Ahead of the 75th anniversary of VE Day this month, we wanted to find out more about the Goatham family history and about Arthur and Phyllis Goatham who founded Goatham’s in 1947, especially how they spent their wartime years. Their son Clive Goatham recalls some of the memories they shared with him and how their wartime experiences helped define them and the business that is here today.
“My parent’s generation just got on with things after the war so they didn’t share many stories with me that I can recall and of course the war was long over once I was old enough to really think about it. I know Dad was a Sergeant in the Home Guard and they had to use wooden stakes as rifles in the early days as there were no guns available – much like the TV show Dad’s Army. My Mother was a Land Army girl throughout the war, which was incredibly hard and important work.
My parents both worked together on the same farm in Gillingham throughout the war, fruit and veg being what was produced there but predominantly fruit. This was before they married so I’m guessing it is how they met.
I remember them saying it became a way of life, almost to a point of it became normal and they got used to bombs dropping from German planes as they passed overhead day and night, largely on their way to bomb London.
The planes ditched their bombs because either our aircraft had damaged them and they wanted to try and get home, or ground based anti-aircraft guns were shooting at the Germans and they simply ditched their bombs and turned around to go home. These anti-aircraft guns were stationed all over farms across Kent I believe. It must have been quite terrifying when you think about it.
Also, the “doodle bug” bombs without pilots, that the engines simply cut out on and they dropped and exploded anywhere the engine stopped. All of this was going on night and day. During the daytime, they were working in the fields or orchards with all this going on all around and above them, but work just carried on and they simply hoped nothing would drop and explode near them. They would have been very exposed – no bomb shelter to run to.
I know they were both incredibly proud as they truly felt they were helping the war effort by doing their bit to help feed the nation.
The Women’s Land Army took over all farming responsibilities that had previously been predominantly undertaken by men. My Mum had never driven a tractor for example, but quickly had to become proficient in doing a lot of tractor work on the farm.
They carried out a huge amount of very hard manual work that many men today would refuse to even consider doing. They worked, along with many others from dawn to dusk, with the threat of death literally flying overhead to help feed the nation.
There was great camaraderie amongst them all and they worked tirelessly, motivated by one united thought, they all wanted to do their bit to help win the war.
My Mum and Dad continued working on the farm after the war and I think by then they were in love and “courting” quite seriously. This all continued until they decided to leave their employment and start their own business in 1947, as agricultural contractors and buyers of orchards of fruit nearly ready for harvest from other farmers.
In the winter Mum used to drive their one Standard Fordson tractor with a huge winch on the back, grubbing out orchards for growers and clearing and burning the trees.
This was all done by hand with axes and crosscut saws, incredibly hard work in all weathers that I for one doubt I would have been capable of or had the stamina to undertake, but that was how it was done then!
They then married in 1948 and the rest, as they say, is now history. The war brought them together, built their characters and gave them the inspiration and ability to start their own business. I always have been and always will be incredibly proud of both of them for all the achieved throughout their lives. An amazing couple, created largely by the war.”