By Philip Curtis
At the end of the classic film The Battle of Britain there is a list of the nationalities of the participating Allied airmen. Included is the suggestion that one Israeli took part. Given that the State of Israel was not founded until 1948 this cannot be true. Other lists show not an Israeli but a Palestinian. This is also false.
In each case, it would appear that the man being referred to is Pilot Officer George Ernest Goodman, who flew Hurricanes in the Battle with No 1 Squadron. Some sources specifically show him as Palestinian.
In fact Goodman held British nationality and could have shown any doubter a British passport and birth certificate. He was killed in action in 1941 and the suggestion that he did not die fighting for his own country has distressed members of his family ever since.
The misconception about George Goodman’s nationality arises from the fact that he was born in the port of Haifa on October 8 1920. The family was based there because Goodman’s father was working as an official of Palestine Railway. His career would later take him to Nigeria.
At the time the area, up to that point a part of Ottoman Southern Syria, was coming under British civilian rule and plans were in hand for the establishment of the British Mandate for Palestine which took effect in 1922.
George Goodman went on to attend Highgate School in London and was a member of the OTC there. He joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his training at Perth in June 1939. Later training took place at Hullavington and Lossiemouth. On February 27 1940 he was posted to the No 11 Group pool at St Athan, which was quickly re-designated No 6 OTU.
On May Day, having converted to Hurricanes, Pilot Officer Goodman joined No 1 Squadron at Vassincourt, France. His first success came 13 days later when, with Flight Lieutenant Prosser Hanks, he was credited with shooting down a Heinkel He 111 south of Rheims.
Men of the Battle of Britain by Kenneth G Wynn demonstrates that Goodman fought gallantly in the Battle. It notes that: “On July 25 (1940) Goodman was attacked by four Bf 109s off Portland and did not fire his guns but one of the 109s spun into the sea after a violent breakaway. He shared in the destruction of a Do 17 off Cherbourg on August 11, destroyed a He 111 on the 16th and shared a Do 17 and destroyed a Bf 110 and shared a Do 17 on the 18th. Whilst shooting the Bf 110 down, Goodman was attacked by a Bf 109, which chased him back to the English coast, filling his Hurricane with cannon shells and bullets. Goodman landed safely but his aircraft was a write-off.
“During a big raid on London on September 6, Goodman shot down a Bf 110 and was himself shot down in flames by return fire. He baled out with a sprained shoulder. His Hurricane, P 2686, crashed at Brownings Farm, Chiddingstone Causeway, Kent. Goodman flew again two days later.
“He shared a Ju 88 on October 8, damaged a Do 17 attacking RAF Feltwell on the 27th, which escaped into cloud and regained its base with crew wounded, and on the 30th he shared in the destruction of a Ju 88. He was awarded the DFC (26.11.40).”
The citation for the award included the words: “This officer has performed outstanding work in all his engagements against the enemy. In October 1940 he assisted in the destruction of an enemy bomber which was attacking an aerodrome in the failing light at dusk. His courage and resourcefulness have enabled him to destroy at least six enemy aircraft.”
Shortly after the Battle Goodman joined No 73 Squadron, with which he embarked for the Middle East on HMS Furious.
Wynn continues: “He flew Hurricane V 7535 off to Takoradi on November 29, to fly the ferry route north to Heliopolis, via Lagos, Accra, Kano, Maidugari, Khartoum, Wadi Halfa and Abu Sueir.
“At Lagos on December 5 1940 Goodman saw his mother, for what was to be the last time. He missed seeing his father, who was away with an economic mission in the Belgian Congo. When 73 left Lagos, their Hurricanes did a roll over the Goodman home at Ebutte Metta and were gone.
“During December the pilots of 73 were attached to 274 Squadron in the Western Desert. The squadron became operational again, as a unit, in early January 1941. On February 4 Goodman shot down a CR 42 in flames near Benina aerodrome and on April 9 destroyed a Bf 110 near Tobruk. In this engagement Goodman was himself shot down by Bf 110s and crash-landed behind British lines. On the 14th he shared in the destruction of a Hs 126 and on the 21st destroyed a Ju 87 over Tobruk and shared a second.
“In late March Goodman had spent a short leave in Haifa with his two sisters and took his friend Flying Officer ‘Kiwi’ Lamb [also a Battle of Britain veteran] with him. On April 14, the day Lamb was killed, Goodman shared a Hs 126. On the 21st he destroyed a Ju 87 over Torbruk and shared a second.
“Goodman destroyed a Fiat G-50 on April 22 and on May 23 he damaged a Ju 88 over Crete. He was shot down and killed on June 14 1941. Six aircraft, led by Goodman, were making a strafing attack on Gazala airfield, at the beginning of Operation Battleaxe, which was intended to lead to the lifting of the siege of Tobruk. Heavy flak was encountered and three of the Hurricanes were lost in the operation.
“One of the other aircraft lost was piloted by Sergeant John White DFM, who had flown with 72 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. Goodman is buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya.”
Flying Officer George Goodman (pictured below) was a man who had strong links with Palestine, but he was British.
The author adds: I am grateful to Mark Sheridan for much help in compiling this article.