Tributes to Dambusters hero Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman, who dies aged 100
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Tributes to Dambusters hero Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman, who dies aged 100

Former 617 Squadron Leader took part in 30 operations during the war, including the bombing of German dams and attempted attack on Hitler's Eagle's Nest compound

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

  • Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
    Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
  • Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
    Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
  • Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
    Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman
  • Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman (second left) at a Hidden Heroes event at the RAF Museum in London.  Photo: Richard Gray
    Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman (second left) at a Hidden Heroes event at the RAF Museum in London. Photo: Richard Gray
  • Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman in front of an RAF plane
    Lawrence 'Benny' Goodman in front of an RAF plane
  • Benny Goodman with Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck (left) and Air Chief Marshall Sir Andrew Pulford GCB, CBE, ADC - Chairman of the RAF Museum (right)
    Benny Goodman with Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck (left) and Air Chief Marshall Sir Andrew Pulford GCB, CBE, ADC - Chairman of the RAF Museum (right)

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to war hero and dambuster pilot, Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman, who has died aged 100.

The former 617 Squadron Leader, famous for its daring 1943 raids on dams in Germany, led 30 operations during the Second World War – including the attempted bombing of Hitler’s ‘eagle’s nest’ compound.

After his distinguished career in the Royal Air Force spanning 24 years, he dedicated his later life to educating about the conflict and the Jewish community’s contribution to victory.

Born in London in 1920, he volunteered to join the RAF aged 18 at the outbreak of war in September 1939. After training as a pilot, he was recognised for his ability and sent to Canada to train others, before returning to Britain in 1942, where he became the first pilot without operational experience to join the ‘Dambusters’ 617 squadron.

Among the operations he participated in was the demolition of the Arnsberg railway viaduct with a 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) Grand Slam bomb.

Squadron leader Benny Goodman in uniform

On the record of honour for the Association of Jewish ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX), he regularly spoke at its events detailing his amazing career, and participated in the ‘Hidden Heroes’ project run by the RAF Museum. The project highlighted the often untold stories of Jewish members of the armed forces, and partnered with Chelsea FC in its campaign against antisemitism.

Paying tribute, AJEX National chairman Mike Bluestone, said: “All at AJEX were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of RAF hero Lawrence ‘Benny’ Goodman – the last surviving Dambuster RAF pilot. His service as a Jewish RAF flyer will always be remembered, and the entire Jewish community is proud of his heroism which was recognised by France through his award of the Légion d’Honneur after carrying out 30 operations against enemy targets in the Second World War.

Benny Goodman at an RAF event

Those operations included destroying the German railway viaduct and the bombing of Hitler’s ‘Eagle’s Nest’. We will remember his legacy and
celebrate his outstanding contribution during the Second World War and RAF service.”

Goodman attended at event held by Chelsea Football Club in 2018 honouring the ‘Hidden Heroes’. Despite the pandemic, in September 2020 he marked the commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain and his own 100th birthday.

Benny Goodman at an event hosted by Chelsea Football Club, meeting its legendary goalkeeper Petr Čech

Maggie Appleton, CEO of the RAF Museum, said: “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.’

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