Recounting one of the most daring and ingenious air raids of WWII, ninety-four year old Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) George â€˜Johnnyâ€™ Johnson RAF DFM, gave Calneâ€™s air cadets an eye witness account of the Dambusterâ€™s mission as the bomb aimer on the Lancaster bomber ED 825 which took part in the raid that took off from RAF Scampton on
16 May 1943.
You could have heard a pin drop as transfixed the cadets listened to â€˜Johnnyâ€™sâ€™ story from being selected to join 617 Squadron to meeting the Queen to receive his Distinguished Flying Medal after the raid.
Lancaster ED 825 was one of six Lancaster bombers tasked with breaching the Sorpe Dam, with nine others who would attack the Mohne and Eder Dams. The Sorpe dam was an easier target in terms of no defences, but it was to be a much harder target to hit due to the terrain and the damâ€™s construction which meant they would have to use a different technique they had not practiced. The bomb would not bounce; it had to be dropped dead centre of the top of the dam.
Thundering low over a church steeple they dived at 180 mph to level off thirty feet over the top of the dam to release the bomb less than 350 yards from the point from which they levelled off. It took ten attempts before â€˜Johnnyâ€™ called â€œBomb goneâ€ much to the relief of the tail gunner. The 6,600 pounds of explosive in the bouncing bomb detonated right on target, throwing up a fountain of water 1,000 feet high with some of the spray entering the rear gunners turret.
The dam was only slightly damaged as ED 825 was the only Lancaster to make it to the target and Barnes Wallace had predicted that due to the damâ€™s construction, it would require five or six bombs to breech it.
Cadet Sergeant Cuggy said â€œI really enjoyed the visit of Sqn Ldr â€˜Johnnyâ€™ Johnson tonight. The way that he told his story was not only interesting and very humbling but was also very inspiringâ€.
He was asked how he felt when he met the Queen to receive his medal. He said that he was very nervous, but the Queen smiled and put him at ease.
Before he left the squadron he gave the cadets some valuable advice. He said â€œYou should make the most of the opportunities you have, and to do a good job that you feel happy doing in lifeâ€.
Commanding Officer Sqn Ldr Webster said â€œIt was very humbling to be in the presence of a genuine hero, who held the attention of cadets, staff and visitors alike throughout the presentation. It is an experience none who were there will forget, an evening with Johnny Johnson the last Dambusterâ€.