Interview with Norman Goodfellow


Interview with Norman Goodfellow


Norman Goodfellow, born in Wakefield, in 1923. Before the war he worked as an apprentice engineer. Joining the RAF at seventeen he was offered the choice of Pilot or Navigator. Although Norman chose to be a Navigator he initially trained as a Pilot on Tiger Moth aircraft on which he soloed. He was a posted to Canada as a trainee Navigator,then posted back to the OTU at Syerston where he met his Crew. Norman completed his training flying in Ansons, Wellingtons, Blenheims and Stirlings before converting to the Lancaster. Posted to 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe he completed thirty two Operations. He talks about his social life in Lincoln, the aircraft he flew and celebrations on Armistice day. Then posted to the Middle East he met up with his old Pilot in Cairo who was returning to New Zealand. Norman kept in touch with his Crew until sadly they all passed away.







00:30:51 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





NG. The Bomb Aimer was from Southern Ireland, Irish Free State so he couldn’t go home on leave. [laugh] And we all used to finish up in my home town of Wakefield, in Yorkshire.
DC. I’ll just halt you there, I’ll just introduce this. So this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Norman Goodfellow at his home. 6th of November 2015. If I keep looking down at this is to just see that it is still working so I am not being rude, that looks ok. One thing I am always interested in, what were you doing before you joined the RAF?
NG. I was an Apprentice Engineer and I finished up in the RAF because we were a reserved occupation, the only two Services open to us was Submarine Service or RAF Service and I wasn’t going under any water at that time so.
DC. As a reserved occupation could you have carried on doing what you were doing and not join the Services?
NG. Oh yeah in fact I should have done really.
DC. So in effect you volunteered to join the Air Force.
NG. As I say that was the only service open to me to get into any forces. I couldn’t go in the Army, I couldn’t go in the Navy except for Submarine Service. I don’t know why they made the distinction, I mean somebody with more ideas than me could do that. But eh finished up in the RAF in Aircrew generally speaking Aircrew I could have finished up as an eh, as an eh a Gunner or a anything But eh when it came to entr, entrance exam I passed with such good marks that I had a choice between a Pilot and a Navigator, or at that time they called it an Observer. And eh I couldn’t imagine sitting there driving an eh eh aeroplane for hours and hours on end I couldn’t have thought about anything more boring than that. So and eh I was a draught, eh a a a drafts, learning to be a draughtsman and eh I thought that will help me in my future life and that and do decent drawings so I plumped for a Navigator and eh they accepted me as a Navigator and we went from there.
DC. So what year would this have been then?
NG. That was, I was just old enough to go in I was born in 1923 so I was seventeen then 1930, 1940.
NG. And as I say I had just reached the age of entry.
DC. So can you remember what you training involved what your first unit of training was?
NG. I was an Engineer.
DC. So once you joined the Air Force what unit did you join, was it?
NG. When I joined the Air Force I was working as an Apprentice Engineer, I joined as an Apprenticeship and we were actually on war work in fact I got so bored with it, I was what they called a Vertical Borer, that was a machine, a boring machine but it stood upright. And I was doing the turret plates that tanks turned their guns on. And when you have done three of these a day [laugh] you have nothing else to worry about eh.
DC. So actually you were in the Air Force, where did your training start there, was it an Operational Training Unit?
NG. When I went into the Air Force of course I went down to where all the eh Air Crew Training starts and that is eh ACRC in London and did my basic training there turn left turn right.
DC. Was this the one at Lords Cricket Ground?
NG. Yeah St Johns Wood.
DC. St Johns Wood yeah.
NG. Just outside the cricket ground, I forgot the name of the street, well main road it was out of London. And eh it was a good walk into London but the money to spend when we got there and eh it was ACRC, Air Crew Recruiting Centre. Then from there we were, as I say we were general Air Crew then. Then they made the selection of Pilots, Navigators or Wireless Operators or Gunners and eh.
DC. So what was your next unit after that then?
NG. After that I left there, where did I finish up eh, [pause] I should, I could have, oh I went up to Carlisle that’s it and eh, on Tiger Moths. I soloed on Tiger Moths but I still wanted to stick to my original choice of Navigator.
