Remembering the Telegraphist Air Gunners
Remembering Lionel Edward Goddard - Telegraphist Air Gunner Lionel Edward Goddard was born on June 30, 1925, at Norton Ferris, near Warminster, Wiltshire, England, the first of three children of Edward C. and Elsie A. (Smith) Goddard. He had one sister of Joan, and a younger brother, Donald G. Goddard (born in 1933). His parents were married in September, 1923 in Hamptead, Middlesex.  In 1925, his Father was a tenant farmer, and they lived in a tied cottage on the farm.  Although passing his entrance exam to the local Grammar School the family could not afford the uniform or fees so he went to the local Secondary State School. He left aged 15 years old, before the age of the School Certificate, and got a job as a grounds man in a local nursery whilst helping his Father, whose health was failing, on the farm. With war raging in Europe and encouragement of young boys to join the services, at the age of 17 Lionel wanted to join the Royal Air Force; however, they would not take cadets under 18 and so, he enlisted with the Royal Navy and joined the Fleet Air Arm, which took cadets at 17 1/2 years of age. In the fall of 1943, Lionel received his transit papers and was ordered to  report to HMS Royal Arthur, in Skegness, Lincolnshire.  This Royal Navy land base was a former Butlin's holiday camp where recruits had their first six weeks of induction to Navy service. As one TAG recruit recalled, “HMS Royal Arthur turned out to be a wooden hutted pre-war Holiday Camp at Skegness-on- Sea, on the east coast of England. In the summer, Skegness is probably a very pleasant place to live. It has miles of sandy beaches and nothing but the North Sea until you reach mainland Europe.  In fall and winter it could be bitterly cold. Here, we learned how to heave a line, tie a knot, wring out a swab and do a cross country march at the double.” In the years following the war, Lionel spoke little of his wartime experience; however, his family was aware that he had undergone some training in Skegness.  When his children were quite young they had a family holiday at Butlin’s and he made the comment, “So Skegness is still bracing” when they saw the town sign. Lionel didn't reminisce further. From HMS Royal Arthur, Lionel moved on to HMS St. Vincent in Gosport where he joined the Telegraphist Air Gunners Course 58. Here they learned the hard work of life of parade square bashing, morning inspections and school work. In January, 1944 he was one of forty recruits selected to continue his training at No. 1 TAG School at East Camp, RCAF Station Yarmouth, NS, in Canada and becomes a member of Course 58A.  Training in Canada was considered for those recruits the Navy considered would be successful in their courses and would provide training away from the dangers of wartime England, particularly for the air training.  The route from England for TAG recruits across the Atlantic was most often from Gourock, in Scotland to New York, in the United States.  HMS Queen Mary, departed Gourock on January 3, 1944 and arrived in New York on January 9, 1944.  Course 48A likely made this crossing to New York and then travelled by train up the eastern seaboard to St. John in New Brunswick, crossing the Bay of Fundy by ship to Digby in Nova Scotia and then by train to Yarmouth.  Some courses travelled by train from New York passing through HMS Moncton in New Brunswick, then to Halifax and to Yarmouth de-training at East Camp itself. Still other courses disembarked at Halifax, Nova Scotia. In the fall of 1943 and the spring of 1944, East Camp is in full training.  December, 1944 was cold and snowy; however, despite the cold, windy weather, there was no snow in early January as Course 58A assembled for their Course Photo on January 13, 1944. The course was in the charge of a Senior Instructor, usually an Air Gunner who had finished a tour of active duty on an aircraft carrier.  They lived in personnel buildings, a two storied affair with each course having one floor for themselves.  They had no privacy, with open showers, latrines and wash-up basins.  The dormitory was filled with double tiered bunks.  Each morning, before breakfast, an inspection of barracks was done and among other things, their beds had to be made just right and gear stowed away correctly. Before they ever got to flying, the instructor would teach them basic Naval Law and proper procedures. Each TAG had to become efficient in the operation of their wireless sets and proficient in Morse Code, for there was no voice radio in the naval aircraft they would fly.  Each day there was physical fitness, considered to be gruelling; however, a time they would be glad of later on.  Each student had to know all the parts of the Browning and Vickers machine guns they used and how to take apart and reassemble them. Instructors took no guff, no back talk, and no slacking from the young men. Many would say, later in the war that training had saved their lives in battle.  After four months of their land based training came the flying training.  Among the few stories Lionel did share after the war was of an incident during this time. One of the aircraft in which he found himself, had to ditch in a lake as it ran out of fuel.  