British Dambuster hero Johnny is back in a Lancaster for emotional flight

George 'Johnny' Johnson climbs the steps up to the aircraft.
George 'Johnny' Johnson climbs the steps up to the aircraft.

According to the privileged few who witnessed it, there was a tear in the eye of a very special passenger when he disembarked the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster bomber last Thursday.

Perhaps that tear was no surprise.

George 'Johnny' Johnson at the recent unveiling of a Woodhall Spa memorial to the 617 and 619 Squadrons. Picture: David Dawson. EMN-180514-112559001

George 'Johnny' Johnson at the recent unveiling of a Woodhall Spa memorial to the 617 and 619 Squadrons. Picture: David Dawson. EMN-180514-112559001

Almost 75 years ago to the day, George ‘Johnny’ Johnson had carefully stepped from another Lancaster.

He was involved in one of the most daring missions of the Second World War.

Operation Chastise saw aircrew from 617 Squadron utilise Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bombs to destroy German dams.

The legend that is the Dambusters was born.

Seventy five years after he climbed into a Lancaster bomber to take part in the famous Dambusters raid, George 'Johnny' Johnson was back among friends last week.

Seventy five years after he climbed into a Lancaster bomber to take part in the famous Dambusters raid, George 'Johnny' Johnson was back among friends last week.

Mr Johnson was lucky. Of the 133 crew who set out from Lincolnshire, 53 never returned.

For many years, Johnny - born in Hameringham near Horncastle - rarely spoke about the mission.

He did everything he could to raise awareness and support for the many RAF personnel who gave their lives in the conflict.

Today, Johnny is the last surviving British Dambuster.

He might live in Bristol but Mr Johnson admits his ‘special place’ will always be the Horncastle and Woodhall Spa area.

Horncastle was where he was born and Woodhall is where the memorials are to the 617 squadron - ‘the dambusters’

Johnny was back in the area recently to attend a service and unveiling of a new memorial to the 617 and 619 Squadrons at Woodhall Spa airfield.

However, he was much in demand and also dug the first soil for or a full-size steel sculpture of a Lancaster bomber on the county border

Whether he likes it or not, he was near celebrity status and a longer overdue MBE.

Last week, at the age of 96, he flew on a Lancaster again to mark the raid’s 75th anniversary.

He occupied the bomb aimer’s position - the very same position he had in 1943.

He flew over the dams of the Derwent Valley - just as he did 75 years ago while training for the raid.

For some, the sight of Lancaster over the Derwent Valley was 24 hours too late.

The previous day, the plane was grounded because of strong winds.

Confusion over plans for an RAF Coningsby Typhoon to act as a ‘stand in’ attracted comments the BBMF could have done without.

Surely, a chance to remember those brave souls was paramount.

Squadron Leader Andrew Millikin, Officer Commanding BBMF, said: “We are thrilled we are able to finally mark this amazing anniversary in such a poignant way.

“It was always our intent to pay tribute to Johnny as the last British Dambuster by carrying out this sortie on May 16 and we were 
bitterly disappointed that the weather stopped us .”

Because the flight was re-arranged at such short notice, few people witnessed the emotional trip.

Not that Johnny will have noticed.

Having had the honour of meeting him on several occasions, I know his focus will have been on that night 75 years ago...