DC. So even though you’d chosen Navigator they still got you flying the Tiger Moths?
NG. Yeah, well everybody did whither they were Gunners or whatever did some training on Tiger Moths, it was a general training scheme. And eh then the selection came after Tiger Moths and I was offered Pilot training because I did me solo on a Tiger Moth but eh I opted for Navigation.
DC. And where did you go?
NG. I went to Canada to do some flying training as well [cough].
DC. So how long were you in Canada for?
NG. Oh, seven months and eh but that was Navigational Training as well and eh when I came back, where did we go next, we moved around that much it took some remembering.
DC. Syerston, Operational Training Unit.
NG. Oh yeah that’s right.
DC. OTU at Syerston.
NG. Operational in Lincolnshire, Operational Training Unit and eh we were Crewed up there we and the Pilots were the people that picked their own Crews out of the mixture what there was there. There was a mixture of Navigators, Bomb Aimers, Air Gunners, he already got his Air Gunner.
DC. So the Pilots basically found their own Crews.
NG. Yeah personal choice.
DC. Were you put in a big Hanger and.
NG. They would just come up to you and say ‘what is your name eh and do you fancy eh flying with me.’ You know I was approached by two or three different Pilots and this one came up to me and said, well I knew him, he was a New Zealander, he got it up here. And eh he introduced himself and by that time he already got his Radio Operator who was also a New Zealander. One comes from the North Island of New Zealand eh Wireless Operator comes from the North Island of eh New Zealand and Johnnie the Pilot came from the South Island. But eh apparently I didn’t know it at the time but found out that Johnnie was rather eh was well to do in New Zealand because they owned their own properties. Farmers Boy he was actually but eh he knew his stuff when it came to flying. And eh, eh the Wireless Operator eh he was a Wireless Operator on Shipping, went from New Zealand to the coast of America so he knew his trade. So eh the three of us got together and Johnnie said ‘Is there anyone you know that eh. Eh, we are looking now for a, a Bomb Aimer. Is there anyone you know in particular?’So I thought for a minute and there was this Irish Lad, he was from Southern Ireland and he couldn’t go home on leave.
DC. A neutral Country.
NG. Well he would have been kept in Ireland they wouldn’t have let him back to England. But he had come to London to live with his Mother, his Aunt in London so he could get in the Air Force. I though the were keen so we, we, we selected him for the Wireless Operator and the Gunners all sorted themselves out really eh. The Rear Gunner he was a New Zealander and Mid Upper Gunner was eh a Lancashire lad came from Boston eh.
NG. Anyway he came from Lancashire. So that was more or less the Crew from then on we all trained together.
DC. Then at that point did you go out to your Squadron then?
NG. Oh no,no we were a long way from that my goodness we wor.
DC. What was the next?
NG. Oh we had to go to eh eh Bombing Training first of all eh doing dummy runs on Lake Windermere and all that.
DC. So what type of aircraft were you flying during the training?
NG. In training we flew in Ansons, the old Anson and then we went onto eh, we didn’t go straight onto Lancasters.
DC. Wellingtons.
NG. Eh yeah that’s right Wimpies, Wellingtons and then we went onto a Lancaster Squadron ‘cause I always remember seeing pictures of them and eh and Johnnie did as well, the Pilot ‘cause we were all mixed friends[?]. He couldn’t go home to Australia, New Zealand rather for holidays; he wouldn’t have got back in time. So they used to come up to Yorkshire with me before. When we were on Squadron we all went to Yorkshire my Mother was busy finding names. Who could put two up, two up, two up to fit us all in and eh but we all stuck together right through the thirty Operations that we did.
DC. So your training was all on Wellingtons ?
NG. Johnnie and I trained first of all on eh the old twin winged two seater, I forgot what the hell they called them now but the others all trained on Wellingtons.
DC. And at this point you now moved to 50 Squadron.
NG. No, no this was still Training Command. We didn’t move onto an Operational Squadron until we had been through [cough] several series of training. Bombing Course, Navigational Course the lot.
DC. Heavy Conversion Unit.
NG. Yeah Heavy Conversion Unit that’s where we converted from twin engined Blenheims to four engined aircraft.
