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Air Marshal Sir Robert Victor Goddard KCB, CBE usually Victor Goddard, (6 February 1897 – 21 January 1987) was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force during World War II. He is best known as a protagonist in the 1946 aviation incident immortalised in the 1955 film The Night My Number Came Up.

Early life

Goddard was born at Wembley the son of Dr Charles Goddard. After attending St George's School, Harpenden, he went to the Royal Naval Colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth. He served as a midshipman in the first year of World War I and in 1915 joined the Royal Naval Air Service. At this time he met his lifelong friend Barnes Wallis. For a period he was patrolling for submarines in dirigibles, but in 1916 commanded reconnaissance flights over the Somme battlefield.

Between the wars

In 1921 Goddard was selected to read engineering at Jesus College, Cambridge and then studied at Imperial College London before returning to Cambridge in 1925 as an instructor to the university's air squadron. After graduating from the Royal Naval Staff College in 1929, he commanded a bomber squadron in Iraq. He returned to England in 1931 as chief instructor of the officers' engineering course. He was then at the Staff College until 1935 when he became deputy director of intelligence at the Air Ministry. He held this post until the outbreak of World War II.

Second World War

In autumn 1939, Goddard went with the British Expeditionary Force to France in the autumn. He was made senior air staff officer in the following year and played a major part in preserving British air assets in the face of the German attacks. When he returned he became director of military cooperation at the Air Ministry, responsible for modernising air support and airborne forces in the RAF. He also made regular air war broadcasts on the BBC. In September 1941, shortly before the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, he was appointed as Air Commodore Chief of the Air Staff, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). As commander of the RNZAF in the South Pacific, and the only British commander in the region he was prominent in the operations against the Japanese initial advance. Under Admiral Halsey, US Navy, he commanded the RNZAF in the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands campaigns, for which he was awarded the American Navy Distinguished Service Medal. In 1943, he was put in charge of administration for the air command of the entire South East Asia Command (SEAC), where he remained until 1946 when he went to Washington as RAF representative.

Later life

Goddard retired in 1951, and became principal of the College of Aeronautics, where he remained until 1954. He was also a governor of St George's School Harpenden and of Bryanston School and was president of the Airship Association from 1975 to 1984. He encouraged Sir George Trevelyan to set up the Wrekin Trust in 1971, and it occupied much of his time in retirement. Through it he became convinced of the reality of the world of the spirit. He spent many years investigating, and lecturing on, flying saucers.

On May 3, 1969, he gave a talk on UFOs at Caxton Hall in London, in which he said:

That while it may be that some operators of UFO are normally the paraphysical denizens of a planet other than Earth, there is no logical need for this to be so. For, if the materiality of UFO is paraphysical (and consequently normally invisible), UFO could more plausibly be creations of an invisible world coincident with the space of our physical Earth planet than creations in the paraphysical realms of any other physical planet in the solar system. . . . Given that real UFO are paraphysical, capable of reflecting light like ghosts; and given also that (according to many observers) they remain visible as they change position at ultrahigh speeds from one point to another, it follows that those that remain visible in transition do not dematerialize for that swift transition, and therefore, their mass must be of a diaphanous (very diffuse) nature, and their substance relatively etheric . . . . The observed validity of this supports the paraphysical assertion and makes the likelihood of UFO being Earth-created greater than the likelihood of their creation on another planet. . . . The astral world of illusion, which (on psychical evidence) is greatly inhabited by illusion-prone spirits, is well known for its multifarious imaginative activities and exhortations. Seemingly some of its denizens are eager to exemplify principalities and powers. Others pronounce upon morality, spirituality, Deity, etc . All of these astral exponents who invoke human consciousness may be sincere, but many of their theses may be framed to propagate some special phantasm, perhaps of an earlier incarnation, or to indulge an inveterate and continuing technological urge toward materialistic progress , or simply to astonish and disturb the gullible for the devil of it.[1]

(See Interdimensional hypothesis.)


Goddard married Mildred Catherine Jane Inglis, the daughter of Alfred Inglis and his wife Ernestine (Nina) Pigou (daughter of Francis Pigou, the Dean of Bristol), in 1924. Their daughter, Jane Helen Goddard, was married to Sir Robin Chichester-Clark.

The Night My Number Came Up


The film The Night My Number Came Up (1955) was based on a strange incident in Goddard's life. In January 1946, he arrived at a party in Shanghai to overhear an officer talking of a dream in which Air Marshal Goddard was killed in a plane crash. The aircraft in the officer's dream iced over and crashed on a pebbled beach near mountains with two men and a woman on board. Goddard himself was due to fly to Tokyo that night on a Dakota and by the end of the evening he was persuaded to take two men and a woman with him. The plane iced over and was forced to make a crash landing on the Japanese island of Sado; the crash scene, a pebbled beach near mountains, resembled that described in the precognitory dream. Unlike the dream, however, because of Goddard's precautions no one was injured. Michael Redgrave who played the Air Marshal, was depicted in the film as becoming excited as the plane made its crash landing; this seriously annoyed Goddard, who had been proud of what he had seen as his unemotional behaviour.

Honours and Awards

Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath - 12 Jun 1947 (CB - 2 Jun 1943)
Commander of the Order of the British Empire - 11 Jul 1940
Mentioned in Despatches - 1 Jan 1941, 14 Jun 1945
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (United States) - 27 Oct 1944


  • The Enigma of Menace (1959)
  • Flight Towards Reality (1975)
  • Skies to Dunkirk, (1982)


  1. John Keel (1996). Operation Trojan Horse. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0962653469. . Originally published in 1970 [1].
Military offices
Preceded by
H W L Saunders
Chief of the Air Staff (RNZAF)
Succeeded by
L M Isitt

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