Harry with Flight crew 1951

Harry’s lifelong obsession with aircraft

Harry Goodban is a resident of Living Choice Broadwater Court. He enjoys meeting up with a group of men in the village who get together often and share a common bond of serving in the armed forces. This is Harry’s story – which has a surprise twist!

“For most of my life I have been obsessed by aircraft, probably because as a child I lived within walking distance of a very large airfield in the UK, 50km from the French coast. After being `de-evacuated’ during WW2, I would watch as constant streams of fighting aircraft headed out over the coast sometimes returning heavily damaged. So, it was no surprise that in 1947 I enlisted in the RAF to be trained as a navigator in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

“After training, I returned to the UK to be posted to Bomber Command No 101 Squadron, flying in Avro Lincolns. Towards the middle of 1951 a secret new bomber was delivered to our squadron for service trials. We were like kids with a new toy; it could fly higher and faster than anything else and do (almost) anything we wanted. We gave it a thorough workout and when the trials were successfully completed our secret toy was unveiled to the public as the new “English Electric Canberra”. The press was invited to the opening and filmed the crews all dolled up in their flight gear with the line-up of an aircraft that went on to achieve many firsts in aviation history - including a world altitude record.

“In time however, post-war UK settled down, my service came to a natural end, and I married and raised a family. My service life however, like many ex-servicemen, remained vivid in my mind and my fascination with planes led me to a lifelong career, in both the UK and Australia, as an engineer in the aviation industry. Even after I retired, I couldn’t let it go so I took up model aircraft building and flying and entertained myself with that for the next twenty years.

“Even now, at 90-something, the compulsion continues! A couple of years ago, I was browsing aviation sites on my computer when my attention was piqued by a “You Tube” video of a Canberra flying over Stalingrad in Russia - supposedly in 1953. I was particularly interested because I knew Canberra had been flying super-secret “Spy in the Sky” missions at that time thanks to its ability to fly higher than any other aircraft of its day.

“I pulled up the video thinking `no, it couldn’t possibly be about that’. But sure enough, there on the screen was the author espousing his theory on the suspected espionage, interspersing his narrative with a series of historic film clips he had cobbled together in support. I watched with growing disbelief as the story of a briefing, an aircrew walking to the plane and the plane taking off unfolded. I realised that what I was seeing was my pilot, my co-navigator and myself walking across the tarmac at the Canberra’s press opening in 1951.

“When I had recovered from the shock, I tried desperately to get a still screen shot but was unable to. However, to my delight, for my following birthday, my daughter presented me with a framed photo of my crew extracted from that ‘You Tube’ clip which now adorns a wall in my Broadwater Court villa. What a finale to an obsession!

“Post Script. The Stalingrad flight did actually take place, but with a longer range Canberra, flying from Germany to Stalingrad to Iran. At the time it was the only aircraft with the capability to fly at the altitude required for that mission. It is still on the official secrets list.”