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Squadron Leader George Leonard ‘Johnny’ Johnson MBE DFM

The end of an era as the death announced of Johnny Johnson

THE last surviving Dambuster, Johnny Johnson MBE DFM, has died peacefully in his sleep at his home near Bristol, aged 101. 

The 617 Squadron airman was just 21 when he took part in one of the most daring raids in military history, Operation Chastise, on May 16, 1943, targeting the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams that resulted in the flooding of the Ruhr and Eder valleys.

The mission involved using Barnes Wallis’s innovative bouncing bomb, a device that skimmed across the water’s surface before hitting the dams’ walls – the dangers involved resulted in a total of 53 aircrew killed during the raids, eight aircraft being destroyed and three crew captured.

The passing of Squadron Leader George Leonard ‘Johnny’ Johnson will be felt by every RAF member, past and present. A genuine hero who was honoured for his wartime heroics in 2017, then aged 96, receiving an MBE for his service, to go alongside his DFM.

It was thanks to the efforts of former RAF man John Nichol and RAF Cadet ambassador Carol Vorderman, amongst others, who did their utmost to highlight the case for Johnny receiving an honour, handing a near 250,000-signature petition in at 10 Downing Street in support of the last surviving Dambuster.

He was one of the thousands of men who during the Second World War headed out on missions not knowing whether they were coming back, before doing it again and again. After the Dambusters raid, Johnny took part in a further 19 operations until April 1944 when, against his wishes, he was ordered to stand down with his wife pregnant.  

Johnny volunteered to join the RAF in 1940, and in 1942 he was posted to No. 97 Squadron at Woodhall Spa as an air gunner, before being given the opportunity to train as a bomb aimer. He was selected to form part of No. 617 Squadron at RAF Scampton, arriving in March 1943, and continued in the RAF through to 1962: he also served with Nos. 100 and 120 Squadrons, and RAF Coastal Command.

After leaving the RAF he became a teacher working in Newark in Nottinghamshire, before eventually retiring to Torquay in Devon; he later moved to Westbury-on-Trym near Bristol.     

Next year marks 617 Squadron’s 80th anniversary with plans to install a stain-glassed window at St John the Baptist Church in Scampton, close to the station where the Dambusters were formed. While there will be added sadness now at the death of the last Dambuster, it will also be the chance to celebrate the efforts of a team of dedicated airmen who carried out one of the most audacious raids in military history. 

RIP Johnny Johnson.

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