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Heroic brothers in arms paid ultimate price; Tragic tale of RAF pilot siblings who fought Luftwaffe over the skies of Britain and died just weeks apart.

Byline: Mike Lockley Staff Reporter

IN a corner of a Worcestershire cemetery, dappled by the shadow of trees, lie two military graves a few inches from each other.

It is the last resting place of Henry and Barry Goodwin, brothers whose heroics as Second World War RAF pilots earned them the epitaph "the best Worcestershire could give".

But the dates marked on the white stone memorials reveal they died just weeks apart in the summer of 1940 - Britain's finest hour.

Yet most visitors to St Cassian Churchyard, in the parish of Chaddesley Corbett, near Bromsgrove, are blissfully unaware of the story - one of bravery, adventure and sacrifice - that lies behind the words etched on those graves.

Henry and Barry, sons of a successful Kidderminster businessman, gave their lives to retain our freedom.

And they were close. When Barry died, his brother - known as Mac - flew his Spitfire in tribute over the church.

They enjoyed a privileged young life. Their father, Laughton, had built up a successful motor business on the back of First Worl War munitions production and the boys were educated at public school.

In fact, Barry gained local fame by winning the famed Shelsley Walsh hill climb in his souped-up Frazer-Nash vehicle.

The brothers' young lives at their large home, Palmers Hill, near Hagley, were filled with social soirees, dogs, horses and fun.

The family's wealth meant Henry and Barry learned to fly as teenagers in their father's biplane. They were trained from an early age to take the reins of the family business, but also decided to join the Auxiliary Air Force in the mid-1930s.

In August 1939, just ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War, they were called up into the regular RAF and were posted together to 605 Squadron, also known as the Warwick Squadron, based at Birmingham's Castle Bromwich.

But being part of the same squadron didn't sit easy with Mac and Barry. Despite being in their early 20s, they were painfully aware of their own mortality and feared the possibility of both being killed during the same sortie.

Knowing the news would crush their mother, the pair asked to be separated.

Mac was posted to 609 Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, while Barry remained in Birmingham.

It was Mac who first saw action. In late May 1940, he flew a Spitfire to protect the British Expeditionary Force which was being evacuated from Dunkirk.

Barry took part in similar patrols, flying a Hawker Hurricane.

Barry's 605 Squadron was designated a fighter squadron on January 1, 1939, and began to take possession of Hurricanes just before the outbreak of war.

In February 1940, following heavy losses, Barry and his colleagues were moved to Edinburgh, but the squadron moved back down south three months later.

After 605 squadron suffered severe losses, with both men and lives destroyed, it once again withdrew to Edinburgh to regroup - and it was here Barry met his fate.

As the younger of the two brothers tried to make a twilight training flight on June 24, he lost control of his Hurricane while landing.

It tumbled to the ground, killing the 23-year-old instantly.

In his superb book, Palmers Hill - the name of the brothers' home - Worcester author Ian Morris described the chilling moment that father Laughton was informed of the loss of his son.

He wrote: "It was on the morning of June 25, 1940, when Laughton Goodwin heard the Post Office messenger whistling as he cycled up the drive of Palmers Hill.

"He met the lad on the front porch and was handed a telegram, signed for it and turned back into the hall.

"He opened the envelope and in stark capital letters the message read, 'Regret to inform that your son No 90504 PO BL Goodwin killed in flying accident'.

"Laughton and his wife Jessie hugged each other in their grief and cried, and cried, and cried. Barry had apparently died when his plane stalled and crashed on a practice flight."

Tragically, within six weeks, father and mother would receive a second telegram.

Mac, still with 609 Squadron, was posted to RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire, where he took part in the defence of the southern airfields.

In a diary entry on August 2, 1940, Pilot Officer John Bisdee recorded the newcomer's arrival: "The lacuna (gaps) in this diary is at present worse than ever. This is mainly due to the altered way of life which we now lead - practically no time for writing while we are on readiness.

"After the Dunkirk show, life at Northolt mainly consisted of practice flying. We got three new pilots from 600, P/Os Miller ("Mick") and Curchin and Sgt Feary, a VR. Also from 605 (S/L Avent's old squadron), F/O "Mac" Goodwin, nicknamed "Quisling" by Beau.

"The name has stuck, as he has a way of sabotaging things with all the good will in the world."

During what has been described as a "major onslaught" by the Luftwaffe on August 13 - an attack dubbed Aldertag (Eagle Day) by the Third Reich, Mac shot down two enemy Stukas off Portland Bill.

A day after taking out the two enemy aircraft, there was another major bombing raid on RAF Middle Wallop, and Mac and his comrades were scrambled for a counter attack.

As he was chasing an enemy aircraft out to sea, his plane was shot down off Bournemouth. A lifeboat was unable to find him and he was reported missing.

His family, already crushed by the loss of Barry, had to endure an agonising ten-day wait to learn Mac's fate. There was to be no miracle. Mac's body was washed up near Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. He was only 25.

The bad tidings delivered to Laughton and Jessie were just as blunt. The telegram coldly stated in capitals: "Regret to inform you flying officer No.90269 Goodwin reported missing 14th August".

But the death of the second son was not the end of the story.

There was one more tragedy to befall the Goodwin family. Laughton had made his money from making arms for the First World War effort, and both his sons had been killed in conflict. That was too bitter a pill to swallow. In 1951, with health failing, he loaded his service revolver, shuffled to a favourite spot on his estate and took his own life.


Pilot Officer Barry Goodwin

Flying Officer Henry Goodwin

The brothers' war graves along with their parents in Chaddesley Corbett

Worcetershire brothers Henry and Barry Goodwin with a member of the ground crew, left, before their tragically early deaths in the summer of 1940
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 21, 2016
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