Interview with Oscar Goodall


Interview with Oscar Goodall


Oscar was born in Australia. His father was a machine gunner - he was wounded seven times and died from his wounds two months before Oscar was born. His example influenced him to join the Royal Air Force. As an Air Cadet Corps member, he went to the Elementary Training School near Liverpool, passed the exams for pilot training, and joined when he was 20. They he was posted to Manchester waiting to go to Dallas. Due to the long delay Oscar was offered a course to be a fighter pilot or a gunner, he chose the latter and was sent to RAF Dalcross near Inverness to train on Ansons. He then went to RAF Market Harborough for training on Wellingtons. Later in his career, Oscar’s crew were asked to take a Lancaster to an airfield where it would be dismantled and parts reused. The aircraft crash landed, and Oscar was covered in petrol. No one was seriously injured but they didn’t fly for a week or so. He mentions an operation to Rotterdam and an instance when it was so cold that he was frozen in the turret. His crew only met once after the war.




Temporal Coverage




01:05:22 audio recording


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OG: Go on. Away you go.
JS: Ok. I’ll just start. This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewee is Jim Sheach. The interviewer is Jim Sheach. The interviewee is Oscar Goodall. The interview is taking place at Oscar’s home in Perthshire, Scotland on the 10th of May 2019. Oscar, can you tell me a little about your life before you joined the RAF?
OG: Yes. I was born in Australia and my father was a machine gunner in the 47th Regiment of South Australia and was wounded seven times. He was a machine gunner and he died through his wounds before I ever was born. Two months before I was born my father died. He had a bullet in his back which was beginning to move about and as he was employed by the South Australian government I suppose looking for water in the way back, and with a bullet in your back and your nearest doctor two hundred or three hundred miles away it wasn’t a good idea. However, he decided to have an operation to take it out before I was born. However, he died during the operation. And I lacked a father greatly and I would hang on every opportunity that I could find to try and find out from other relatives what sort of a person he was. And it appears that he was very well liked and very brave and I think this influenced my affairs when I decided to join the Air Force. I was the, one of three in Perth, up here the first three to be accepted for PNB. I was in the aircrew. I was in the Air Cadet Corps and I passed all the exams for pilot training. I was at Perth Academy and joined the Royal Air Force when I was twenty. No. When I was seventeen and, seventeen years and three months or something of that nature. I’d been playing cricket in Dundee and was knocked out rather early in the game and in a fit of rage I went away and joined up [laughs] I wasn’t taken immediately of course. I had to wait and eventually I went down to London and I was at Aberystwyth University for the beginning of my career. Passed all the exams. Got, was pushed forward into Elementary Flying Training School, EFTS near, don’t ask me the name of it, I can’t remember, near Liverpool and passed out with a strong recommendation for a possible promotion, commission and, and for pilot training. But nothing else. My maths weren’t up to the mark I don’t think for navigation. I didn’t want to be a navigator anyway. And then we all went up to Manchester waiting to be taken to Dallas and we waited and we waited and every so often fifty or so out of the two thousand of us waiting, now, I don’t know if that’s true, I don’t know the right number but that’s what I always think it was and I got fed up waiting so decided I would go and see the commanding officer and try and know. To find out how long we all were going to wait. I was told that it was, there was no way of telling. The Germans had U-boats following anything they thought might, might hold people going to America to learn. So he offered me [pause] I would be a glider pilot. He said, ‘I could get you on a course next week if you want to. But I must tell you the chances are you’ll get a commission but the chances are that you will [pause] you will be kept waiting there and having to do a military career thing for about eight, eight weeks.’ Or something of that nature for the military.
JS: Yeah.