DC. Do you remember which Heavy Conversion Unit you were with?
NG. 15, Number 15 Conversion Unit where was oh yeah it was just outside Lincoln, what were it called, I had it on the tip of me tongue. I know it was within walking distance of Lincoln, five miles oh.
DC. And this was the Heavy Conversion Unit?
NG. Sorry
DC. And this was the Heavy Conversion Unit?
NG. This was the Heavy Conversion Unit yeah.
DC. So what type of aircraft were at the Heavy Conversion Unit?
NG. We started on Wellington of course and then we went onto eh Lincolns no Lincolns came after the Lancaster. [pause]
DC. Wasn’t the Halifax was it?
NG. Is that me log book?
DC. Yes.
NG. Oh, always a Gentleman.
DC. Probably sort it out.
NG. Might tell them more than I can tell [laugh] probably will.
DC It’s a history book, so there’s the Ansons, Wellingtons there, no that’s 16 OTU there right.
NG. I can’t remember what the Heavy Conversion Unit was. Still at 16 OTU, 1654 Conversion Unit, I can’t for the life of me remember where that was.
DC. So it says here you were on Stirlings.
NG. Yes, yes,yes.
DC. So Heavy Conversion Unit you are flying Stirlings, flying on Stirlings, what did you think of the Stirlings?
NG. Oh they were good Aircraft, a bit slow.
DC. Bit slow [laugh] high off the ground, big undercarriage, ok then it the Stirlings. Eh so it is Number 5 LFS, Lancaster Finishing School.
NG. Yeah.
DC. So that would be your first experience of the Lancaster was it the LFS.
NG. Yeah.
DC. What was your impression of the Lancaster after the Stirling.
NG. Well I think the Lanc was a bit more spacious than the Stirling, they were both good aircraft the Stirling was a bit crowded.
DC. So then we go to August 1944 when you have joined 50 Squadron.
NG. Oh yeah, that can tell you more than I can tell you [probably referring to his log book].
DC. Was this at Skellingthorpe.
NG. Skellingthorpe, that’s right, five miles from Lincoln.
DC. What was your impression of Skellingthorpe when you got there?
NG. It was a nice open place, lovely, plenty of room there. Yes it was grand and Lincoln was walking distance yeah it were ok there.
DC. It is a housing estate now, it is a big housing estate now. So did you used to walk into Lincoln when you were off duty?
NG. More often than using the bus yeah, there is a camp bus used to go but if you missed that you had to wait on the local bus and I think it was only once every hour from Skellingthorpe the village into Lincoln and the last one at night used to leave about eight o’clock or something ridiculous [laugh] when you were in the RAF you couldn’t get back at eight o’clock at night they would think you were daft.
DC. So what did you used to do when you were off duty in Lincoln.
NG. I used to come home and eh I had a motor bike later on. I used to come home on me motor bike.
DC. So the Pilot named here is Marris.
NG. Johnnie Marris.
DC. So you flew all your Operations with the same Crew?
NG. No, one I went with eh the eh .
DC. Jimmie Flynn.
NG. The Leader Squadron Leader Flynn it was.
DC. Oh have got that, the first of November.
NG. Yeah, he recently died.
DC. Ok that’s a shame. That was an Operation to Homburg?
NG. Well it says it there [?] Don’t ask me where on what night [little banter].
DC. Since when does a Navigator know where he was. Oh yes so how many Operations did you do altogether then?
NG. Thirty two altogether, thirty to Germany and two to Norway.
DC. And they were all at night were they? They were all night Operations.
NG. Oh no not all of them there were some day light Operations, mostly night. Towards the end there were more daylight raids for obvious reasons. [pause]
DC. So was it quite a difficult job then if you were Navigating and obviously the aircraft is being shot at and it is dark?
NG. It’s not funny at all I tell you, well it is something you have just got to put up with. I thought I was one of the luckiest one of the Crew because I had got something to do and occupy myself. But these poor blighters that were sat there in the back in the rear turret, mid upper turret they could see all the flashes that added to the scare mongering sort of thing and I couldn’t. Could hear the big bangs yes but eh I couldn’t see anything.
DC. So was it exactly the same aircraft you flew all the time. Were you allocated you own Lancaster.
