A veteran of the Arnhem campaign, Lewis Golden, who has died aged 94, served as a signals officer at 17, and soon saw action in North Africa.
Separated from his fellow soldiers after parachuting into Sicily, he decided to embrace Judaism should he survive and not die in a foreign field.
Fortunately, he did survive the disastrous Battle of Arnhem, Field Marshal Montgomery’s ill-judged attempt to enter Germany in September, 1944. Golden, who was serving with the 1st Airborne Division, landed by glider and escaped after 10 days by swimming across the Rhine. These experiences remained with him and he stayed in touch with Airborne Signals and his fellow officers all his life.
After the war, Golden was posted to India, where he trained as an accountant, later launching his fledgling accountancy practice in London’s Queen Ann Street, a stone’s throw from its present address. His wartime experiences led him to speak out against fascism, and he became a regular figure at London’s Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and in the East End, condemning what he had dedicated his youth to fighting.
Golden described the signals’ role in the 1944 operation in Echoes from Arnhem, published in 1984. He returned to Arnhem regularly as a keen member of the Royal British Legion.
Lewis Lawrence Golden was born in Ealing, West London, the son of Julia née Lee, known colloquially as Diddy, a dynamic saleswoman and aspiring actress, and Samuel Goldenberg, a gentler figure, born in Romania and brought to England as a baby. But the couple were ill-suited and soon divorced. Until then, Judaism had not figured strongly in Golden’s life, but he encountered antisemitism at East Sheen County School for Boys, which he left at the age of 15.
In his teens he began to demonstrate the commercial instinct which would later bear fruit by attempting various business schemes, including a small printing enterprise.
Following a spell in the Home Guard in London in 1940, Golden joined the Army in 1941 as a volunteer. He was commissioned into the 8th Armoured Division, and transferred to the Airborne Division, though the initial reception he received from his commanding officer proved combative. Lieutenant Colonel “Ginger” Moberly insisted Golden was unsuitable, but the resourceful young man pleaded to stay and the two later became good friends.
One of the first Royal Signals officers to qualify as a parachutist, he served with 1st Parachute Brigade in the invasion of North Africa in November, 1942, and remained with them for the invasion of Sicily the following year.
He was in Norway on D-Day, 1945 but requested, as a Jew, not to go with the signals to Palestine and was posted instead to India as adjutant, then second-in-command, of the signals of the 2nd (Indian) Airborne Division.
Demobbed in 1946, he qualified as a chartered accountant, becoming chief accountant of Emu Wool Industries Ltd, and established Lewis Golden & Co where he practised for 40 years. His clients included Everest Double Glazing.
He married Jacqueline Frances in 1953. They had two sons, David and Jonathan, and two daughters, Deborah and Sara. Jacqueline predeceased him in 2005 after nearly 53 years of happy marriage. In 2008, he met Tishie Burr, a widow, and they established a close relationship.
Golden was a founder member of Westminster Synagogue and was described by its President, Lord Leigh, as “very much the father of the synagogue.” Lord Leigh praised his “vision, his energy, and his passion for our community.” He was also noted for his tenacious dedication to fundraising for, and helping with, the Wiener Library’s move into its new home.
Golden’s interests extended beyond Judaism to various Christian places of worship, in particular Chichester Cathedral, where his place on its advisory council led to the establishment of the Chichester Cathedral Millennium Endowment Trust. .
Golden was appointed a JP in 1968 and sat on the North Westminster bench. He also helped create a large endowment for the London Library, for which he was made OBE and later on a vice-president. Among many trusteeships he served for many years on the Wordsworth Trust in Cumbria. In 1976, the family left London for West Sussex and ran a beef and arable farm which gained the West Sussex Conservation Award in 1978.
In 2010, Golden became a founder trustee of the Friends of St Mary’s Church in Petworth. Both he and his wife were founder trustees of the Petworth Cottage Trust which established the town’s museum. Golden is survived by his sons, daughters, 10 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and his partner, Tishie.
Lewis Golden: born 6 December 1922. Died 27 October 2017