconds later and I reckon we would have been just about where it was. So, as I said lucky we didn’t get that. But there was nothing they could do about them. They were just going too fast.
AP: You said something about a beam approach course.
WG: Eh?
AP: You mentioned something about a beam approach course [coughs] Excuse me, that you did earlier.
WG: Yes.
AP: Flying the beam. How did you do that? Can you remember the process of it?
WG: Well, it was set up for landing when there was a fog on for some reason. Before that they had what they called, well they still had what they called FIDO where they had pipes of oil down the side of the runway and they’d light them. Well, this took over from that and you’d have to find where the runway was for a start but they had different signals for, one side would be dit dit dit and the other side would be da da da but when you, you got on the where it was quiet you knew that’s where the runway was. So you did your circuit around, and you had to have everything accurate. Your rate of descent had to be right any you had to be at a certain distance there. The marker beacon, you had to be seven hundred and fifty feet and your rate of descent had to be accurate or you had a gauge telling you what that was and then had an inner marker which was a different sound again and then, and then a cone of silence which everything went off and you just pulled back on this control tower and you were there which made it very simple.
AP: How often were they used in anger so to speak? I know you trained on them. Did you ever —
WG: No.
AP: Do you know of anyone who —
WG: No. I never knew of anyone that used them.
AP: You have to wonder the point don’t you?
WG: Well, London used to get fogs and —
AP: Yeah.
WG: Their Meteorology was very very good except for one night I remember we were supposed to do a cross country flight and we had to take off north and then we had to come back over the airfield and then and we had to be at about twenty thousand feet. And it, the Met told us that it would be a windspeed of about fifteen or twenty knots but they got it completely wrong because it was over two hundred knots and I can remember it took us over half an hour to fly across the airfield and, and it went on and on and on. I could still see that there was one plane up there and one down just below me and one was just going veering away so I had to make sure I stayed in the middle and hoped to hell they didn’t change. Well, after about an hour I decided that we were never going to be able to finish. We didn’t have fuel enough to get back again so I aborted and went back and the CO told me off ‘til the next morning when the planes were all over the country and they’d all ran out of fuel so he decided I did the right thing which I think I did anyhow.
AP: Was what aircraft were you flying at that point?
WG: Lancaster.
AP: That was a Lancaster [unclear] Cool. Alright, turning to thoughts of leave. You would have got leave in England fairly often. What did you do?
WG: Well, there was [pause] quite often I wouldn’t go on leave. But when I was, before I got a commission there was a what was known as a Victoria Leagues Club where other ranks could go in Vauxhall Bridge Road. It was the Duchess, the Duchess of Devonshire was a patron and you’d pay about two shillings for a bed and your breakfast. But it was only for other ranks and there was, the person who really ran it was an Australian Red Cross girl, Virginia [Herman] and I got to know her very well and quite often I just spent half a day helping her in the office because there was a lot of office work that I could do to help her. But then I got, we got an invitation to, for an evening at the Duchess of Devonshire’s residence in Knightsbridge and so I think that was the Red Cross girl organised it for me and I went out there and that’s, and the present Queen Elizabeth happened to be there. She was in the Land Army. Just an ordinary girl in those days and we had a dance with her and Princess Margaret. Quite a nice night. Something I can remember which not everyone’s had.
AP: That’s quite a good claim to fame actually. I like that one.
WG: But once I became commissioned I wasn’t supposed to go to the Victoria League Club but I kept my old uniform and if I was going on leave I’d go down there because you get sick of London. There’s not a lot you could do there. I wasn’t a great one for going and getting drunk or anything like that. But it’s funny because my wireless operator was a funny little guy. He was only very very little but he was walking down the street in London and there was a couple of New Zealand guys trying to break in to a car. They reckoned they’d lost their keys so Shorty said, ‘Oh, I can get in there for you.’ Just then the police came along and grabbed him [laughs] So he was arrested, spent the night in jail. There was an American guy in there as well and as he was going before the judge he put something in Shorty’s pocket. He didn’t know what it was but when he, he finally, the judge believed what he said and when he put his hand in his pocket there was a brand new watch. So he sold that and got his uniform cleaned.
AP: Ok. Characters. What was your first impression of the Lancaster when you first saw one? What did you think?