His children recall the telling this story as it always amused him. Before each cross country flight the trainee would receive a set of “coils” which he proceeded to take to his assigned aircraft of the day, for tuning the wireless set.  They were set to a prescribed frequency for that flight.  In the air, they had to re-tune and check them with call signals to the station.  During the flight around the coasts of western Nov Scotia, they would ask from time to time where they were and the pilot would give them a position.  This they relayed back to base.  Often while in the air they would be checked and graded by the instructors. The flights lasted from one to two hours depending on what previous instructions had been given to the pilot. They also had gunnery practice from the open cockpit in the back of a Swordfish aircraft, firing at a towed target which most often came back to base showing nary a hole.  The towed target was a large cloth sleeve, streaming at the end of a 1000’ length wire attached to another Swordfish aircraft. During the summer of 1944, there was a shortage of local farm help and the navy men went out to work on the farms to help. They pitched hay, hoed weeds, cleaned out stables, and while an new experience for some, likely not the case for Lionel having grown up on a farm.  Victory Bond Parades, sport days, base dances, and time at the snack bar occupied daily life; however, in September of 1944 the camp put in the most air training hours of the war.  The weather was fine for flying as TAG training took on a flurry of urgency as the Pacific Fleet needed aircrew.  Thousands of hours were logged. On September 19, 1944, the first Certificates presented to Air Gunners passing out from their Course were awarded to Telegraphist Air Gunners of Course 58A  at a ceremony at East Camp in recognition of the successful completion of his course in Telegraphist-Air-Gunnery. Following his nine months of training in Canada Lionel returned to the UK and was likely assigned to a Navy Squadron or continued his training. East Camp, Yarmouth, produced people with world wide connections and experience who would contribute not only to the war effort but to their country in the years that followed the war. Such would certainly be the case of Lionel Goddard. Lionel Goddard served during the remaining war years in the Fleet Air Arm as a Telegraphic Air Gunner and his wartime training and experience shaped his life in the post war years. There were two events during the war that Lionel did share.  The first involved an aircraft in which he was a crew member. The plane missed the flight deck on an aircraft carrier as the deck wire had not caught the hook of the plane as they approached the carrier deck and the plane ditched in the sea. The second event Lionel never spoke of except to share the story with his wife.  Lionel was the wireless operator in an aircraft that was shot down and the crew was forced into a life raft for several days.  Not all survived and he had to witness his best friend pass away, and the body slipped overboard. Upon his discharge at the end of the war, Lionel took his new skills as a radio officer and worked at a Post Office Centre near Shaftesbury, Dorset.  It was here he met his future wife, who was a teleprinter operator.   Lionel drove a Norton motorbike, and on going home one evening after meeting the girl, who would become his future wife, a bee flew into his eye and he crashed, breaking his wrist. It would be the only bone he ever broke despite his previous military career. In 1948, after two years in the Post Office, Lionel joined GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) where he held a number of posts in the radio field both in the United Kingdom and abroad and was prominent in the management of new communications systems.  He received the ISO (Imperial Service Order) in the Queens Honours list and in June 1982.  He went to the Royal Palace to collect it. The Imperial Service Order was established by King Edward VII in August 1902 and was awarded, on retirement, to the administration and clerical staff of the Civil Service throughout the British Empire for long and meritorious service. He took early retirement in 1985 at the age of 60. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated quite quickly as he had an aggressive form of Parkinson's disease.  Lionel passed away in August, 1997.  He was intelligent and ambitious, but more than anything he was patriotic.  He was known by all his colleagues as Ed, and only by his family as Lionel. He was survived by his wife, four children and seven grandchildren.  He is buried at Chard Cemetery, Chard, Somerset, England.  
Course 58A - Certificate Presentation (© IWM (A 26405)
Group of Course 58A (Lionel believed to be front, center)
Course 58A Group Photo (January 13, 1944) East Camp, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Lionel Edward Goddard (last on right, back row)
Lionel Edward Goddard (January 13, 1944)
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Sources: “Bluenose Air Base - Stories of RCAF Station Yarmouth” R. H. Reed (1999) East Camp Instruction - Telegraphist Air Gunners  Nicola (Goddard) Wood (daughter of Lionel Goddard Kirstie Wood (granddaughter of Lionel Goddard)
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