Parish of Leatherhead
John Goodchild OBE
7th October 1927-4th June 2010

Order of Service

Organ Music: Peter Holt



Morning has broken

John & Bruce (John's sons)

John: Dad’s recent death was just as he would have wanted it to be – no debilitating disease or slow decline – with pain and suffering for him and those around him. It was sudden, quick – and for that, we suppose, we should be grateful. We just wish it had been postponed for 10 years or more.

Four generations - 1984

So what’s Dad’s legacy? Invariably, our qualities are never fully appreciated or valued as much when we are alive – but death focuses our thoughts and our responsibility to carry forward those many special attributes that made Dad the man he was – and will remain.

A proud father

We’d like to pay tribute to just a few of many:

Compassion and consideration - Dad was always helpful, particularly to those in need. He often visited my disabled – and sometimes very demanding – mother-in-law, where he demonstrated remarkable patience, for patience was not one of his obvious qualities. His outbursts of expletives when unable to find his wallet, slippers, or – more frequently – his glasses, were legendary.

Anna, John, Emily and Tom, near Thollon

Generosity and devotion to family - fortunately for Bruce and me – and our children – to Dad, charity did indeed begin at home. His grandchildren would always be eager to open letters from grandad, as they invariably contained a cheque!

John with Anna and Emily

But many of the letters, too, have been retained and will be treasured for the future. He was an avid correspondent, often giving advice and guidance, always underlined, sometimes twice, such as: “work hard, play hard, but always wake up in your own bed” or “never trust the Russians”.

Love of nature - Dad had a love-hate relationship with shrubs and trees – so long as they retained their leaves they were OK. He would loudly curse falling leaves, but then happily sweep them from the lawn and compost them for his well tended veg patch.

Cairngorms 1953, John is in the middle, Pat is last on the right

Trossachs, 1990s

He always enjoyed walks in the countryside, whether tramping the highlands with our late mother, Pat, or scaling the heights of Machu Picchu more recently with Jill.

John and Jill - Machu Picchu

He was always the first to spot wildlife, exclaiming: “Buzzard at 10 o’clock” – and his frequent, claimed sightings of a kingfisher on the River Mole were never verified by those of us too slow to see it.

One of my last memories of Dad was standing, at dusk, on the Somerset Levels, watching the aerial displays of millions of starling, before they plummeted to roost. He clearly enjoyed the spectacle.

Not all nature met with Dad’s approval. He frequently barked at dog owners and would walk the pathways of Leatherhead, stick flailing dangerously at any branch or bramble with the audacity to overhang the path.

Enthusiasm and sense of humour - never more evident than when watching the racing on TV, Dad’s running commentary and shouts of encouragement were loudly delivered. Some of you will recall that, 20 years ago, proceedings at John and Jill’s wedding reception were interrupted for the duration of the Grand National. It’s as well, perhaps that the Derby was run a couple of weeks ago!

Dad was a happy man, never more so when than laughing out loud to Captain Pugwash or Basil Brush on TV. He never took himself too seriously. Even those who didn’t know him well, will always remember Dad as “that cheerful chap in the shorts, always smiling, always friendly”.

Bruce: Well, if anybody ever wondered just how popular Dad really was, they would only have to stand where I am and look out over all these faces. Then they’d see how loved and respected he was, not just by his family, but by his many friends as well.

I was very touched to receive your recent letter, Diane, in which you spoke of Dad’s spirit, his generosity, his love and his kindness, together with all the support he gave to so many of us over the years and I thought that’s what we will all remember him for, and exactly what I was planning to say about him today.

So I had to think of some more of Dad’s attributes to talk about, a task which wasn’t too difficult at all.

Glen Lyon, 1968

I’ll remember Dad for his love of life, his sense of adventure and for his humour. Also, for his unswerving loyalty, not just to his family, friends and comrades, but to Queen and Country as well.

Dad’s total honesty in everything he said and did has always been an example to me, together with his strong sense of fair play. He was quick to decide what he felt was right and wrong and was never slow to express his opinion - at times quite vociferously!