OG: Because I had in actual fact had a go at doing a glider near Grimsby. It was more of a joke and I sat beside the man who was doing the job. The job. I didn’t fancy it very much. He said, ‘Well, it’s about all I’ve got for you but just a minute [pause] We’re short of gunners. Machine gunners. I could get you up in to a place in Inverness within two days of today and you’d be, if you’re any good that is you’d be on the job within three or four months. What would you like?’ ‘Well, I can’t make up my mind just now. I want to go back to the hut.’ It was raining. It always seemed to rain in that place you know. And one guy said, ‘What, what are you going to do then?’ I told him, ‘Become a rear gunner if possible. I don’t fancy the mid-upper turrets much. I don’t know why.’ He said, ‘Don’t you understand it’s a, it’s a dangerous thing. A lot of people get killed doing it in the rear turret. Are you still going to do it?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’ And I must tell you that at the time I thought this was a gorgeous opportunity to prove to everyone that I’m as good a man as my father was. And that’s how I become a gunner. I went to Aberdeen. Went to Inverness. But first we had three days in London. Our reactions were being taken but evidently my reactions were pretty good and still are if I may say so [laughs] So I went up there and Ansons. There were only Ansons and to get an Anson on to the ground someone had to do this. And the guy that was flying the thing wore this thing on his tie and I asked him, ‘What is that? That looks like a German tie.’ And he said, ‘Yeah. It is. I was. I flew briefly as a Polish pilot in Baron von Richthofen’s place. And then when the war came on I escaped from Poland and offered my services as a pilot and here am I.’ He said, ‘It’s not much of a job but —’ he said, ‘I like it. I like it in many ways. I got the Iron Cross for being with Richthofen.’ And he blathered for a while, He said, ‘I’ll tell you but don’t you tell any of the others.’ He said, ‘I tell them all that they have got to be ready to, when I come in to circuit, and circuit one and in that circuit you’ve got to put that things down —
JS: The undercarriage.
OG: ‘And you’ve got to count them. Sixty five turns and if you don’t get it we’ll crash.’ I sort of believed him but not really [laughs] but the rest were all terrified and he had them all counting. Every so often he would look over his shoulder at me and wink. Finished. Got up. Got away down to Market Harborough OTU. Operational Training Unit in Wellingtons. And that wasn’t a good time. We lost two or three people and one in particular we were counting them coming in after we’d been over the North Sea somewhere and we heard heard the last one coming in. Everyone was standing counting. Just one more to come and here he comes. Here he comes. Here he comes. Then there was a noise as if there was tearing canvas. Like that. And we think that it was a German had followed him in until the landing lights went on and the thing went over the top of us and went some distance away and then we heard it hit the ground. I don’t know whether it was a German that hit it. No one. We weren’t allowed to go near it. About four of five of us the next night went out to try and find out more about it but the RAF had a police force of its own and they’d got hold of us and said, ‘You’re not to go any further forward.’ However, we got leave after that and went down to, went down to four. Four. Four engine job. That was [unclear] One phrase which I will never forget. I taught it my, I taught my son what the words were and it kept him in good form. I was worried about getting lost and I, we were all choosing each other as to, and I went to my pilot and asked him, ‘What do you do if you get lost?’ He said, ‘Keep your eyes open. Look at the horizon. If you see any flashing going on and possibly searchlights go there because there you will find your friends.’ And that has been in my mind at various times in my life. I’ve said that to myself. But all the time I had somehow in the back of my mind it came up every so often my father being a machine gunner in 1917 where he was very badly wounded and I was determined I would follow in his footsteps. I did my best. I didn’t have a wonderful career. The war was beginning to teeter to an end. But I was in a most horrendous crash. We were asked to take a plane, a Lancaster up about eighty miles away to an airfield which was mostly grass and it would be, the aircraft would be taken to bits and anything which was worth keeping would be worth keeping and it would be put to some other aircraft or whatever. So away we went and went around and I was conscious at the far end there was a lot of pretty rotten looking aeroplanes. Bits off them off and bits of them on and we did the circuit and he said, ‘Right. We’re going now.’ When the flight engineer who was a Welshman, no he wasn’t, he was a Yorkshireman, said to the skipper that there was a flashing red light on this, on the landing front of the roundel area. So we went around again and it was still there and there was only one thing to do. The skipper just said, ‘Look, hang on everybody. We’re going to have a go.’ Well, it was, I was, I was in the rear turret and I undid the, undid all my straps because I had been told that there were more people burned from petrol because they couldn’t get their straps on in time. So, I took that in mind and down we came and there was a hell of a crash and I couldn’t tell you anything about it. Not one. Not a thing could I tell you about it. I was lying in a, in a, I think that the [pause] the propeller had been cutting a trench as it went along and I had to stay for a while in this hole. In a hole. I just stayed where I was and did all the things I was supposed to do and tried my feet and hands and could I do this and whatever and then I heard a voice saying, ‘There’s another one here. There’s another one here.’ And then two heads appeared over, looked down and they said, ‘This, don’t go near. Don’t. Wait. We’ll do something here. This guy’s covered with petrol. He’ll go off like an incendiary bomb. Tell the ambulance to, to, not to come near this place.’ So, he did and sooner or later I was hauled out and the doctor at this place was away playing golf [laughs] And sooner or later we, none of us were seriously ill but we didn’t fly for a week or two during which time the war went on its way and we did some things. But I was in the mess one day and Jock said, ‘Hey Jock. It’s you again. You’re on the battle order.’ ‘Oh, ok.’ So, we went in. Had this briefing room. It was filling up and then the door opened and we all sprang to attention. Then he, ‘Sit down gentlemen.’ So, the gentlemen sat down. He said, ‘Now, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to do it. You’re all volunteers. You’re going to go to Rotterdam and the target is a football pitch with things around about it and you’re going to, you’re not going to bomb anything but our men there think that you may be allowed to go by the German troops. But as yet our men on the ground up there we haven’t heard from him since. There’s a chance that you’ll get off but we’ve got to do it now.’ So, I think we did it, I can’t remember how many times we did it but there was a happening which changed my life. We got over the sand dunes and there were German troops rushing to get in to the safety but we weren’t having any and away we went and I began to notice in farms, “God bless the RAF.” And then we came to the outskirts and Germans were thick on the ground. They had a lot of anti-aircraft. Twenty millimetres on lorries. And the men were keeping us in their sights. So we got to there and it wasn’t to the pilot’s liking. ‘We’ll do another one.’ Meanwhile they were piling up. I don’t know how many of us were there. I didn’t see any, any Halifaxes or German or Americans. They joined later on. And the bomb aimer who was a Welshman anyway, he said, I think I was right, there was a lorry. We were going to go right on top of this lorry and they’ve got a twenty millimetre on top and they were loading. However, there was no way we could stop going. But I hung myself out of the back of the turret because we didn’t have any Perspex at the back and I got hanging in between the guns and twisting my legs over them and then suddenly remembered that my feet could come out of the boots and, ‘Watch it, Jock. Watch it.’ So, Jock stopped worrying about his boots and looked down and this was a woman, climbed up on this lorry and it was, she was fast and she had a baby and was holding the baby in front, in front of the gun. And I can’t forget it. Some of the guys the first time around got fired on but we didn’t get fired on but some did. I don’t think anyone was downed but if any of them had one of the engines hit there would have been a sudden drop and we were doing a hundred and fifty feet up. Every church we went past I was looking up at this still. And that changed my life. That changed my life. I got, my daughter had a film and I think that I was being shown in the film but she wasn’t very sure and she phoned them up to see if she could get a better film, I think. I think this is what happened. She works in Paris. And I got a medal about two months ago for the people. The people. That’s more of a value to me than anything.
JS: I think, I think everyone I’ve spoken to.
OG: Hmmn?
JS: I think everyone I’ve spoken to who took part in Operation Manna —
OG: Yeah.
JS: The dropping food.
OG: That’s right.
JS: Was really really proud of what they did then.
