Dambuster - George 'Johnny' Johnson

Posted on Thursday 9th May 2013


George ‘Johnny’ Johnson was born in 1921 in the small village of Hameringham, just to the south east of Horncastle in Lincolnshire. Within a few miles of his birthplace are locations with names that have been immortalised by the daring deeds undertaken by Bomber Command in the Second World War. Many of these were to become important to Johnny during his wartime career. Just to the west is Woodhall Spa where Johnny would spend his first tour with 97 Squadron and, later on, most of his time with 617 Squadron. To the south-east are the ranges at Wainfleet where countless hours would be spent practising his chosen RAF trade of bomb-aimer. And a few miles to the north- west is Scampton, legendary home of the Dambusters, from where Johnny, as one of them, would set out on perhaps his finest hour in May 1943.
Johnny’s introduction to operational flying was as a gunner for one of 97 Squadron’s most senior pilots, Squadron Leader Coton, already a veteran of two attacks on the mighty German battleship, Tirpitz. With Coton as pilot Johnny flew his first operation to Gdynia [now Gdansk], the Polish seaport which had been used as a naval base by the German Navy since 1940. The target was the incomplete aircraft carrier, Graf Zeppelin, but no hits were recorded. Johnny’s operation lasted less than three hours as the aircraft returned with a fuel leak.
By and large the squadron had just been re-equipped with Lancs and they were looking for a seventh member of the crew, the bomb-aimer, and they were training them locally and so I thought, well I’ll have a go at this, particularly since it made a difference of between seven and sixpence and twelve and sixpence a day, so it was worth going for. I had a go and did the course and came back to the squadron as a spare bomb-aimer and flew with crews that hadn’t got a bomb-aimer until I joined an all-NCO crew for them to finish off their first tour. [Johnny was flying with Sergeant Colin Smith and his crew.] When Colin Smith’s crew finished their tour I was told I was going to join one Flight Lieutenant McCarthy’s crew who was an American.
I thought ‘Oh my God’, because my views of Americans at that stage were not very good. And yet from the first time we met we just seemed to gel. He introduced me to the rest of the crew and we seemed to get on like ahouse on fire from then onwards. And it went on throughout our time on 97 and into 617. We were getting towards the end of ‘forty-two and were still mainly on Ruhr attacks, known as the ‘Happy Valley’ in those days. It was a question of going into briefing each day and the same target would come up: the Ruhr Valley, Essen, Dusseldorf, Dortmund, wherever, and it was always the same sight, ‘Oh Christ not again.’ But we went on these and various other trips: Munich, we did a couple of daylights, or semi-daylights, to Italy and then landed in North Africa and bombed Italy on the way back again.
In fact Johnny went on nineteen operations with Joe McCarthy at 97 Squadron through one of the most costly winters that Bomber Command experienced during the war. Their list of operations was one of the most dangerous imaginable, with three trips to Berlin, two to Munich, two to Cologne as well as Essen, Duisburg, Nuremburg and Hamburg. Through it all the crew managed to find a way to work together.
It was primarily the pilot. We had such confidence in Joe as a crew that it welded the crew together. We all gave him the best we could, we did our jobs as best we could, the gunners were good, the flight engineer was good.
Joe McCarthy’s crew was not the only one to arrive at 617 Squadron from 97. In fact, three crews with distinguished records at 97 Squadron were in the original group that arrived at Scampton in the spring of 1943. Les Munro had completed a successful tour at 97 Squadron at the same time as McCarthy and David Maltby, who was to lose his life on the ill-fated Dortmund-Ems Canal raids in September 1943, and was only just starting his second tour at 97 Squadron when transferred to 617.
617 Squadron would prove to be a squadron like no other these crews had ever flown with. There were plenty of surprises to come.

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Grant McDonald (far right) with other Canadian and American aircrew who survived the Dams Raid (Cody Images).