Dad enjoyed the wonders of nature, the sun, the sea, and of course, the garden. He also enjoyed his frequent walks and loved his daily swims in the pool - once he had put aside some initial misgivings over its construction. Well, it’s OK Dad - fortunately for Jill, the house is still standing and, to my knowledge, hasn’t even begun to subside!

I’ll never forget watching Dad pushing my children along on my very old, (but well maintained) first tricycle - his gentle coaxing, encouragement and praise helping them overcome any fears they may have had. This is just one of countless memories of Dad’s softer side, a side he never tried to hide from those close to him.

And while I’m on ... I’d just like to say thank you Dad - for all the good advice, help and guidance you so readily gave to me throughout my life.

Although Dad had all the time in the world for those he loved and would help anybody, I think it would be safe to say that he might not be remembered first and foremost for his patience.

I will never forget him with his old adversary - the ancient Pifco lawnmower. As it clanked ominously round the corner of the house, the neighbours’ children would be hurriedly shooed inside by their mother, before battle commenced. As a young child, I thought the smoke from the spluttering mower was actually steam coming out of Dad’s ears!

Once the old Pifco had finally fired up, however, the lawnmower rage subsided as soon as it had begun - and the children would re-emerge, once again safe to play in their garden.

Well, it must be said that Dad mellowed somewhat in his later years - but that is not to say that he didn’t still have his moments, especially on the many occasions his reading glasses, keys or wallet took it upon themselves to hide from him.

Some time after Mum passed away, I was sharing a wee dram or two with Dad, (as we occasionally did), when we began talking about the future. He told me that he would never remarry and I remember wondering then if he would ever be truly happy again. I am so pleased that this was one of the few life decisions he ever went back on.

A few years later, he met Jill, and fell in love again. Thankfully, they were blessed with more than twenty years of happiness together - I only wish it could have been more.

Of course, along with Jill came a whole new family and I’m sure they will agree that he took them all on board and loved them as his own.

When Dad was about seventy, we went skiing at Thollon, something he and Jill hugely enjoyed every year, as I did whenever I had the opportunity to join them. What was unusual about this holiday, was that he’d had a cancer operation two months before and had a Hickman line inserted to keep his chemo levels topped up.

Bruce and John - Thollon-les-Mémises

I remember late one afternoon, after a particularly hard day on the slopes, Dad reluctantly had to admit to being “a bit out of puff!”

To this day, I find that truly inspirational.

As I reminisced with my boys after telling them that “Granddad John” had passed away, Dean said "He was awesome" and Liam said "He was a legend."

John with Liam and Dean

Well, there’s not a lot I can add to that really, except to say - thank you Dad for being there for me throughout my life - through all the good times and the bad.

Thank you for your unconditional love and all the selfless support you gave to me and to so many others whose lives you touched.

Well, it looks like you’re the head of the herd now John, Good Luck!

I have a feeling that Commander John Goodchild O.B.E. is going to be a hard act to follow!

Cheers Dad - I will love you always - and miss you so very much.

The Kingfisher
by William Henry Davies
read by Tom (John's grandson)

The End
by Mark Strand

read by Josh, Leo & Nat (Jill's grandsons)

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
sung by the Choir

John: 14
Canon David Eaton

Nicola & Sarah (Jill's daughters)

Nicola: John, as some of you will be aware, was perhaps not always a man known for his patience – to the extent that Mum, on moving to Orchardleigh, felt compelled to warn the neighbours of the potentially fruity language that might ensue whenever he got the lawn mower out.

The Tying Of Shoelaces

And the riding of bikes

And yet it was John who taught our three boys how to tie their shoe-laces, and to ride their bikes, displaying enormous amounts of patience. The boys also remember happy times learning to ski in Thollon with John setting up makeshift slaloms for them to practise down - which an independent 3-year-old Leo studiously ignored - and uncomplainingly carrying around a baby Nat in a backpack for hours on end.

Nat and John near Thollon, March 1996

Remarkably John skied until he was 77, even when hooked up to a chemotherapy pump, making full use of the free ski pass that came his way at that advanced age.

