Letchworth D-Day veteran publishes autobiography of colourful life

John Goddard pictured with his new book

John Goddard pictured with his new book - Credit: Archant

A town stalwart is to have an autobiography of his colourful life published.

John marrying his sweetheart Shelia in 1950

John marrying his sweetheart Shelia in 1950 - Credit: Archant

John Stoddard, 91, has lived in Letchworth GC since 1938 when he moved there to work as a trainee reporter on the Letchworth Citizen.

John in his uniform after being drafted into the RAF in 1940

John in his uniform after being drafted into the RAF in 1940 - Credit: Archant

The book, entitled Memories, tracks his life from his childhood in a depression hit Stockport in the 1930s, fighting on Gold Beach on the D-Day landings in June 1944 during World War II, and then setting up an internationally successful business in Letchworth GC.

He said: “It started out as a scrapbook my grandchildren wanted me to put together to show them what life was like before the war, but it just grew and grew and has finally ended up as an autobiography of sorts. It tracks my life from being born in Manchester to the present day.

“I love Letchworth because we used to spend a holiday each year here. As a boy I was always impressed. So when I got an opportunity to work on the local newspaper as a cub reporter, I jumped at it.

“After two years there I was called up to the RAF and had hoped to go to the USA like my friend, but unfortunately I suffered from altitude sickness and was assigned to stay in England.”

Speaking about his involvement in D-Day, which will mark its 70th anniversary tomorrow (Friday), he said: “We landed on Gold Beach and it was terrible. We had spent about eight hours in a boat in rough waters so everyone was being sick.

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“When we landed on the beach we went behind a Sherman tank with flails to see off the mines. There were explosions everywhere and it was terrifying.”

After the war, Mr Stoddard returned to Letchworth GC and worked on the Citizen, marrying his sweetheart Sheila at the Letchworth Free Church on North Way South in 1950.

Shortly after he left the Citizen and with the help of Sheila he set up dental product business Stoddard Manufacturing Ltd.

The company was a success and is still based in Letchworth GC, although Mr Stoddard has now taken a back seat.

He added: “I am delighted that my son Michael has taken on the responsibility of running the company. He is doing a truly wonderful job. Since computers have taken over, I am glad I am no longer involved!”

The book launch of Memories is being held at David’s Bookshop in Eastcheap in the town on Friday, June 13, from 6.30pm.