WG: I think. Well, I thought it was a marvellous plane. I didn’t realise how good they were but one night we were supposed to go, take off early in the day and went in flying and like the day before, it was summertime and for some reason when we were coming in to try to land everything was just a blur of lights. I’ll never forget it. It was just a blur of lights and the instructor said, he he aborted it, the whole lot and said, ‘The student is showing signs of fatigue.’ But the next night no problem. I don’t know what it was. There was something about it because we had never any trouble flying at night with landing. But with the Wellingtons they were a different story. They were a sleeve valve engine on them and if you throttled back quickly the, it would backfire and the carburettor catch alight. Well, in the daytime you didn’t see it but in the night time you did see it and the only thing to do when that happened you opened the throttles and it sucked it all out. And this guy, I was supposed to take off after him on his first solo flight at night and he’d throttled back and see this sheet of flame they reckoned [he was surrounded going in]. The poor old instructor said, ‘I think we’ll have to shoot him down.’ [laughs] But after four attempts he did come down and landed all right. He took a chance on it but you don’t really see the flame in the day time but at the night time it’s very very visible. It’s something you just have to watch out for.
AP: So the Wellington was a challenging aeroplane then in some ways.
WG: Not really. A lot of people didn’t like them. One of my mates he had to have a certain length leg to be able to put on the full rudder when one engine gave out and he was too short. He started off flying Wirraways in Australia but he, his legs were too short and he couldn’t. He couldn’t handle them. He tried to join Oxfords at Point Cook and did all the things that I did, the beam approach and all that until he got to OTU where he couldn’t, couldn’t handle the Wellington. But they were a very good plane really and they were the first plane that bombed Berlin so, but the only thing I, trouble I had was when I lost height with them. But I never had any trouble landing them ever.
AP: There’s one thing I’m really interested in as well. You said you were at Haverfordwest, I think.
WG: Yeah.
AP: At Haverfordwest. Flying control.
WG: Yeah.
AP: Declaration. I’m an air traffic controller. I’m very interested in your experiences there.
WG: Oh. Well, they were really flying looking for U-boats and that sort of thing and I can remember one day when a Halifax came in. Yeah. A Halifax. And it had been shot up and they’d landed. The undercarriage was blown away. I never, I didn’t think anyone could get out a plane that fast. The whole crew were out. They landed on the grass and the whole crew were out but the plane was still going off down the runway. You can do it if you wanted to. But otherwise it was pretty uneventful. One of the things that I will never forget though was I had to do a couple of nights on pundit duty. Every airfield had a call sign and this pundit duty was an alternator. It had a big diesel engine and it was roaring all night and this thing was going. It was clacking out the three figures for the, to identify the airfield. So, I never got much sleep that time.
AP: So —
WG: There wasn’t much to do though. It was just to make sure that it was alright. Everything didn’t stop. Another time I was on the [pause] controlling on the runway and the guys were supposed to end up being flying, shooting bullets and they had to clear them again before they came in but he didn’t. He was clearing his guns on the runway. Everyone was diving for cover.
AP: So what did the runway control duty involve? What did you actually have to do there?
WG: Well, the control duty was only really if anyone was taking off you had to give them a green light or not. Whichever way. It depended if something was, an obstruction on the runway which could well be they had to stop anyone landing. So you either gave them a green light or a red light.
AP: That was like an aldis.
WG: Yeah.
AP: Yeah. Ok.
WG: And the only thing wrong with the Lancasters if you had to stop before taking off they’d overheat because they depended on the air flowing through to keep them cool. If that happened you had to turn around the other way and rev them up until they cooled down again otherwise they’d blow all their oil out, coolant out which wouldn’t be a good thing.
AP: No. No. Not at all. And did you do much in the watch tower there as well? The control tower.
WG: I was in the control tower for about three weeks. That was before I went on the Navy excursion and after that I was posted to OTU.
AP: So, what can you remember about that control tower? What did it look like?
WG: Oh, it was just up in the air. It was a view windows all the way around and you could see everything that was going on all the way around you.
AP: Who else was in there?
WG: Pardon?
AP: Who else was in the tower?
WG: Oh, who was qualified. Yeah. We were, we were only doing what we were told to do because we didn’t know anything really about it.
AP: What, so what sort of things were you actually doing?
WG: I don’t remember doing anything very special. That night when the chap was calling up Darkie I was on the radio trying to get him but couldn’t do it. That’s the sort of thing we did.
AP: So just an extra pair of hands to fill in.
WG: Yeah.
AP: Get the coffee or whatever [laughs]
WG: Yeah.
AP: Alright. Cool. What did you think as the only Air Force officer on a Navy vessel? That would have been a bit odd.
WG: Pardon?