John could turn his hand to any kind of making do and mending, fashioning ingenious solutions for all kinds of broken objects. The downside perhaps was his tendency to be reluctant to throw anything away ever, from broken hoovers, to string, to pieces of wood, to the plastic sleeves that catalogues come wrapped in.

Although Mum sometimes despaired at how full both garages were, John had order – he mostly knew where things were and had them neatly labelled, from batteries wrapped in a note stating Part Used to two boxes of wood, one labelled Sticks and the other Buck Up Sticks. When Oliver enquired what this meant, John explained they were the sticks he used to buck up the fire when it wouldn’t catch.

I am glad he and Mum had 20 happy years together. He provided support services, as he termed it - shopping, washing, ironing, making beds, clearing away the evening meals - which allowed Mum the freedom to concentrate on her artistic talents, of which he was rightly proud. I think they knew how to rub along together pretty well – they each loved and respected the other, and made each other happy. They enjoyed a good dance, and I’m sure onlookers would have been surprised to know John’s real age.

I think I can speak for us all when I say we’ve gained huge comfort from all the cards, letters, phone calls and visits we’ve received. John will be much missed, not least by his Church Walk ladies, for whom he always had a cheery hello. One said she enjoyed his smile, his tan, his shorts. Many spoke of his enthusiastic approach to life, and his willingness to help others. I think he was a very modest man and would have been surprised at the number of people who held him in such high esteem.

John, the last days have been hard. I will like to think of you when I saw you in the hospital, calm, uncomplaining, ever so slightly frustrated at being confined indoors in beautiful weather and deprived of your evening swim, writing long letters, and impressing on the doctor that you were feeling perfectly fine, and needed to be home to watch the Derby.

You were an officer and a gentleman. Oliver, Josh, Leo, Nat and I will miss you very much.

John - shorts and snow - Zermatt

Sarah: I didn’t always listen to your advice, but I will think of it now.

I’ll ask you to help me when I am being indecisive and I know you will. You were a solid, loving person who loved me and loved Noah. You would throw tennis balls endlessly for Noah and keep him entertained, and whenever I left him with you and Mum, on my return you would always say to Noah ‘All right now?’ which made me smile. I will miss that.

You were always happy for Mum to come and see me at the many times I have needed her and would phone to chat. You didn’t always know what to do if I was depressed, but you never judged me and you were always there.

I would like to thank you for all the things that you did for me, and they are countless. You would tidy my garden (which was often quite a job), mend my car, you came with me to buy one car, you put furniture together, you took furniture apart, you dug out unwanted bushes and trees, you supplied me with red wine to take home whenever I came over, you sent me Times vouchers when you were going on holiday, and even looked after Oscar for a week when Mum and I went to St Petersburg – even though at one time you weren’t that keen on dogs. But above all that you listened to me and asked about my friends, whose names you always remembered.

Twenty years ago we thought that things weren’t going to work out, but then I got a call from Mum saying that you were both in Brighton Lanes choosing an engagement ring. I was so pleased for her. And I have been so happy that you were so happy during your long time together. It’s so lovely to know how many people you touched, and that they will now be such a support to Mum.

You could talk to anyone about anything, which I think is a wonderful gift, and you used it freely. Many here will have been familiar with your language at inanimate objects, and occasional other outbursts. I struggled with this at first, and sometimes I shouted back, but I grew to know it as just one part of someone with a very loving heart.

I will miss your messy desk, your manky slippers, your songs, your solidness, your love of shortbread and of life, and your 10p bets at the bookies.

I have found myself talking to you often over the past days and asking you for strength. And I believe that you have given it to me. And when I have been feeling low I have pictured you getting on with life, and I have thought, well yes, that’s the right thing to do, and I can hear you saying ‘good girl’.

I hope that I get married one day, and find the affection, love and happiness that you and Mum found. But whatever happens, I know that you will be there, smiling, and cheering me on.

