Everyone at Key.Aero was saddened to hear the news that Squadron Leader Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman has died at the age of 100.
Over a distinguished RAF career spanning 24 years, Benny completed a full operational tour as a wartime bomber pilot with No. 617 Squadron, the celebrated ‘Dambusters.’
Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman was born in London to a Jewish family in 1920. With the outbreak of war in 1939, he volunteered to join the RAF at the age of 18. After training as a pilot he was posted to Canada as a flying instructor in 1942. Having requested a return to Britain, Benny went on to become the first pilot without operational experience to be posted to No. 617 Squadron. In his time with the squadron, he participated in 30 operations against important enemy targets. On 19 March 1945, he destroyed the Arnsberg railway viaduct with a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) Grand Slam bomb, and on 25 April, he attacked Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’ at Berchtesgaden.
Benny joined the Auxiliary Air Force in 1946, entering No. 604 Squadron flying Spitfires from RAF Hendon. With the Berlin Blockade in 1948, he rejoined the regular air force. In the following years, he piloted Hastings transports with No. 53 Squadron and photo-reconnaissance Canberras with No. 80 Squadron.
Benny eventually retired as a squadron leader in 1964. Over his 24-year career with the RAF, he logged over 3,500 hours on 22 different aircraft types. In 2017, the Republic of France appointed him a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.
In retirement, Benny supported several RAF charities and worked hard to promote reconciliation with Germany and educate younger people about the realities of war. Incredibly, he held his Private Pilot's License until he was 93 years old.
Benny was a fierce advocate for ending anti-Semitism. When the RAF launched its ‘Jewish Hidden Heroes’ project in 2018, Benny supported it energetically. The project aimed to highlight the vital role played by Jewish people in the RAF’s battle against the Nazis in World War Two, of which Benny was one. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the RAF Museum’s partnership with Chelsea FC and of their campaign to challenge anti-Semitism and racism through education. Thanks to this partnership, Benny’s oral testimony, captured by Museum Ambassador Joshua Levine, will feature in the augmented reality displays planned for the forthcoming Bomber Command exhibition at the RAF Museum in Hendon.
Maggie Appleton MBE, CEO of the RAF Museum, remembers Benny well. She concludes:
‘So many of us will be mourning Benny, while celebrating his outstanding contribution during the Second World War and his faultless RAF Service. The RAF Museum has been fortunate to call Benny a friend. He supported us in sharing the incredible story of Jewish servicemen and women during the war, and the brave airmen who were in a particularly perilous situation should they have been captured. Benny was a special man who lived a long and fruitful life and brought joy and inspiration to many. He will be sadly missed by his friends at the RAF Museum, but we will ensure that his stories live on to inspire generations to come.’
Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Benny's friends and family at this difficult time.