Goff's War 1939-1946
Godfrey Newman Petvin (Goff) - The Pioneer Corps - WW2
Private - 13032270
(1917 - 2012)
Served in The Pioneers from 1940 to 1947 - Scotland, North Africa,
Italy, Normandy, Belgium, Germany.
Medals:- France/Germany Star, - Africa Star 1st Army, - 1939/1945
Star, - Defence Medal, - 1939/1945 War Medal
Godfrey (Goff) was my parents third child, and was born in the
middle of First World War and the second child in the family to
enlist in the army in 1940 - (Hartley enlisted 1939 - Charles enlisted
1942) all three were to come home safely.
He was to report to Simpson Barracks Northampton where he was to
be trained, the next 6 years of his life was going to be very different
- after training his first posting was to Scotland where he met
David Blacklock who was later to become a brother in law !
North Africa - Tobruk - Benghazi - Derna (First Army)
Italian campaign - Sicily - Cassino
Normandy (Second Army)
Goff was among thousands of troops that were pulled back from Italy
to UK to prepare invasion of France - Operation Overlord.
Goffs War - this very honest account was related
to his youngest brother Keith who only corrected grammar and spelling.
Goff did not talk about his war experiences until he was over 90
but then it came gushing out in detail.
NORMANDY - June 1944 - PIONEER CORPS
D Day plus 4
The continual sway and bobbing about of the landing
ship I was on had 99% ofthe soldiers and crew onboard very sick,
we could not wait to reach land even though we knew it would be
great danger. On D Day plus 4 we edged into Arromanches, all we
could see was thousands of men milling about on the beach and lots
and lots of lorries, some smashed to pieces. One lorry was part
covered with tarpaulins to hide the smashed bodies,this was our
introduction to total war.
Our landing ship edged in and we walked down the
ramp and into water some2/3 feet deep, the bottom was soft, we went
20 yards before we realised we were walking on dead bodies, those
dead bodies stretched at least another 20 yards,
then we saw the floating ones. Officers and Sgt’s were shouting
all the time for us to move faster, we were heavy laden with kit,
one soldier started shouting and throwing his kit off, he was escorted
away. Most of us were in shock, we had been told lots but this was
more real and shocking. We stopped to load into lorries, I remember
looking down at the red sand, huge patches which bubbled with the
pressure of feet.
We left the beach and swung onto the road, turning
left up the hill, I remember now the strong smell of perfume, I
learnt later that this was to damp down the stench of death.
Arromanches was smashed to pieces, most houses just a few walls
and the innards spread all around. I have little idea where I was
for the next 3 months except that we worked very hard at clearing
roads of broken vehicles and digging trenches. We hauled up water
and supplies. We also collected dead bodies for burial in temporary
graves, English in one area, Jerry in another. German soldiers dead
in any sun seemed to swell up bloated larger than English, some
lads stuck a bayonet in them to release the gas and laughed, the
rest of us shuddered. Handling dead smashed bodies was horrific
at first but surprising you do get used to it, but the stench ,
This type of work was our daily task , it seemed
to go on and on. We were moving forward pretty fast then we would
get bogged down, the word came back that forward units were in heavy
Twice during Normandy fighting we were told to stop all work as
we were needed to back up infantry units, later I learned this was
called The Falaise Gap. Many thousands of Jerries were caught in
this area and we had to stop them escaping from Allied forces, we
were lorried in , I guess 60 miles. The devastation cannot be described,
it was total, on the roads, kerbs and in the fields. We unloaded
and told to brew up, we would be needed in 5/6 hours early evening,
to help clear area of German units.
The Falaise Pocket or Battle of the Falaise
Pocket (12–21 August 1944) was the decisive engagement of
the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War. A pocket was formed
around Falaise, Calvados, in which the German Army Group B, with
the 7th Army and the Fifth Panzer Army (formerly Panzergruppe West)
were encircled by the Western Allies. The battle is also referred
to as the Battle of the Falaise Gap (after the corridor which the
Germans sought to maintain to allow their escape), the Chambois
Pocket, the Falaise-Chambois Pocket, the Argentan–Falaise
Pocket or the Trun–Chambois Gap. The battle resulted in the
destruction of most of Army Group B west of the Seine river, which
opened the way to Paris and the Franco-German border for the Allied
The infantry units were up ahead, we heard lots of
shots and shouting, we were told to speed up, we started seeing
dead Germans and lots of our guys. Some were badly wounded but being
treated. Our group were nearing a ridge, I heard shots whizz by,
some lads starting firing, I could not see a target until a large
Jerry stood up, I aimed and shot him I think in the chest. I had
killed my first human being. About an hour later Jerry started pulling
out, most units fired on them, I have no idea how many I shot but
it was a fair few.
This was to most of our group our first real action
and once over we were merry and elated, we returned next day to
our usual work. One day a group were sent off on a job and lorried
out, on their return late that day they told us what they had been
doing. At a village some 8/10 miles away retreating Waffen SS had
executed villagers along a drainage ditch, this had to be cleared.
While clearing the ditch of bodies for burial a German sniper killed
2 of our lads, the supporting infantry got him and he was quickly
despatched but the loss for us was felt for days.
Time flew by with our daily work of clearing the
mess left behind of war, I don’t want to even tell you of
it, it is to horrible to recall. I know that many men after the
war had nightmares and went mental, I just shut it away.
I grew quickly to hate all Germans and never want to meet any ever
again, at that time I was pleased to see lots killed, they all seemed
evil. We saw many thousands of POW marching by going to camps, they
did not seem subdued at all and very able to keep fighting, we shouted
at them, they stuck their fingers up at us.
Sometime in April or May of 1945 I lost 2 good mates,
now I can’t remember their names. We were lorried forward
again in support of infantry to clear an area, we were supposed
to be in reserve but it seemed we were in centre of the fight. I
remember we were outside a village and we could see Germans running
out of the houses in orderly retreat, we were ordered forward spread
out in a line, rifle fully loaded.
As we got closer shots were coming in, and my 2 mates either side
of me dropped, we were not allowed to stop for any wounded, we kept
up the slow advance to the village. At the village we had to check
every house , it was dangerous as Jerry would lie quiet upstairs,
I was lucky as I was only told to check downstairs and found nobody.
Had I done so it would have been “Who was first on the trigger”
as most did not surrender especially if SS.
Only after village was declared cleared was I allowed
to go back up the road to see my mates, they had both been killed
outright, no suffering, I was glad for that. I kneeled beside them
for a bit and vowed to kill as many Jerries as I could. This was
the last time we were used as infantry except doing guards and lookouts,
since our landing at Arromaches we had travelled hundreds of miles,
I do not know exactly where.
We ended up I do know at a place called Luneberg Heath, in this
area there had been very heavy fighting and the soldiers of both
sides lay everywhere. We sorted them into rows, then officers checked
them and tied labels, we then moved them on for temporary burial.
British Tanks at Luneberg Heath 1945
Luneberg Heath - By Nikanos - Fotografie von meiner
Prior to Normandy, Goff of course had served in North Africa
and Italy doing pioneer work, Normandy was the first time he had
seen action on this scale.
After discharge of WW2.
Goff worked for International Stores as a Grocer
and later for Fry's Chocolate at Keysham he was always strong and
very hard working - he carried all of the work on his house using
his army skills - new roof - new windows all without scaffolding
Several times I offered to take Goff back to Normandy but he always
declined, saying he never wanted to see France or Germany again
and he still hated Germans.
The only German he came in close contact with since WW2 for a lady
friend of Hilda’s who came to stay at Patchway a couple of
times. He was not outright rude to her but did not want her there
and was pleased to see her go.