A World War Two hero who lived in Watford for more than 70 years died on his 100th birthday, hours after a party was held in his honour.

Francis Goode, a veteran of the Normandy campaign and disastrous Allied operation at Arnhem, later taught at Watford Technical College and led a research department at Sun Printers.

A lieutenant with the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment, a measure of his contribution during World War Two and after could be seen by two medals he was awarded.

One was in recognition of selling poppies for 30 years, although Francis was involved in this for much longer.

Another hung from a red ribbon. This was the Legion of Honour, France’s most prestigious decoration, which was presented to Francis for his part in helping to liberate the country.

Watford Observer: A smiling Francis with his medalsA smiling Francis with his medals (Image: Family collection)

Francis Norman Goode was born on May 13, 1924, to Henry and Rosetta Goode in York, the youngest of three brothers.

His early years were in the shadow of the Great Depression. He remembered seeing First World War veterans begging in the street and his father being short of work which instilled in him a lifelong belief to live ‘well below your means’. He also had lovely memories of sitting on his mother’s lap as they flew in a Bristol Bull Fighter at an airshow and seeing the blimp R101.

He went to Saint Olave's School for Girls before going to Oundle. Here, he excelled at physics and set up his own ‘bank’ so students could deposit with him and draw credit for the tuck shop.

War was on the horizon and Francis expected it, using his air rifle to improve his aim. He was 15 when war broke out and it didn’t take long for him to see the first signs of it, remembering Corby ablaze from a bombing raid.

He spent the next three years preparing to play his part, first, volunteering to help farmers in the school holidays and joining the Home Guard.

Watford Observer: Family and friends raise a glass in Francis' honour at his 100th birthday partyFamily and friends raise a glass in Francis' honour at his 100th birthday party (Image: Family collection)

Originally, there was thought of him joining the Royal Navy, he also went up in a Wellington and Halifax bombers to get a taste of the RAF, but he was set on guns and enlisted into the Royal Artillery.

Years of training followed, including Officer Cadet training at Edinburgh University and time at Larkhill working on 25 pounders. This was very formative for Francis, learning to have authority and a military demeanour.

Watford Observer: Francis Goode was a lieutenant in the 4th (Durham) Survey RegimentFrancis Goode was a lieutenant in the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment (Image: Family collection)

Planners were working out what kind of war the coming struggle would be. Survey - the use of scientific methods to relate maps to the ground itself and allow guns to fire accurately, as well as identify enemy artillery - proved very effective in the North African campaign and grew as a result.

Francis began to specialise in Survey and eventually joined the 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment as part of the army preparing for the invasion of Nazi Europe.

Francis landed on the Normandy beaches around D+14, driving his waterproofed jeep up the beach and quickly finding the extent of the beachhead, getting close to being captured.

“The instructions I had to rejoin my troop were not very clear,” he recalled during an interview with the Watford Observer in 2022. “I found myself on the road in the open and I saw someone down in a ditch, so I asked him where we were. ‘Jerries, a couple of hundred yards on,’ he replied. I had to turn around promptly.”

4th Durham Regiment was part of 30 Corps and Francis’ war followed their ‘Club Route’ axis of advance, through France, Holland and into Germany, including the failed Arnhem action – Operation Market Garden.

Francis looks back on this time as his most important job. The youngest of his section, he needed to navigate minefields, climb up water towers - with no obvious way back down - and get close to the enemy guns.

Rarely did a day go by without him thinking of Stanley Graham, his sergeant, who died shortly before the end of the war by driving over a mine which Francis had just avoided by chance.

“I veered off to speak to the brigadier and the sergeant carried on and about 100 yards further forward he hit a mine,” Francis recalled during his 2022 interview. “The sergeant’s leg was blown off above the knee, the person next to him, Edge, had his legs broken but the other chap who was standing in the rear of the jeep wasn’t physically injured. He got out and walked back but didn’t know a thing about it because he was concussed.

“The sergeant also had half of his face hanging out. He died that day, which was the day before his 27th birthday. It was so sad. He had been in the war since the beginning and had been all the way through the Middle East.”

Watford Observer: A young Francis at his deskA young Francis at his desk (Image: Family collection)

After the war Francis was obliged to stay in the army until 1947, due to the phased demobbing. He was based in Hanover, involved in sorting displaced persons and POWs - where he saved lives by helping some Russians escape deportation - and regimental work.

From there he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, reading Physics, before joining Elliot Brothers, a pioneering computer company in Borehamwood, and took part in the 1951 Festival of Britain. He then moved to Sun Printers, leading the research laboratory as part of the R&D capability.

In 1957 he married Oonagh Mullaly and they started married life living in a caravan, the letterbox being above her head, the post landing on her face!

They moved first to Croxley Green, having William (1958) and Sarah (1960) before moving to Watford and having Robert (1963) and Letitia (1968).

After being made redundant, Francis started teaching at Watford Technical College, before retiring fully only well into his 70s.

He had a lifelong love of poetry, Betjeman in particular, and ran a Shakespeare group for a number of years.

He was active in Neighbourhood Watch for more than 30 years and sold poppies for the British Legion for much longer.

Francis died on his 100th birthday on Monday, a few hours after his party finished, surrounded by his family.