George in RN uniformMr George Goodyear of Ilkley, West Yorkshire was recorded for the Centre in December 2014 speaking of his wartime experiences as an RN Coder, serving on board HMS Obdurate on Atlantic and Russian convoy duties from 1942-1944, and later on HMS Waveney and HMS Loch Craggie.

He was an engaging and informative interviewee who, seventy odd years on, had good recall of his naval service particularly the harsh conditions on board an escort ship in the freezing waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Sadly, he died in August 2015 and the Centre was touched to learn from his daughter, Mrs Irene Tod, that he had remembered us with a gift of £500. Mrs Tod and her husband visited the Centre in September 2015 and presented a cheque for this amount for which we are very grateful.

George was born in 1922 in Leeds and after attending Roundhay School in the city, went to work in the Costing Department of a local engineering firm making tanks. From there he moved to similar work with the hospital maintenance department of Leeds City Council before his call up to the Royal Navy in 1941. He trained as a Coder at the RN Signals School in Devonport before joining HMS Obdurate (an O Class Destroyer) in 1942.

HMS Obdurate was a new ship, commissioned into the Home Fleet in September 1942. George described her as ‘a happy ship’ and for the next 17 months she served on operational duties with the Home Fleet, and as an escort ship on Atlantic and Arctic convoys. As a Coder on board a destroyer at sea, George was on a three watch rota over every 24 hours (one watch on, two watches off) in Obdurate’s Wireless Room, with at least one Coder and a Wireless Operator on duty on each watch. Coders like George decrypted and encrypted the ship’s signal traffic using the RN’s four figure book cypher system.

In December 1942, Obdurate was in the escort screen for Russian Convoy JW51B when she sighted the German heavy cruisers Admiral Hipper and Lutzow and accompanying destroyers off North Cape, Norway. The naval action which followed became known as the Battle of the Barents Sea  in which Obdurate sustained slight damage, and two British ships, HMS Bramble and HMS Achates were sunk. Captain R St V Sherbrooke, commander of the destroyer escort group, won a VC for his actions during the battle. The Hipper was damaged and eventually withdrew with the other German vessels, less one sunk destroyer. All the convoy merchant ships reached the USSR undamaged. Hitler, no lover of the German naval surface fleet, was furious that capital ships had been driven off by smaller British vessels. Grand Admiral Raeder resigned as head of the Kreigsmarine, and the Hipper itself was laid up in repair until late 1944.

Further Russian convoys followed for Obdurate until March 1943 when she joined 5th Support Group on Atlantic convoys in the Western Approaches. Later the same year, in September, after passage to North America, she was part of the escort to HMS Renown on which Winston Churchill returned to the UK after the 1st Quebec Conference and his meeting with President Roosevelt.

Blue Nose proclamationRussian and Atlantic convoy duties again followed  and outbound on Russian convoy, JW56A, on 25 January 1944 Obdurate depth charged an attacking UBoat U350)without success, and then detected another one, U360 , on the surface. As the ship prepared to attack this new threat, she was damaged by an acoustic (GNAT) torpedo fired from U360, and the detonation disabled her starboard screw and caused some flooding. George was on watch in the Wireless Room at the time and recalled the ship literally rising up in the water ‘ we were lifted up‘ and then, ‘a silence – and then it came crashing down and we all wondered when the water would come flooding in’.

Luckily it didn’t, and their luck still held when U360 fired another torpedo at the ship which missed. Obdurate managed to get underway again to re-join the convoy and reach Murmansk. U360 was sunk a few months later in the Norwegian Sea with the loss of all her crew.

Temporary repairs were made to Obdurate in Murmansk but, on her return to the UK in February 1944, the damage was found to be so severe that all the crew were paid off and the ship laid up for lengthy repair.

In early 1944 George joined his next ship, HMS Waveney , a River class frigate. She was primarily a Communications vessel and George was one of many Coders on board.

In April 1944 she joined Assault Force J2 and, after exercises in the Channel area, arrived off the Juno Beach landing area in the early hours of 6 June 1944 as part of Convoy J10, and landed 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade troops on the beach. George was impressed by the organization behind the D Day landings. The Waveney remained off the beachhead providing communications facilities until the end of June.

Hear George describe his position off Juno Beach abourd HMS Waveney – an Excerpt from his full interview with the Centre on Tape 4655


George left the Waveney after her return from the Normandy beaches and joined his last ship, HMS Loch Craggie, a Loch class frigate, in late December 1944/early 1945.

Loch Craggie was employed on anti-submarine and convoy defence duties in the Irish Sea and SW approaches until she sailed for the Far East to join the East Indies fleet in July 1945. The Atom bombs dropped on Japan cancelled the ship’s planned participation in Operation Zipper and by the end of 1945 George was on his way home for eventual demob in January 1946 after nearly five years of RN service.

Sailors have an expression for most things and death is no exception, the naval term for which is ‘crossed the bar’. This comes from Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar, which is seen as an allegory of death in which crossing over the sandbar found at the mouths of rivers and bays to the sea beyond is a metaphor for the passage between life and death.

George Goodyear Crossed the Bar on 10 August 2015. May he encounter only fair winds and calm seas.

In recognition of his service on Arctic convoys, George was awarded the Arctic Convoy Star in 2012, and the Ushakov Medal from the Russian government in 2013.

Arctic Star medal & Ushakov Medal - Presented to George Goodyear RN

Arctic Star medal & Ushakov Medal – Presented to George Goodyear RN


Edited by Anne Wickes.  The Second World War Experience Centre
September 2015