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.

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 , never.

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 fighting.
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.

(With thanks - Relic from the Front)

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 armies.

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 Mutter

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.