Fred GODDARD (english version)
Flying Officer R.A.F. V.R.
No matter how many books are written on the subject, the story of World War 2 can never be fully told. Locked in the hearts and minds of many of the millions of men and women who served their country through those fateful years are stories of acts of bravery, of great personal courage, often beyond and above the call of duty, which were never officially recorded. Only occasionally do these stories of personal heroism become known. Such a story is that of Flying Officer Fred Goddard, R.A.F. Fred Goddard was a native of Oldham, the son of George and Mary Ellen Goddard of Oldham, Lancashire. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve before the war, and was called to full time service in September, 1939. In January 1943 he was sent to North Africa as Technical Officer of a Radar and Signals Unit, 8012 A.M.E.S. At the end of the campaign in Tunisia his Unit was involved in the invasion of Sicily. In January 1944 Mr. Goddard and his men were sent to the Island of Ponza, a small island lying off the West coast of Italy, just a few miles from ANZIO. Their task was to set up Radar and wireless communications in preparation for the planned invasion of Anzio. This invasion took place on the night of January 22nd, 1944, and from their vantage point on Ponza Mr. Goddard and his colleagues saw the huge armada of ships laden with British and American troops, ready to make the assault on the beaches of Anzio and Nettuno. Anzio has been described as perhaps the fiercest battle fought during the war. Many German prisoners were taken, and because of the confined space on the beach—head the prisoners were put on board landing craft and taken south to Naples. On the night of 25th February, 1944; a fierce storm broke out off the coast of Anzio, and one of these landing ships, an American L.S.T., containing many German prisoners—of—war came into the small bay of Ponza seeking shelter. During the night the storm got worse, and the landing ship dragged its anchor and was thrown onto the rocks. It soon began to break up and those on board were thrown into the sea. Flying Officer Goddard and the men of his unit, together with some local inhabitants, went into the water and helped to get many of the Germans ashore. Fred Goddard was a strong swimmer, and he went into the sea time and time again, each time returning with one of the German soldiers. Although exhausted by his efforts, he refused to give up. Finally he no longer had the strength to fight the under—tow of the water, and he was dragged out to sea and drowned. His body was washed ashore 10 days later, and at a simple but moving ceremony he was buried in the local cemetery of Ponza. Two of Mr. Goddard’s colleagues, Mr. Jack Lees, of Rawdon, Leeds, and Mr. Jim Alder, of Cowley, near Oxford, vividly remember the events of that night, and the great courage and heroism of their friend. Altogether 90 German prisoners—of—war were saved that night from drowning, and many of them owed their life to this brave man. Jim Alder, a musician in civilian life, played the “Last Post” at Mr. Goddard’s funeral on a trumpet found by Mr. Goddard on the island just a few days earlier. Later his body was removed to the mainland, and today he lies at rest in the Naples War Cemetery, a cemetery lovingly tended by the local staff of the War Graves Commission. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, let us all remember Fred Goddard. He died not in the heat of battle on the killing fields, nor in the cockpit of a Spitfire. He gave his life that others should live, without thought for his own safety. The men he saved were German soldiers who a few days earlier were firing on us. Here is a lesson in compassion for all of us. Manchester and Oldham in particular can remember their son with pride.