OG: Well, the first time around was a disaster. Not for casualties but, but for the food in that I was fortunate enough hanging out this turret at the back. I saw the big bags of flour, stuff for children, just add water and whatever and had vitamins in it but every one that we dropped burst on landing. And there was a guy with an empty pram and he was, he was running out and I think he got hit with one of the bags but I saw him getting up again before we disappeared around because we were coming in very very close together. We had a skipper, an Australian and we had to go over this and keep flying in to German territory. The reason why we had to do it was the German Army. They had a huge German army still there. A huge number amount of tanks and whatever. The lot. And they had eaten all the food. So I think we went back quite often because the next time we went around they had a smaller bag put in a big bag and the smaller bag burst but it didn’t burst the big bag and we all cheered when we saw our bags go down on the football pitch. Now, my, my mother had given me a silk scarf to wear in the turret. Former pupil of Perth Academy scarf. And I think the third time we went I had chocolate and I wrapped it in my scarf and I put my name on it and heaved it out the back. I never saw it landing. We were away by that time. Someone in Holland has an old boy’s scarf. I’ve tried to find out something about it because I used to take a lot of adults over to Holland to Remembrance and all the rest of it and when I was there I used to ask, ‘Does anyone know —’ or whatever. But no one, no one knew so I just let it fly. When I went back once and had a look at the football pitch but by that time football was making a lot of money and I couldn’t see the one which we dropped food on at all. No. There was a big thing for people watching. But I don’t know. To anything after that [pause] was just a waste of time. But I did see, I don’t know what we were going, where we were going or why we were doing it or, I can’t remember but it’s seventy seven years ago or something of that nature. But what I remembered was that there was, there was a lot of us and in daylight and it was wonderful for me to see it in the daylight. It was a very sunny day and we were letting out Perspex those things that shimmered in the light.
JS: Window.
OG: What did they call it?
JS: Window.
OG: Window. That’s right.
JS: The radar deflecting —
OG: That’s right.
JS: Aluminium.
OG: I was busy looking at this. It was so beautiful and we were coming up to the coast and suddenly I had to shout out, and I don’t know, there was a, a rocket. A rocket number two I think it must have been. It came right through where we were and very fast and I tried to say to, ‘Did you see the rocket?’ But I don’t think anyone did. And I can’t remember what we were doing. I think we were going to Flensburg to give the Russians a fright. We weren’t bombing but Flensburg Canal and this was one of the first. I’m sure this was one of the first rockets that hit London or something because it was the way it went and when it got really high it left a vapour trail. And by which time we were well away. We could just see it And I think that’s my history, aye.
JS: Good. How did you —
OG: I’ve got a, the war was coming to an end and we were getting new aircraft because the Japanese war was not at an end and 100 Squadron had a lot of Canadians, Australians and, what was the name of the extra special daylight job? It was bigger than the normal bomber. They were practicing and practicing and practicing and none of those people got away. But I remember there was a hell of a noise coming from the sergeant’s mess and the officer’s mess. I went up to the officer’s mess because Nick, our navigator was a New Zealander and very fond of the bottle. So I went up to see if we could get a bottle of whisky because everyone was shouting and hip hip and all the rest of it. I got in but already there were no whiskies in the sergeant’s mess. A gang of officers had bought the lot. But what, what were we crying? What were we shouting? I wanted to know. They’ve dropped a bomb but I can’t remember whether it was Nagasaki or the other one and they’ll never beat it. No. No, we won’t have to go to Japan after all. And then I didn’t know enough about it so I went in to the dining area where it was quieter and got hold of someone asking a whole load of, and we were convinced but I think they dropped another one. That was the same. And I was like the rest. I got drunk. It wasn’t until a good month after that when someone, some American newspaper had it that there had been forty thousand people killed by two bombs. And they were expecting thousands in the next two or three years. Babies and everything. And I felt sorry. I felt wrong. There was no good saying look at all the soldier’s lives that they saved because the history of weaponry. My father what became a soldier because men in lorries were going around in Australia saying, ‘This is a war to end wars.’ And we were having the same thing going on here and I knew they were going to be wrong. I was sure they were going to release something worse than that and they have done. And I never, I felt that I should never have got drunk and cheered and jeered. You see the [pause] we had gone on to .5 machine guns because there were six hundred young men in Tokyo who had trained with a fighting aircraft that was designed not to land again and we had to get something that would knock them out of the sky but, and we did this. We were asked to test and we went away over the North Sea and when I moved the rear turret with the .5s on them around. The plane went on the running in for the dropping and we never flew in that plane again. They didn’t make any more. I’m sure of it. And we didn’t, we didn’t have to go to Japan after all. But there was two things. The dropping of food and the dropping of the atom bomb have influenced just about everything which I’ve done. I became a teacher and I taught more than just my subject [pause] and I was lauded by some and sneered at by others. Will that do?
JS: Well, I hope it was more of the former than the latter.
