Brian Goddard – A Narrow Escape from German Bombs

Brian Goddard was born in the latter part of 1935 so was not quite 5 when World War II started. He and his parents lived on the outskirts of Warwick, on the Birmingham Road, not far from the Budbrooke Barracks which was a training base for the army.

“I remember that Thursday was recruiting day. The latest batch of recruits would arrive at Warwick station and many had to walk from there to the Barracks. The barracks was so close we could hear their reveille from our house. Part of the exercise regime for the soldiers was to run a loop around from the barracks, with maybe a hundred men running past the house in their PE kit. Some would cheat and cut across behind our garden and take a short cut across the bottom lock of the canal.”

“We were lucky to have a large garden where we could grow our own food and keep chickens and as a neighbour and my uncles also kept pigs, I never remember being short of food. Sometimes our hens laid so many eggs we could sell some. Our neighbours dug out an air raid shelter and used railway sleepers to support it, but we only had to use it a couple of times.”

“P.C. Porter came round to see how many bedrooms people had and as we had a spare one, we had 2 ATS girls billeted on us. They were both married from our house! After them, we had an officer and his wife billeted on us. She worked at Warwick Castle and I remember her bringing home peacock feathers. When they moved out we discovered that the officer had left 5 rounds of live ammunition in one of the drawers in their bedroom. There’d have been trouble if anyone found out we had live ammunition in our house so my dad quietly took it over to the canal one night and dropped it in.”

“There was a bank of searchlights at Hampton on the Hill. When they were turned on, they lit up my bedroom, as bright as day. They were used when the enemy aircraft were coming over, but the thing that woke me up was the siren that was on a post at the junction of Saltisford and Ansell Way. On the night of 17th May 1941 bombs were dropped either side of our house, 3 on the farm to the east and 1 on the railway line to the west and I slept right through it all!””

“I remember the Coventry Blitz, because my father opened up the curtains and we watched all the enemy planes flying over us. There were so many! Everywhere else was in total darkness, but the sky towards Coventry was a huge orange glow, I can still see it in my mind’s eye.”

“I went to Westgate School, which in those days had separate girls and boys wings with a playground in the middle. I remember them building an air raid shelter along the side of the school. One day there was a big explosion, but it wasn’t an enemy attack, the school boiler had exploded! The caretaker was so badly burned that the pupils were all told to turn away as he was carried across the playground, so we wouldn’t see how bad it was.”

“I went to Northgate Sunday School. On Sundays, soldiers would be marched into town from the barracks to attend their respective church services. They would stop off at the toilets near the Antelope Inn and then continue up Saltisford into town. About 30 were fallen out at our church each week.”

“I can’t remember when it would have been but I do remember standing on the corner of Albert Street and watching a whole stream of ambulances taking soldiers to the hospital. They had been disembarked from a train at what was ‘Warwick Down Goods Yard’ which was on Cape Road. The footpath on Cape Road was 3 and 4 people deep, watching them all go by.”

“One of my uncles was in the Navy in both Wars. He was sunk 3 times and after the third time he was invalided out, with stomach ulcers and shell-shock. He collapsed on the parade ground at Portsmouth and came back to live with his mother on Albert Street. Most days I would go in my dinner break from school to the fish shop at the top of Church Street and buy 1 shilling’s worth of fish for my uncle because it was one of the few things he could eat, and take it to my grandmother’s house. One lunchtime a lone bomber came over and dropped his bombs on the Pig Wells, a common beyond Cape Road and Miller Road. The fire engines were kept on Castle Street so they came rushing past me as I ran as fast as I could to Albert Street.”

“My father wasn’t called up until 1943 and he fought in North Africa and Italy. He was invalided out about 6 months before the war ended, with auricular fibrillation. He came back a changed man. His hair had gone grey and he never told me much about what he had seen and the places he had been.”

Brian Goddard was talking to Unlocking Warwick’s Tricia Scott in February 2020.