As Remembrance approaches, we’re honouring the lives of some of the incredible heroes being commemorated by their loved ones through our Hero Funds platform. Here, Kelly Smith shares the story of her Grandpa, Douglas Stanley Goddard, a World War Two hero.
My grandpa was called Douglas Stanley Goddard. He was born on the 11th of November 1921. He would have been 98 this week, but sadly died a few months ago. We knew that Grandpa fought in the war, but he was a stoic sort of man who spoke little of the past. When he died, we found 3 war diaries from 1943. They reveal the extent to which Grandpa was defined by his time during the war. We are just beginning to piece together this part of grandpa’s life, and there are many parts we don't know fully yet.
These diaries appear to be written whilst he was in a tent in the North African desert- G.O.C 8th Army- A true Desert Rat, between January and June 1943. Grandpa had previously been posted to both France and Germany before this at the start of the war.
His diaries reveal mundane, boring days, waiting for something (anything!) to happen- other than another sandstorm and another timeless day in a tent. The diaries also reveal some touching details: like the day Grandpa went into Cairo to buy a camera to take photos (we have a few of these mysterious photos that he took), or the time grandpa had to hitchhike to hospital because an ambulance wasn't coming to his base that day. He spent several stints in hospital, from trivial things like what appears to be sun/sand burn to his skin, to more severe things- explosions and shrapnel in his leg, and quite probably, trauma. He ended up in the Gaza Hotel in Palestine, recovering there for some time until the war ended. We know he was known as 'shorty' who was a barrel of laughs. In the Gaza Hotel, there was a piano and they sang and laughed and drank. He could climb a drainpipe whilst drunk rather well apparently!
Grandpa saw horrors too, and his words only touch on what he must have seen. Some diary entries are ripped out entirely, others dare to describe the scene. Others are clearly vague and brief - with the shock of what he describes. Grandpa did night patrols of an airbase to the north of Egypt in 1943, and witnessed the bases bombing, including its aircraft. We know he survived on minimal food, a pint of water a day, and the harshest desert climate.
It's only after grandpa's death that we as a family are able to truly understand and appreciate how the war shaped grandpa's character, through these diaries - his experiences for neither better or worse- it was sheer survival.
On grandpa's death, Help for Heroes was an obvious choice as a charity to support. We hope that the trauma that shaped our grandpa has the empowering ability to help heal others through the work of Help for Heroes. By donating in grandpa's memory, we hope others don't have to suffer in silence the way grandpa did. Grandpa can help change lives, even after his has ended. This brings so much hope for our family, for the future, and for those who can benefit from the services of Help for Heroes. We are proud of Grandpas life, and supporting Help for Heroes is a sign of our pride.
This is a diary entry which we read out at grandpa's funeral. We felt grandpa wouldn't mind, as it sums up his determination and hope for the future:
30th may, 1943, Sunday:
8.00 [am]. Off duty and just going over for some breakfast.
The weather this morning is simply grand, a lovely sky as clear as a bell and a sun that even out here is most welcome.
A slight breeze just adds to the perfection of the day.
I went over to my tent at 8.30 and had a good old wash and shave. Lit my pipe and had a sit down before turning in to bed.
It was at 9.30 I heard a lot of noise going on. Chaps shouting to one another and kicking up a terrific din.
I heard later that it was the officers that are going back to Blighty getting ready at a last minute’s notice.
A kite was ready to take them off at 10.30. They are going back to fetch two more kites back with them. This means that they will be home for at least a month if not more.
The lucky blighters, if only that were me going back, but I think I would rather stay out here than go home and get used to the old comforts only to come back to this dead and alive hole.
I would rather know that when I go home I am there for good and no returning.
That is how I want it.
I got up at 6.30pm and after a wash went over to dinner. I received an airgram posted on the 17th of this month. No operations tonight.
8.00 [pm] on duty.