OG: When I, when the war ended we had a most interesting time and especially when we went to Italy and there was a place to land not far from Naples and we landed. But it was finished. Nothing there. There was something wrong with our aircraft and we were put on to this place and before we went some of the ground crew said, ‘Hey Jock, you’ll be alright if you take chocolate with you. The girls will lie on their backs and kick their legs in the air if you give them chocolate.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t care about that but I’ll take chocolate.’ So I did and I put it, and we had, we had special uniforms. Lightweight stuff. And I saw three females coming up and one male and I had a good look at them but they were children and I put, they said something to me and I didn’t know what they were saying. So by this time some engineers were coming up to see what was wrong and one of them said, ‘You’ve got chocolate? Give it to these children.’ He said it in English. I think he was a military, Army man. He’d been in the desert as well. ‘Yes. Yes. You give them. Give them this chocolate.’ And I said, and I took it out and the heat from the sun it was dripping all down me and I said to a little girl with fair hair, beautiful fair hair, I said, ‘No. No chocolate. No chocolate.’ She looked at me and said, ‘You goddam son of a bitch,’ in broad American [laughs] That’s another one I remember.
Other: Why don’t you tell Jim about the time you got frozen in to the turret?
OG: Eh?
Other: Tell Jim about the time you got frozen in to the turret.
OG: Oh yeah. That was awful. That was the coldest. It was the same, same time as the Germans, the Germans loosed their super tanks. What was it?
Other: Tiger tanks.
OG: It had the Russian, the Americans running for it.
Other: Oh, the Ardennes?
OG: Ah and evidently on the ground everything was frozen stiff and they’d chosen that time to put their big heavy tanks on the ground and they would break this. Well, for some reason we were, went there and it was very very cold and I don’t know how we did it and how anyone did it, I really don’t know. We came home and it was terribly cold and my oxygen thing got frozen up with wetness coming from my breath and then freezing on and I was terribly cold. And I believe it was the coldest year. Coldest of that, of the war and when we landed it was a hell of a job landing evidently. But we landed and everyone was getting out and someone, I heard a voice saying, ‘Where’s Jock? Where’s Jock?’ So I shouted out that Jock was in the turret but the turret wouldn’t move. So they got me out of it and there was a little thing you could get in to the aircraft at the back. You went out there. And a guy came along and, ‘How are you doing, Jock? How are you doing?’ Well, Jock was doing fine. ‘Here. Here you are,’ and he put a cigarette in my mouth but I couldn’t hold it. I couldn’t hold it at all and so he went and got another one. I had a cigarette here in my mouth and there, and sooner or later it was beginning to go up my nose and it was very cold. No. I believe that that night caused more rear turrets and men freezing. There was just, put to a standstill for two or three days I believe with people getting frostbite. And I was always very wary about it after that but never did I experience the cold of that night ever and it was the only night when I was given a big glass of rum by someone from the officer’s mess. I don’t know. Then the war ended and we’d been away somewhere. We came back and oh the WAAFs were out on the run, on the runway and some of them had white sheets and others from the officer’s mess and the sergeant’s mess. White stuff off the dining tables and everyone was shaking. Shaking it as we went through. The war was over. And there was a long time, I took Andrew and his mother we were going to a wedding and I noticed that it was pretty close to airfields and we found one of them that I knew of and we were in a car and we went there. And they did something I was, I’d never had before and will never have again. It wasn’t the same place. I can remember going in and out but there was a Lancaster. It was an airfield but there was a Lancaster outside and I asked if I could take them in the rear turret to see it. ‘No. But I’ll do better than that.’ And he put the, put the, put the put the guard salute [pause] and it wasn’t for me. It was for the fifty two thousand. Now, there’s something that happened and I don’t mind anyone knowing about it but I, I, I’m frightened maybe that some people are still alive or of this thing. That my sister was a little girl three years old when I was born and she had a wee friend who was five. A man, a wee boy in the house next door. His, their father had been a soldier as well. And we came home and life went on and then my sister got a letter from Ian. It was, “Do you remember me? We played together. Well, I’m over in Britain. I’m a pilot. And it’s not just [pause] I get leave —” As we all did, “I get leave every six weeks. I’ve got a week’s leave. I’ve no place to go. I can’t go back to Australia and back again in that time. Could I come and visit you?” Yes. So, he appeared and I have photographs of them sitting on the beach at St Andrews. I’m not giving you the second name but Ian, on the 12th of February, at twenty one thousand feet the plane blew up outside Frankfurt. All, the pilot and the other crew, and the rest of the crew could never have survived. And my sister never married. She was in love with children which she never had herself and she was a very good teacher. When I was in hospital not long ago there was a woman and her son, ‘Is your name Goodall?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Was your sister the head of the children at the school? Because if she’s still alive will you tell her I learned more from her in a year than anyone else.’ We went to Australia, my wife and myself and we went to see the house and I really wanted to go and see the house next door. Their father, the people in that house were the same as my own people. They were one of the first of the people to land in Australia and I perhaps, perhaps it’s a different people there. Perhaps they didn’t know what happened to their son. I chickened out. If it was they’d done their, I felt their done their sadness times. It was not, it wouldn’t be nice to bring it back on again.