NG. No.
DC. ‘Cause I notice they are all the same VNO.
NG. When the Pilot got his aircraft that one were that’s it VNN.
DC. No it was Oboe yours Oboe VNO Oboe.
NG. Sorry.
DC. Oboe, yours was Oboe.
Unknown Voice. Oboe that was the callsign, N Nan was the famous one that done over a hundred trips and featured in all the publicity shots and wartime photographs.
DC. And you have actually done an air test in this one VNN.
NG. Oh yeah.
DC. I have seen the photos.
Unknown Voice. I mean it was just luck wasn’t it, some didn’t come back from the first op some didn’t come back from the twenty ninth with one to do. So it was a sheer lottery.
DC. After you had done your Tour how did you feel then about the thirty or so Operations once your Tour was over?
NG. When me first tour was over, I was, I was just going back to the Squadron when they declared the Armistice. I think I was on boating[?] leave when the news came back that the Germans had surrendered.
DC. How did that make you feel at that point knowing it was over?
NG. Relieved [laugh] knowing it I think if I do remember rightly, I am not sure about that night. I think I finished up drunk that night.
DC. You deserved it.
NG. Quite drunk [laugh] Oh yeah I remember now we were in Lincoln that night and eh we were in. What were the name of that pub at the bottom of that street, leading up to the Lawns Hospital. Anyway it is just of the Main Street of Lincoln just underneath the bridge. And eh we were in the pub, the news broke out they declared Peace, the war was over. When we came out of course, Lincoln was all lit up, “What is happening here?” Everybody were dancing in the street anyway we staggered back to Camp and it was about two in the morning. There again all the hut lights were on curtains were down, everybody was just about blotto I think [laugh] including us. It was, had to be paid for next morning, had to clear up and sober up, yeah it was a good night.
DC. And did you remain in the Air Force after the war then.
NG. For a short while.
Unknown Voice. You went to Egypt didn’t you ‘cause the war in Japan was still continuing so.
NG. I was for a short while when I got there. When I first got there, I went to Palestine first and eh then I went to Malta. Then I was on Operational from Malta but only round the Mediterranean it weren’t anything serious and I finished up in GHQ Cairo as an Instructor.The young ladies who were putting all the notices up on the board there. So and So posted from duty back to New Zealand, Australia, India wherever they come from, there were a big board on the wall. This one were nearly crying, she said ‘I can’t find this one.’ She had been looking for about two hours and she weren’t talking to me, she was talking to the lady in charge of postings called, column. And I heard her say “What is it?” and she said ‘Morris’ she said ‘But I can’t find his number.’ Several Morris’s ‘But I can’t find his number.’ Then she read off a number, she read of a heap of numbers. When she got to one I stopped her and said “Try Marris.” She looked at me as if I had gone daft but, so she went through all the cards again “Marris?” I said that’s right that’s his name. She looked at me in amazement she said ‘You know all these off by heart?’ I said “Off course I do.” She had been struggling for hours to find this Morris. [laugh].
DC. So did you remain in touch with your Crew after the war?
NG. That day when I knew where he was and eh, and eh he was on his way back to New Zealand then I found out he was staying overnight in Cairo. And eh to my big surprise he was married. I thought I am going to say hello to him and shake his hand and say cheerio again, we had already said cheerio. So I went to the Hotel where he was registered and low and behold the girl he was with, he had married was a Nurse from the Lawns Hospital in Lincoln who had been my girlfriend. It were a bit embarrassing he didn’t know at the time but, [laugh]. Johnnie took her back to Australia, to New Zealand with him.
DC. Did you manage to stay in touch with the Crew after the war?
NG. Oh yes for quite a while, then sadly they went one by one, yeah.
DC. So how do you feel now looking back over seventy odd years your time in Bomber Command and the [unclear].
NG. Absolutely wasted.
DC. Really?
NG. What was achieved, we could have spent all that money and all them years making a better World than it is today. It was a waste of time, a waste of man power, I don’t think they will get anywhere with war, they will have to find a way to settle the differences somehow or other.
DC. I am hoping you know in the future people will be listening to this and what you said there and take some note of it. OK I think we’ll stop there thank you.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Norman Goodfellow,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 23, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.