In comparison to the life we now experience as Canadians, one Sidney veteran’s life has been anything but orthodox.
Charles E. “Chic” Goodman was born on Feb. 5, 1926 in Montreal. After his parents divorced, he spent most of his childhood living with his mother, two uncles and his grandmother in New Brunswick.
One of Goodman’s uncles was a soldier who taught him Morse code and how radios worked, which sparked his interest the military.
In Grade 6, Goodman joined the cadets, where he eventually became an officer and joined the reserve army.
Around the age of 15, Goodman volunteered in the battle at the Aleutian Islands, where Canada was helping the U.S. chase out Japan.
“I spoofed my age, saying I was older so that I could go,” he recalled.
When he arrived back home from the Aleutian Islands, England was getting ready for the invasion of Europe, and without hesitation Goodman volunteered again.
“Volunteers were scooped up and sent to be reinforcements for casualties in France, Belgium and various parts of Europe. So off I went overseas,” he said.
Goodman was around 16 when he first found himself on the battlefield as a radio operator.
“I carried a radio on my back, which was quite heavy, and followed behind the major or captain, so he could receive orders from other commanders and find out what was happening around us,” said Goodman. “I didn’t have any choice on what was said, I would just tell the major what was happening, and then pass the response back.”
When arriving in Europe, soldiers were divided and had no input on where they went, or who they went with, so Goodman was separated from many of his friends.
“I was separated from my best friend, which was difficult,” said Goodman, noting that he was the best man at his friend’s wedding and ‘was supposed to take care of him’ during their time serving, but was given no choice but to split up.
“I saw him once again in France, and then about a month after that, I found out he had been killed.”
Losing people close to him was the most difficult part of his experience serving in the military, Goodman said.
Another difficult time for Goodman, was when he was wounded in Holland during the fighting in the Scheldt Estuary. His regiment had positioned near a Dutch farmhouse for the night when they were attacked.
“The German’s obviously saw us and put shells on the tops of trees. When they exploded the shell fire came down and hit us – I was wounded in my right hip and left leg,” Goodman explained.
Following his injury, Goodman spent just two weeks in a field hospital before going on to train as a paratrooper and soldier. He helped liberate a concentration camp in Holland, where German soldiers were determining who was fit enough to move on to a labour camp – while the weak would be sent to their deaths.
“We came up to the camp just before dawn, Germans came out of the buildings and we had surrounded them with machine guns. We captured them before they had a chance to fire,” said Goodman. Following the liberation of the camp, the regiment went further north to help liberate the city of Groningen, where living standards were poor and the people were starving.
“I remember walking through the down town square, and there was a big dead horse lying there, which had been shot by someone or a shell had hit it. And the next morning when we came back through the city square, the only parts left of the horse was the hoofs and the hide. People came there to get something to eat,” said Goodman. “We captured around 20 or 30 Germans and liberated the city there.”
His regiment then moved on to re-enter Germany, and a week before the end of the war, Goodman was near Oldenberg, ready to attack a German air force base.
“We were looking all over, mapping out the place and keeping out of sight when we got word, ‘Do not move, stay where you are, do not fire unless fired upon,’ and I thought, ‘what is going on?’” said Goodman. A week later, ceasefire was declared in May of 1945.
“I was relieved, thinking ‘yes, I made it’,” said Goodman. “VE-Day is important to me, because I remember my comrades who didn’t live.”
Goodman decided to stay in Europe for a year after the war ended, so he could explore more of the continent. He then returned to Canada by ship and train in 1946, to find his mother at the train station waiting for him.
The end of the Second World War was not the end of his career in the military however, Goodman continued as a professional soldier, serving in Korea, the Gaza Strip, Ghana, Germany and Cyprus. Throughout his time serving he married and had a child, and finally retired in 1975 with the rank of major.
“I liked serving in the military because it gave me self discipline, allowed me to see a lot of the world, and I liked the comradeship of the other people,” said Goodman, noting that many meaningful friendships with people from all over the world blossomed out of his time serving.
He went on to live on Vancouver Island with his family, where he started a scuba diving business. Goodman is now 94 years old and still enjoys his life in Sidney with his wife Nancy.
“It’s not over yet,” chuckled Goodman.
For his service in the Second World War, Goodman was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, France and Germany Star, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the French Legion of Honour medal.