Memories of a courageous flying ace . . .

Herbet Gooder with his medals incl DFC
Herbet Gooder with his medals incl DFC
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Herbert Gooder was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in 33 wartime bombing missions over Germany, most of them at night.

As a young airman, Flight Lieutenant Gooder flew on missions over the Ruhr Valley, Essen and Cologne and into Germany’s industrial heartland which was crumbling into rubble under successive waves of bombing.

Herbert Gooder DFC in his wartime service days.

Herbert Gooder DFC in his wartime service days.

He can’t remember being frightened - just relieved when he landed with his squadron back in rural east Yorkshire.

“You don’t even really have a chance to think. You’re concentrating so hard on what you’re there to do and getting out fast.”

Herbert, who was born and brought up in Brighouse, went to Rastrick Grammar School.

His interest in flying was fostered when he joined the 394 Brighouse Air Training Corps and later the Air Training Squadron at Durham University.

Herbert Gooder (third from left) in 1944

Herbert Gooder (third from left) in 1944

He was 21 when he joined the RAF and learned all aspects of flying in Canada and then in Scotland before at last being posted to 102 Halifax Bomber Squadron at Pocklington in 1942.

He served in a crew of seven, sometimes as second pilot, sometimes helping with navigation but mostly as an air bomber.

“We were in the plane for five or six hours at a time and it was very cramped. But we were doing what we had been trained for and what we had practised so long for.

“We were flying directly into anti-aircraft fire and that concentrates the mind and makes you do the best job you can.”

Ironically his most scary moment came, not over enemy territory, but back in Yorkshire when his plane’s brakes failed as it was coming into land.

“We went through a fence and into a ditch which took off the undercarriage and then we finished up across a main road.”

In October 1944 he managed to come home to get married to Margaret who was a WAAF stationed at a Lancaster bomber station in Lincolnshire.

By now a veteran flyer he had adjusted to successive nights in the cockpit. One of his log book entries records missions on November 16, 18, 21, 28 and 29 1944.

“It was very tiring. When we weren’t flying we were either sleeping or propping up the bar! But the camaraderie was excellent.

“We were thrown together with people from all walks of life who we might not otherwise have met but we mostly got along and some of us kept in touch after the war.”

When the war ended on VE Day in 1945, Herbert, who now lives in Hipperholme, was on a posting in the Far East.

After being demobbed he returned to Brighouse, worked in the town clerk’s office and trained as a solicitor.

He gave his time and talents to public service, becoming a Brighouse borough councillor in 1952 and Alderman in 1960.

He was Mayor of Brighouse from 1969-70, ably supported by Margaret. As Mayor, he represented the borough at wreath-laying ceremonies - and he still tries to attend Remembrance services every November.

One of his proudest possessions is the Distinguished Flying Cross and the letter of acknowledgement he received from King George VI.

“I was demobbed in 1945 and had to adjust to living in peacetime. I had to start earning my living.

“There were times when I enjoyed my war service, there were times when I wondered if I was wasting my time but I was glad the war was over. I wanted to get on with the rest of my life.”