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Balsall Common pensioner recalls the day German zeppelins dropped bombs on Britain in WW1

Balsall Common pensioner is one of the few people who can still remember the First World War - but his favourite memories are those of his wife Peggy.

Joe Goodrem was a schoolboy in London when zeppelins dropped bombs on the capital
Joe Goodrem was a schoolboy in London when zeppelins dropped bombs on the capital

A great, great grandfather, one of the few to remember the German Zeppelins over London in the First World War, is celebrating his 103rd birthday.

Joseph Goodrem, from Balsall Common, later went on to fight the Nazis as part of the Lambeth Brigade in the Second World War.

“I’ve seen some wonderful things, some terrible things too,” he said.

“I lived through the shelling of London. I remember King George’s Jubilee, I’ve been to Australia, Singapore, Madeira. My wife loved to travel.

“I don’t think there’s anything else I want to do, I’ve done everything I want to.”

During WWI, Joe clearly remembers seeing the famous propaganda poster of Kitchener pointing and demanding, ‘Your country needs you’. “It was stuck up all over the place,” recalled the former ‘proper Cockney’, originally from East London. Joe, who would go on to fight in Libya, Greece and Italy in the Second World War, also remembered when a Zeppelin dropped a bomb on a nearby school.

“It fell in the playground. All the windows got smashed in the classroom,” he said. “It frightened everybody. I was at school a mile away. We all gathered in the hall and had to wait for our parents to come and collect us because nobody knew exactly what was happening and what damage it had done.”

The father-of-seven has lived through some of the biggest events of the last century but it was meeting his wife Peggy which was his happiest memory of all.


“I worked in an office and there was a desk which had been empty for as long as I can remember,” he said.

“I came back one day and saw a young lady sitting there combing her hair. I thought, ‘that’s the one I want’.

“It was love at first sight on both sides.”
Peggy was actually engaged at the time but Joe had set his heart on her. He said: “I was a determined so and so, you know.”

The couple were married on December 18, 1943, and had one son and six daughters, 18 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren.

Sadly Peggy, a well-known retired postwoman, died in 2007 aged 87. It was the couple’s 64th year of marriage.

“The day she said ‘I will’ was the happiest of my life; the saddest was when she passed away,” he added.

Joe celebrated his 103rd birthday on Monday with a trip to London.



Cathrina Hulse
Multimedia Journalist
Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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