FLIGHT LIEUTENANT BILL GOLDFINCH
Flight Lieutenant Leslie James Edward Goldfinch, known as Bill, was born in Whitstable, Kent on 19 July 1916.
He served as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers from 1935 to 1939, and with the start of WWII decided to enlist in the RAF. He flew Sunderlands during the evacuation of Greece. During one flight, as the aircraft tried to land in the dark, it hit an underwater object and sank. Goldfinch was one of four survivors from the crew of 10. Badly injured, he was taken to a military hospital. The hospital was then captured by the Germans.
Initially held at Stalag Luft III, together with Jack Best and Henry ‘Piglet’ Lamond he made a failed attempt at escaping. Lamond remained at Stalag Luft II and later assisted in building the tunnels for The Great Escape. Goldfinch and Best were sent to Colditz. While there, they led a team to design and build the ‘Colditz Cock’ - a glider that could be launched from the roof of the castle. It was nearly complete when the camp was relieved by the Allies on 16 April 1945.
After the war, Goldfinch worked as an engineer until his retirement. He built a Luton Minor in the 1970s, which he flew from Old Sarum until he was in his late 80s.
From the late 1990s until his death, Goldfinch worked for five days a week building his own version of a seaplane which had been developed for the US Navy in the 1920s. It was to have had its second taxiing trials the day after he died.