John 'at the top', near Thollon

Canon David Eaton

We have heard fine tributes to John and we are all here today because we held him in high esteem and many of us with real affection and love. The tributes we have heard have painted a personal picture of the John from within his family and of all that he meant to them.

The more I have been able to look into John's life in preparing for this service the more it has become clear to me what a remarkable man he was with a wide range of talents and abilities. For those of us who knew John only after he moved to Leatherhead there was a lot of the picture that we were largely in the dark about: his early life and in particular John's professional life in the Royal Navy. With the help of notes from John's sons John and Bruce I would like to try and fill in some of the detail.

John grew up in Wendover in Buckinghamshire where he spent a very happy childhood about which he has recently been writing a memoir. This is where the bike riding started as the obvious means of transport of choice when out and about. He was never more content than when cycling the byways, fishing rod at the ready.

John with his parents, Wendover

This was the early 1930s John having been born in 1927. As well as knowing how to cast a line John could also cut the mustard in the classroom. He won a place at Aylesbury Grammar School where he was good at science and sport. At 15 he decided to follow his brother Peter into the Navy as an artificer apprentice. He excelled in this role and was one of very few apprentices selected for officer cadetship.

Peter and John Goodchild

It was 1945 and Dartmouth was still out of action, as it had been through out the war, and so John's officer training took place at Manadon College in Plymouth. It tells you something about the naval culture of the day to know that John had to undertake speaking tuition because he naturally spoke with a Buckinghamshire accent (something like Pam Ayers - although she's from next door Berkshire) and replace it with clipped naval mannerisms (something like the received pronunciation heard on the BBC). Thankfully regional accents are now valued in a way they weren't then.

Manadon College, Plymouth, 1945: Sub Lt J Goodchild, front row, second left

John was a distinguished naval officer. It was an exciting time to be starting out on a career in ships. An early tour took him to Hiroshima in 1946 and then longer postings in Singapore, Malta and Scotland. He was an engineer and technician. He volunteered to be a submariner but instead was transferred to aero-engineering. This was to prove fortuitous for John because the submarine training vessel was subsequently lost with all hands. His career also involved marine-engineering. He did two stints as Development Officer for the Buccaneer low-level bomber which in John's estimation was one of the finest aircraft ever built.

Jungle Engine Bay - No Smoking - Malayan Emergency 1956

Being a country boy from Buckinghamshire served him well in Singapore where he was called on to retrieve crashed helicopters from the jungle during the Malay emergency of 1956. This could happen at all hours of the day and night. John said he was glad he was a country rat because when darkness descended quickly, as it does near the equator, town rats were still struggling to get out of their hammocks when John was already on the road.

John (2nd left) - Malayan Emergency 1956

Malta was interesting not least because C-in-C Mediterranean Admiral Mountbatten took up the then new sport of water skiing and John was appointed technical advisor - to make sure the towing boat engine didn't conk out: first rule of naval life – keep in with your Admiral.

John was promoted to Commander in 1964 and spent his later career in aircraft and helicopter engineering. In the early 1970s he was especially concerned with de-icing on helicopters. This work was a significant factor in his being awarded the OBE in 1976

John, Pat, and the OBE, Buckingham Palace

John and Bruce recall that their father was always active in the social and sporting life of the Navy. John greatly enjoyed his role as mentor to officer cadets which meant a chance to do some mountaineering whilst serving in Scotland. He was always popular amongst his peers and considered a worthy role model by young officers. He was held in great respect by all ranks in the Navy for his honesty, integrity and total lack of pomposity.

John, centre, with his Officer Cadets

His final years in the navy were spent at the MOD as Technical Assistant to the Director General of Naval Aircraft. In a typically selfless way he turned down for family reasons the opportunity to become Assistant Naval Attaché to the United States which carried with it the rank of Captain.

Although he left the Navy in 1980 he continued with the MOD in naval procurement until retiring in 1990 when he said he was now going to do all those other things which are important in life.

John married Pat in 1952 and they enjoyed many years of happy family life together with John and Bruce. Sadly Pat died prematurely in 1983 following a long illness and John continued to live at Tadworth.