Other: Do you remember telling me the story of the thermos flask that fell out the aeroplane?
OG: I’ve forgotten it, Andrew. I’ve forgotten a hell of a lot. I can’t remember.
Other: And it hit the propeller. When it got sucked in to the propeller?
OG: Well, you tell it then.
Other: No. No.
OG: I’ve forgotten it.
Other: If you’ve forgotten it you’ve forgotten it.
OG: I’ve forgotten it.
Other: That’s ok.
OG: Those are the ones which I’m telling you are things which have influenced my life.
JS: Could you, could you tell me something about the rest of your crew?
OG: We decided that [pause] ok, right, the Australian, the Australians got away straight away. There was no more fighting to be done. Straight away the Australians. The Canadians straight away. The New Zealanders straight away. There was only us and we were terrified that the same thing would happen as happened in the ‘14/18 war and after the Napoleonic wars. You had a huge number of young men coming on to and the only thing they were good at was killing other young men. So we were let loose in dribs and drabs. Not before we’d gone down to the local and we told the man in charge of it that we wouldn’t be seeing each other again. We won’t going to be coming in here again. We’re going to be say tonight goodbye. I’m not, I’ll go back to Perth, to Scotland when the time comes, the Welshman will go his way and none of us will try and follow each other about because [pause] because we have put up with something to which no sane people would want to happen again and we had a good night’s drinking and goodbye. I certainly wasn’t going to go in to Wales. It was maybe a great disappointment or, you know. So, we did. We never got in touch with each other. Some, some did and got highly disappointed. But the solitary bit, seven people in a fuselage is one thing. Seven people spread out from Perth to Wales. No. No. No. [pause] I haven’t, I’ve had no trouble going on any aeroplanes. I know some people have or had. Or had. I was in one aeroplane which wasn’t too happy for a while in the air but I’ve had no problem at all. But I’ve no real interest in trying to, ‘Do you remember the time when —' No. Because I think it was unique. Absolutely unique. It will never never happen like that again. To start off with the aeroplane was never going, is never going to need a crew. It’s going to be done all with someone in a nice warm house doing it. So, you’ll excuse me if I —
JS: Thank you very much.
OG: I nearly cry sometimes.
JS: That’s absolutely ok. Thank you very much for sharing that with us.
OG: I went to Germany and I chickened out. I just came, I just came straight back. I haven’t been to Germany. I’ve been to every place in Europe. What I saw in that six months after the war was over in Brussels. I went to prison. I went to places where they burned people alive. But since then, no. I’m quite certain that had I gone I would be able for it but I would say that I would probably get on better now with a man who’s been a pilot in a German night fighter than anything else. I would understand him and he would understand me but the chances are that wasn’t going happen so, and then it was too late. The Germans don’t want to be reminded of it all and I think that [pause] sorry. That’s why I gave away to my grandson. Give it to him and they have framed it each. Let it stand at that.
JS: That’s good.
Other: Do you want to take a break or get some —
OG: You see, there’s a thing that happens to people like me and I’m feeling it when my wife died. When I first met her. When I knew this was going to last longer than just an evening I have a feeling of guilt. Terrible guilt. When she died two or three months ago I still have it. That I hadn’t done enough when she was alive. And that started [pause] a long time ago. I shouldn’t —



James Sheach, “Interview with Oscar Goodall,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 24, 2024,

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