The Armourer

Last of the Dambusters passes away


Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson MBE DFM, of 617 Squadron, died peacefully in his sleep on 7 December 2022. It was the end of an era when the last surviving member of the Dambusters raid of WWII passed away, aged 101.

Johnny was aged 21 when he was the bomb aimer in charge of targeting the Scorpe Dam as part of Operation Chastise in 1943. The mission cost the lives of 53 RAF airmen but was successful, flooding the industrial Ruhr valley for months afterwards. Johnny was made an MBE in 2017 after a long running campaign, supported by TV celebritie­s such as Carol Vorderman.

Following the raid Johnny participat­ed in a further 19 missions during his time with No. 617 Squadron until April 1944. After his wife became pregnant he was stood down from operationa­l duties and posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Scampton, where he became a bombing instructor until the end of WWII. He then qualified as a navigator so he could receive a permanent commission, joining No. 100 Squadron before transferri­ng to RAF Coastal Command, where he served with No. 120 Squadron which operated the Avro Shackleton. He then undertook a tour of the Far East. Johnny was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 7 September 1948 and stayed in the RAF until 1962, whereupon he retired with the rank of Squadron Leader.

When celebratin­g his 100th birthday last year, he told the BBC, “I’ve had a very lucky life in every respect,” and of the raid itself, “It was an exhilarati­ng experience… I was honoured to have had the chance to take part.”

Poignantly, when he met HM The Queen, she commented that she was happy to see that the Dambusters were still with us. Now, sadly, both are gone, signalling the passing of Britain’s greatest generation into the annals of history.

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