AP: When, when you were with the Navy what was the —
WG: Oh, I was the most popular guy in the Navy because they gave them a tot, a tot of rum every night and I didn’t drink the stuff. So I was the most popular fella. They all wanted my tot of rum.
AP: And were you, you were just sort of on the bridge there or —
WG: No. No. We, we was just there and if we were needed they’d call up. We didn’t have anything.
AP: Any duties as such.
WG: We didn’t have to do anything.
AP: Yeah. Ok. Alright. We might move on to Waddington. You weren’t there for very long I gather.
WG: Waddington?
AP: At Waddington. Yeah.
WG: No. I wasn’t at Waddington at all.
AP: Ah. Ok.
WG: 463 had been at Waddington but then they turned, they moved to oh what’s the name of the place there? Skellingthorpe.
AP: Skellingthorpe. Alright.
WG: Yeah.
AP: Tell me about Skellingthorpe.
WG: Very basic. Everything was very basic. Waddington was more of a permanent airfield whereas Skellingthorpe was just one that he been built during, just as for the war.
AP: How did you live there?
WG: Oh, we had all the amenities we needed. Had a mess hut. For a long time they used to have what they called high tea. I thought that was a main meal but I found out after that wasn’t a main meal. Once you became a commissioned officer you lived in a different world. You had a, I had a room to myself with a batwoman that came in to do all, all your necessary. Take your laundry or whatever. And they paid her a little bit extra for their meals but their meals were one hundred percent better than the ordinary troops got and one night a week we had a, what was called a dining in night. We had to be there in dress uniform and the CO shouted everyone a glass of port. I missed that for quite a while because I didn’t realise that the high tea wasn’t a main meal although it could well have been.
AP: So —
WG: The meals were much much better than the troops had.
AP: What was a high tea? What was the high tea?
WG: Pardon?
AP: What was the high tea? What did it involve?
WG: Oh, well it was a meal really. You could, could exist on that without any problems. But it was just called high tea. You had a normal meal. Your normal meal.
AP: What was, what other things happened in the mess? Did you get up to any high jinks there or —
WG: Not really. They had a bar but I wasn’t one that did a lot of drinking anyhow. Otherwise, it was just, one experience I’ll never forget was when I was orderly officer you had to go around the camp with the military police. They’d go around with you and they set me up because I was new on the station and there was, you had to check all the lights were all out by 10 o’clock and everyone was supposed to be in bed by 10 o’clock. But we came to this hut where there was a fair bit of noise going on so I opened the door and looked in. There was, this was the WAAFs quarters and this WAAF standing there with nothing on. Just the standard equipment [laughs] I couldn’t get out of there fast enough but the MPs knew what it was. They just set me up.
AP: Very good. Very good. Alright, so the war ended you said when you were on your first essential operation wasn’t it? Was that, did I understand that correctly?
WG: It wasn’t. That was a training flight.
AP: Yeah. Ok.
WG: [unclear] the training flight when Johnnie was listening to music. That was when it ended in Europe. That ended, was the night after when I was with Johnnie Blair and I was his second pilot.
AP: Yeah. And so then at that stage you, so you didn’t actually fly in any operations. Is that, that correct?
WG: No. We were still listed as learning.
AP: Ok.
WG: Yeah.
AP: At that point. Yeah. Alright. Alright. So, someone I, well you’re the first person I’ve spoken to who’s told me about a Cook’s Tour. Can you tell me more about it?
WG: Oh, Cook’s Tour. Yeah. There were a lot of ground staff on every station you were on, and they, they could be radio operators and all sorts of things but they were all WAAFs and we took them. There were two different routes. You flew over a fair bit of Germany, Munich and you crossed to Holland. And I could still remember something that I’ll, I thought I wish I hadn’t done it but we flew down low over the train on the [unclear] line and we flew down low. There was a train and it stopped and everyone [laughs] everyone piled out. Then we waved our wings at them and they all waved back [laughs] That’s something. I shouldn’t have done that.
AP: Wow. So, when you got back to Australia did you have a bit of time or a bit of trouble adjusting back to civilian life again when you got there?
WG: Oh, a lot of trouble. Yeah. Yeah.
AP: What sorts of things happened?
WG: I can still remember the day I was demobbed. I went in there as a flying officer and they made a point of telling me, ‘You’re mister from now on.’ I’d have liked to have stayed in the Air Force really but the way things were at home it just wasn’t practicable. But it took a lot of adjusting to civvy life again.
AP: What did you do after the war?
