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Lieutenant Commander Thomas Godman

Royal Naval Reserve

A short biography by Barrie Downer.

Whilst researching WWI Submariners I established the following information about Thomas Godman from the Navy Lists and his Naval Service Record:

He was born in Kingston upon Hull on 10th Jun 1889. On leaving school he joined the Merchant Marine and, before the First World War, he served as an Extra 3rd Mate on the Cunard Liner RMS CAMPANIA in which he was serving on 23rd Jul 1913. He had been appointed as a Probationary Sub Lieutenant, RNR on 30th Jun 1913. He was called up to the Royal Navy for 'Active Service' on 11th Aug 1914.

Thomas Godman was appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS MAIDSTONE (8th Submarine Flotilla) at Harwich 'for Submarines' on 16th Aug 1914. He was promoted to Sub Lieutenant, RNR on 10th Oct 1914 with a back dated Seniority of 1st Jul 1913 and was then promoted to Acting Lieutenant, RNR on 13th Sep 1914. Thomas Godman was then appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS ALECTO (8th Submarine Flotilla) at Great Yarmouth 'for Submarine D7 as Third Hand/Navigator' on 4th Feb 1915 (Nominal List). He was further promoted to Lieutenant, RNR on 2nd Aug 1915. Submarine D7 was transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS BONAVENTURE on 8th Nov 1915 and, on 29th Nov 1915 was transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS TITANIA.

On 8th Mar 1916 Thomas Godman left Submarines and was appointed to HMS PRESIDENT 'for the Royal Naval Air Service' but it is reported that he was discharged from the RNAS only a month later in April 1916 under somewhat of a cloud about his behaviour - thought to have been the result of insubordination. His next appointment was to HMS PEMBROKE (the Royal Naval Barracks) at Chatham on 25th Apr 1916 for a 30-day 'Gunnery Course'. He then was appointed to the Cruiser HMS BERWICK on 11th Jun 1916 and to the Armed Merchant Cruiser NALDERA 'as First Lieutenant' on 2nd Oct 1918. He was appointed to HMS EXCELLENT on 15th Mar 1919 and was demobilised on 14th May 1919. It is reported that suffered an unspecified serious illness in 1919 and 1920.

Thomas Godman did not return to sea with the Royal Navy and he was transferred to the Retired List of the Royal Naval Reserve 'at his own request' on 20th Jun 1921. It is reported that he was working in Germany between 1922 and 1927 in a Shipping Business.

Thomas Godman had been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, RNR on the Retired List on 2nd Aug 1923. By 1928 he had moved to Canada and he was living at 28, Holles Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Thomas Godman, who was married to Dorothy Margaret Godman, died at Haxby, York on 4th Dec 1964 at the age of seventy five. He is buried in the York Cemetery and his Gravestone is inscribed as follows:

Sacred to the memory of Lt Commander Thomas Godman,
DSC, R R Croix de Guerre Order of St. Anne of Russia
Born in Hull on 10th June 1889
Endowed with a happy disposition, a brilliant mind and a valiant spirit
he strove to serve his fellow man inspiring affection and respect.
He died in Haxby, York on 4th December 1964
Erected by his devoted wife Dorothy Margaret

Further information then came to light - a York Cemetery Trust website contains the following information about Thomas Godman. It differs somewhat from the brief biography above:

Thomas Godman joined the Royal Navy in 1913 and served extensively in Submarines. During this time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Order of St Anne which was awarded personally by the Czar of Russia after Godman's Submarine had rescued a party of shipwrecked Russian fishermen during the First World War.

He obtained his pilot's flying licence, No. 77, in 1916 and transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service seeing action in France where he was shot down and severely injured. He was rescued by a Canadian soldier who was decorated for his bravery.

Godman's arm was badly hurt leading to his retirement from the armed forces in 1919 aged 30. Between the wars he spent much time in both Russia and Germany, involved in import/export trade but supplying information to our intelligence services. Shortly before the war was declared in 1939 he escaped from Templehof Airport, Berlin with the Gestapo hot on his heels. He provided much valuable target information to the authorities in Britain. In 1944 he served as a civilian with the United States Welfare Section helping to organise the despatch of GI Brides."

No record has yet been found of the rescue of Russian Seamen or the award of the Russian Decoration (personally by the Czar), the Croix de Guerre or of the award of the DSC none of these awards are apparent in the lists the London Gazette. It is unclear how much action he saw in the air in France as he only appears to have been in the RNAS for a month. Details of his apparently colourful life after leaving the Navy have yet to be verified.

A Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to a Lieutenant Thomas Ellison Godman (no relation of the Submariner Thomas Godman) for his services as a Sub Lieutenant RNVR in HM Yacht SERIOLA during the evacuation from the beaches of Dunkirk (See London Gazette dated 16th Aug 1940).

This Thomas Godman was later appointed to the Destroyer HMS HAVOCK and died in Malta on 4th Jan 1942.

All very mysterious!

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