Oliver Godfrey was a motorcycle racer who was the very first winner of the Isle of Man Mountain Course TT in 1911 at the age of 23. In 1912 the Senior TT winner was Frank Applebee. The two men became partners, establishing a motorcycle retailers at 208 Great Portland Street, London, called Godfreys.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Oliver Godfrey enlisted to become a pilot. Following his training he was posted to 27 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps which had arrived in France in March 1916. The squadron was equipped exclusively with single-seater fighter scouts called the Martinsyde “Elephant” G100. The plane was nick-named the Elephant because it was big and slow to respond. The squadron was deployed on missions up and down the western front to bomb and reconnoiter.
The start of the Third Battle of the Somme on 15th September saw the squadron attack General von Bulow’s headquarters at Bourlon Chateau, followed by more bombing of trains around Cambrai, at Ephy, and Ribecourt. It was during a bombing mission to Cambrai on 23rd September that Oliver Godfrey lost his life. Godfrey was one of 252 crew and 800 planes lost during this four month campaign; the Royal Flying Corps losing some 75% of its men in battle.
Godfrey’s entire estate was bequeathed to his business partner Frank Applebee. The Godfreys store continued and in 1945 was incorporated as a limited company.
The business expanded, adding outlets in Croydon and Stamford Hill in north London. Godfreys Ltd continued trading until the 1960s.
From the 1950s onwards, Godfreys favoured handstamped overprints rather than the pre-printed ones of the King George V period.