WG: Oh, my father still had a market garden. We planted an orchard with my brother, an older brother and we had an orchard and grew flowers and I used to do the marketing. Go to Victoria Market in the middle of the night about three, three times a week selling the produce. Couldn’t do it now. It’s a different world. But the old Victoria Market was quite an experience. I remember there was one chap down there he used to have flowers and his name was Eden and he sort of lost his marbles. He went around one day how long you’d be coming in to the market and telling him oh you’ve been here too long, writing me out a cheque. I don’t think anyone ever cashed his cheque. But that, I did a lot of the marketing before during the war before I joined up and it was pretty difficult driving with your headlights blacked out. Headlights were just a slit across and it was pretty hard on a dark night or wet night to see where you were going. I managed to make it all right. Didn’t have any crashes. But I’m glad I’m not doing it now.
AP: We might just jump back a few years again then as well. Most people that I’ve interviewed before the war if they joined up a little bit later they were still at school or something like that but you were actually working.
WG: Yeah.
AP: So as a civilian in Australia how did the war have an effect on your life in the first few years?
WG: Oh, it was just hard settling down to having to make your own decisions about everything because you had to earn a living which in the Air Force it was all [unclear] out. Yesh. Apart from that it was just something you had to get used to.
AP: So, my final question when you look back on your Air Force service what does it mean to you and what does Bomber Command mean and how should it be remembered?
WG: Oh, you’re talking about something I’m glad I did. I’m really, I was pretty proud of what I managed to achieve in the Air Force. I think someone had a guardian angel on my shoulder because if we’d been three months earlier I probably wouldn’t be here now because three months earlier Bomber Command were, their attrition rate was almost one hundred percent. And so we were very lucky. Ron, my mid-upper gunner I didn’t know until after the war that he started off trying to fly Tiger Moths and he couldn’t make it. I don’t know what it was but if he was doing anything he’d always turn to the left. If he was driving a car and he didn’t know where he was he would always turn to the left. And it must have been something to do with that because I never knew anything about that but he finished up a mid-upper gunner. He’s still going too. Shorty was a bit of a troublemaker. We, quite often, we had the living quarters and the mess hut were a long way away from the flight things and we used to all have push bikes and Shorty didn’t have a push bike so he would just take the first one he could find around the place. I can remember when first we got to Winthorpe we didn’t know where, we went into the town, Newark. It was only a few miles down the road. Then there was an, the Air Force had their buses take people into town and bring them back at night and we got back pretty late at night and we thought we knew where we were going and we were, it turned out we were walking through the CO’s tulip patch and the adjutant came out and the CO it was and I could see the moonlight shining on the brass around his hat and I saluted him and did everything right. And he said, ‘Do you know who you’re talking to?’ I said, ‘The commanding officer.’ And Alan Short said ‘Oh, what of it. Have a cigarette.’ And he said to report to the adjutant next morning at 10 o’clock. We thought we know [unclear] he doesn’t know who the hell we are. He knew who we were alright and we went in front of the adjutant the next morning and they called us. We were having lectures and they told us to go and report to the adjutant. They told us off a treat and they reckoned Alan Short was going to be sent home straight away and I said, ‘Well, if he’s going I’m going too.’ After giving us a good dressing down he said ‘Jolly good show.’ [unclear] So that was the end of that and the next day I got my commission.
AP: Oh really. Everything changed.
WG: There was lots of little things happened. Shorty used to, I had an electric iron when I, before I got a commission we all lived in the same hut and he, he’d break in to the butcher’s shop on the way at night time and bring out a steak out or something and cook it on my electric iron [laughs] Do that time and time again. One night the MPs were after him and he was a bit of a ratbag in lots of ways because they’d be looking for him and he’d sing out, ‘Hey, over here.’ And by the time they got there was somewhere else [laughs]. They never caught him. And he, I remember one night he went to the kitchen and he brought back, a lot of the kitchen staff they wore clogs, wooden clogs and he brought these clogs in. So I grabbed him by the curly hair and told him to take them back straight away. Well, he did take them back because they’d be wanting them the next morning because the kitchen, the floors would get wet and normal shoes would slip whereas the clogs they wouldn’t. One Christmas I remember they had a big Christmas dinner and out on this side of the runway they had a big kegs of beer. So, there were a couple of the guys went around to the field, found one that was pretty full so they took it back to the hut and they were drinking beer out of anything at all until Kenneth, the navigator got sick of it and he threw a slipper to the light and put the light out.
AP: Any final thoughts?
AP: No. Right. Thank you very much, Wal. It’s been an absolute pleasure.



Adam Purcell, “Interview with Wal Goodwin,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 5, 2023,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.