Twenty years ago John married Jill in this church a ceremony at which I was delighted to be able to officiate. These have also been very happy years firstly at Battleborough and then in Orchardleigh. John very quickly settled down into all things Leatherhead becoming treasurer to the Residents Association and a valued member of this church community.

John and Jill, 1990

If you have ever wondered why the brass in this church shines so brightly it is because John polished it with Naval diligence and enthusiasm. I quite often came across him in the vestry with cleaning materials carefully laid out and dusters travelling at a rate of knots, not of course miles per hour.

There was also of course the bike, possibly the same one he set off on to go fishing as a boy, and certainly the same bare legs and knees, also travelling at a rate of knots, in good weather and foul. He became known as “that chap in shorts with the skinny legs” who was always ready with a greeting and a chat even if they didn't know his name, nor he theirs.

John's naval training and bent for engineering meant that practical help of any kind was his forte. You could always count on John if you couldn't start it, open it or find it.

He and I shared a common aspiration to take Ladbrokes to the cleaners through our superior knowledge of horse racing. Mine was mostly gleaned from one of the wayfarers who used to call at The Vicarage called George, but to his friends Sporting Life, because he used to sell that mine of vital information at Epsom races. John for his part had an instinctive nose for a good horse. Anyway I am glad to say that both John and I were able exercise sensible moderation and as far as I know Ladbrokes are still in business. John did it, as we have heard, by turning Jill into a bookie.

What I especially liked about John was that he was more than unassuming and in many ways not what you expect from a retired naval officer. He had zest for life and getting on with it. He was generous and good fun to be with. His motto was: work hard, play hard and be there in the morning.

He didn't stand on his dignity and was always ready to help and support. He wonderfully supported Pat during her illness, and Jill in a way that enabled her to develop her calligraphy and painting to a very high standard. His family were always important to him: a devoted husband and father and a much loved and generous grandfather to Tom, Anna, Emily, Liam and Dean; and as we have heard much loved by Nicola and Sarah and Jill's grandchildren Joshua, Leo and Nathaniel.

Trying to put life together isn't always easy. It is often a balancing act which allows for personal fulfilment and yet at the same time honours and cares for those you know the best and love the most. John was very human. He struck that balance naturally without fuss or false modesty. He did so most notably in the family life he created with both Pat and Jill. It is just what Jesus was after when he commended loving your neighbour as yourself; proper self regard and proper regard for other people; both/and not either/or.

He also had that right sense of duty and service which military life and public life at their best have always commended. It is a far cry from the excesses of celebrity culture or naked ambition or bonuses unlimited that sometimes hold sway today. In this he set a very fine example. He wasn't ashamed to wear his heart on his sleeve and met others with openness and welcome.

What we see in John is a completeness and wholeness of life. He took life for what it is and he lived it to the full from its beginning to its ending. He made all that he could of his talents, he enjoyed the days as they passed – not much shilly-shallying or cursing his luck - a lot more seize the day and propose a toast. Jesus who turned water into wine put it like this: I am the way, the truth and the life. I give you this gift called life. It is for your making, to make your life from what you see in mine, because that is where being truly human lies.

Our sadness is that this cannot continue. When someone we care about dies there is of course great sadness of heart. How could it be otherwise? But we do not continue without them. We hold them in happy remembrance. They are for our cherishing.

So we travel on, arm in arm, still confident that one day there will be a reunion, a party, a celebration with each other, and the one whose idea it all was in the first place.

And when there is, John will be in the thick of it, in another dimension we do not yet see.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

St Lucia, 1990


And did those feet in ancient time




Thank you for coming today. We would be very pleased if you would
join us for refreshments in the Parish Hall after the service.
Donations in John's memory may be made to the
Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign as you leave or
c/o Hawkins & Sons Ltd., Highlands Road, Leatherhead KT22 8ND.

unless otherwise stated, images via Jill Goodchild
page last updated 14 Aug 2010: if you have
further remembrance to add, please contact Frank Haslam, the editor of these pages.

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