Last surviving Dambuster turns 100: George ‘Johnny’ Johnson celebrates his birthday

The last surviving member of the famous Dambusters raid celebrated its 100th anniversary today.



Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson was a bomb sight during the insanely dangerous Operation Chastise in 1943.

Mr Johnson was just 22 years old when, as part of RAF 617 Squadron, he participated in the raid, which targeted dams in the Ruhr Valley, in the industrial heartland of Germany with bouncing bombs.



The attacks released thousands of tons of water in areas critical to Germany’s war effort.

It was Mr Johnson’s job to aim for Sorpe’s barrage in the raid, and he demanded nine mock runs to ensure he hit his target.



The operation went down in history as one of the most successful air assaults of WWII.

Mr Johnson, who was born in the village of Hameringham, near Horncastle, Lincolnshire, in 1921, now lives in a care home in Bristol.



The last surviving member of the famous Dambusters raid celebrated its 100th anniversary today.  Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson was a bomber during the incredibly dangerous Operation Chastise in 1943. Above: He received an MBE from the Queen in 2017 after a long campaign backed by TV presenter Carol Vorderman

The last surviving member of the famous Dambusters raid celebrated its 100th anniversary today. Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson was a bomber during the incredibly dangerous Operation Chastise in 1943. Above: He received an MBE from the Queen in 2017 after a long campaign backed by TV presenter Carol Vorderman

Mr Johnson was only 23 when, as part of RAF 617 Squadron, he took part in the raid, which targeted dams in the Ruhr valley in the industrial heart of Germany with bombs bouncy.  Above: Mr Johnson (front left), with his Lancaster bomber crew in 1943

Mr Johnson was only 23 when, as part of RAF 617 Squadron, he took part in the raid, which targeted dams in the Ruhr valley in the industrial heart of Germany with bombs bouncy. Above: Mr Johnson (front left), with his Lancaster bomber crew in 1943

Nicky van der Drift, Managing Director of the International Bomber Command Center, Lincoln, told Lincolnshire Live: “Everyone on the IBCC team wishes Johnny the most magical birthday.

“His support over the years with interviews, dedications and sales of his book has given tremendous momentum to the project, which will never be forgotten.”

Johnson joined the RAF in June 1940, just over a year after the start of World War II.

Before taking part in the Dambusters raid, he met his wife, Gwynn, who died in 2005.

Johnson’s first mission took place in August 1942, and in November of that year he completed his training to be a bomber sight.

He toured with 97 Squadron, then transferred to 617 Squadron for the top-secret Operation Chastise, which took place on the night of May 16-17, 1943.

Relying on handpicked crews in Britain, the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, the squadron’s mission was to damage several dams in the Ruhr Valley in Germany, which provided a vital source of energy to the country’s industrial region.

The bouncing bombs themselves were developed by aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis.

The attacks released thousands of tons of water in areas critical to Germany's war effort.  It was Johnson's job to aim for Sorpe's barrage in the raid, and he demanded nine dummy runs to make sure he hit his target.  Above: The damage inflicted on the Eder dam

The attacks released thousands of tons of water in areas critical to Germany’s war effort. It was Johnson’s job to aim for Sorpe’s barrage in the raid, and he demanded nine dummy runs to make sure he hit his target. Above: The damage inflicted on the Eder dam

What made it so dangerous was that, in order to be successful, the Dambusters had to fly to a height of 60 feet, so the specially adapted mines they carried – codenamed Upkeep – would bounce off the water before they did so. hitting dam walls and sinking 30 feet.

The mines would then explode, breaking the walls of the dams and releasing millions of tons of water into the valleys below.

The Dambusters trained by flying over Derwent Reservoir and a dam in the Lake District.

On the night of May 16, 1943, 19 Lancaster bombers, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, left for Germany with the aim of destroying the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams.

The bombs they carried weighed four tons each.

Their mission was hailed as a success after two of the dams, the Eder and the Mohne, broke, releasing 300 million tonnes of water.

With the Sorpe dam, it was decided because of the way it was built that it should be aimed directly, rather than with bouncing bombs.

Mr Johnson, who was born in the village of Hameringham, near Horncastle, Lincolnshire, in 1921, now lives in a care home in Bristol

Mr Johnson, who was born in the village of Hameringham, near Horncastle, Lincolnshire, in 1921, now lives in a care home in Bristol

Johnson’s team didn’t have time to practice, but he still had to hit the dam wall. Much to the chagrin of his crew, he insisted that they fly over the dam nine times before dropping the bomb on the tenth.

The team hit the dam, but it was not broken. However, the water released by the two ruptured dams damaged 92 Nazi factories and destroyed 12 others.

A total of 133 Allied crews participated – 90 from the RAF, 29 from the Royal Canadian Air Force, 12 from the Royal Australian Air Force and two from the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

A total of 53 soldiers lost their lives and three others were taken prisoner.

The squadron’s bravery earned it 33 decorations, including the Victoria Cross for Wing Commander Gibson.

He was also credited with providing a major boost in morale, and in 1955 led to the film The Dam Busters, starring Sir Michael Redgrave.

After the mission, Johnson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal at Buckingham Palace.

He received an MBE from the Queen in 2017 after a long campaign supported by TV presenter Carol Vorderman.

Johnson remained in the RAF until 1962 and had reached the rank of Squadron Leader upon retirement.

Johnson became a schoolteacher and had three children with his wife.

The Dambusters: How bounce bombs – and the incredible flights of RAF pilots – flooded the Ruhr valley and dealt a crucial blow to the Nazi war machine

On May 16, 1943, 19 Lancaster bomber crews gathered at a remote RAF station in Lincolnshire for an extraordinary daring mission – a night raid on three heavily defended dams in the heart of Germany’s industrial heartland.

The dams were heavily fortified and needed the innovative bomb – which bounced off the water above the torpedo nets and sank before exploding.

To be successful, raiders would have to traverse occupied Europe under heavy fire, then drop their bombs with impressive precision from just 60 feet above the water.

The Mohne and Eder dams in the industrial heart of Germany were attacked and pierced by mines dropped by specially modified Lancasters from 617 Squadron.

The Sorpe dam was also attacked by two planes and damaged.

A reconnaissance photograph of the Eder Dam taken two months after the famous Dambusters raid shows a 96-foot breach in the dam

A reconnaissance photograph of the Eder Dam taken two months after the famous Dambusters raid shows a 96-foot breach in the dam

A fourth roadblock, the Ennepe was reported to be attacked by a single plane (O-Orange), but without damage.

It is estimated that up to 1,600 people were killed by the flood waters and eight of the 19 sent planes did not return with the loss of 53 crews and 3 prisoners of war.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, commander of 617 Squadron, received the VC for his role in directing the attack.

The raid, orchestrated by Guy Gibson and RAF 617 Dambuster Squadron, was considered a major victory for the British, and Wing Commander Gibson is recognized as one of the war’s most revered heroes.

Their success was immortalized in the classic 1955 film The Dambusters, its thrilling theme and gung-ho storyline evoking the best of British derring-do.

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