617 Squadron, like so many of the Bomber Command squadrons, had many nationalities represented among the aircrew. Despite the possibility of friction inside and between crews there were very few instances of trouble.
In the training for the Dams raid we were coming back from Wainfleet bombing range on one occasion and we were coming back at something like 30 feet. Somebody flew underneath us and Joe wasn’t very happy about that because the slipstream could’ve caused a mid-air collision. We got back and we were convinced that it was Les Munro who had done it. He denied it at first and then he sort of got around to ‘well I suppose it might have been possible’. That was it. But after that he and Joe were the best of friends and stayed that way for the rest of their time. You’ve got American mixing with New Zealand without any problem whatsoever. Yes, I think by and large the mix was good. I don’t think there was a lot of national bias amongst any of them or any of us for that matter. You got the odd crack now and again about ‘bloody limeys’ or whatever, but you gave just as good as you got and it went that way.
In our crew, Joe was an American, Don McLean the navigator was a Canadian, Dave Rodger, the rear gunner, was a Canadian, Bill Radcliffe was a Canadian in the RAF. So, that left three of us Englishmen, Ron Batson, the mid-upper gunner, Len Eaton, the wireless op, and Joe Soap. But we all got on extremely well together and the mixture not only of nationality but of rank had no feeling whatsoever; it had no meaning whatsoever to any of us and that was the way it worked as a crew. Certainly there was no distinction whatsoever. We were all Christian names right throughout the crew, including Joe. And there was no standing off, nothing that suggested there was any difference between any of us. How that went with other crews I don’t really know, but certainly with Gibson he wasn’t able to bring himself down to talk with the NCOs and certainly not the ground crews. However, that was just his reaction. I don’t think there was any real distinction throughout most of the squadron.
It was all very well training for a solid six weeks but still the crews had no idea of their target and no idea as to how their strange new weapon would work.
We discovered on the Saturday night before the actual raid. Barnes Wallis showed us the film of his development of the bouncing bomb and so we learnt that the wheel on the edge was attached by a belt which went back into a bit of the bomb bay to a little JAP engine and that was going to revolve the bomb backwards. It had to be backwards. If it revolved forwards it would have gone straight in when it was released. Rotating backwards, it had to be revolved at 500 revs per minute and it had to be dropped from 60 feet. It started out at 150 feet, this was when they were doing the trial and it was so obvious that it was going to break up on that and so they came down and Barnes Wallis said to Gibson, ‘Do you think your boys would be able to drop from 60 feet?’ and Gibson said, ‘Ah well, we’ll give it a try’. So then there was a question of calculating the exact 60 feet and this is where the lights were introduced. Situated underneath the aircraft, angled so they converged at exactly 60 feet that had been calculated, I think, by the boffins at Farnborough. And so that was the set-up for it.
No crew was happy about going into an attack, low-level, with extra lights, and spotlights at that, blazing out from underneath their air- craft. It was, however, the only way that they could guarantee to be flying at 60 feet at the moment they dropped the bomb.
The operation became very much a team work. The navigator looked through the Perspex at the side of the aircraft looking at the lights, he gave directions up and down until those lights were coincident. The flight engineer was calling out the speed because I think the speed was something like groundspeed 220 knots. So he was calling out the speed and the bomb-aimer was giving directions. The pilot was having to do very much as he was told. Because we’d lost the mid-upper turret the mid-upper gunner was flying in the front turret. Fortunately he’d got a pair of stirrups so he wasn’t kicking me in the head all the time.
[The aircraft] just turned up. The one thing that they hadn’t thought about, since they’d lost the mid-upper turret they decided to put a gun in the belly of the aircraft. God knows what made them think about that because, having done that, there was no way that a gunner was going to be able to sight from that point of view and he couldn’t see where he was firing or anything else so they decided no, that wasn’t on, but they left the cradle from which it was going to be pivoted. That was still built within the aircraft frame. That was the one thing that went haywire. I don’t think there was much else. Once we’d seen Barnes Wallis’s explanation, then I think that answered a lot of problems. It solved the question of where the bomb was going to be, how it was going to be released and what it was expected to do when it was released. That was fine. And having seen that, the conjecture then was that it was going to be the big German battleship probably mostly the Tirpitz... how wrong can you get?
Training was complete and it was time for the squadron to go to war. It was Sunday, 16 May 1943 and the crews were about to find out their target.
Three o’clock the next afternoon, Sunday afternoon. Tannoy: ‘All 617 Squadron to the operations room.’ In we went and then we saw these models of the Dams. They had the Mohne and the Sorpe there, but they hadn’t been able to finish the Eder in time and so that was the first we knew.
Joe McCarthy and his crew were detailed to attack the Sorpe dam. It was one of the three dams feeding the Ruhr valley that were to be primary targets that night. The Mohne dam, together with the Sorpe, accounted for more than 75 per cent of the water supply to the Ruhr valley. The Eder dam, some 60 miles from the Mohne, held back the largest volume of water of all three primary targets. If all three dams could be breached then it was thought that it would have a catastrophic effect on industry in the Ruhr. As well as the loss of hydro-electric power there would be a loss of drinking water, canals would dry up and there would be a massive effect from flooding in the Ruhr valley. To breach all three huge dams there were just nineteen bouncing bombs.
The Sorpe was of different construction from the Mohne and Eder. While the other two were made from huge blocks of granite, the Sorpe was an earthwork with a watertight concrete core. This caused unique problems. First, there was no wall for the bomb to rest against as it exploded. In fact, the dam’s dimensions almost defied attack completely. At the top it was a bare 10 metres wide but at the bottom of the earthwork it was a staggering 307 metres. The bomb would just run down the earthwork before exploding. Second, the plan was not so much to blast through the dam wall, rather it was to remove the earth and crack the wall so that a leak would start weakening the dam. Over time it was hoped that this crack would expand and the dam would lose its integrity. Barnes Wallis had calculated that it would need five bombs to breach the dam.
Originally there were five aircraft briefed for the Sorpe Dam operation. The thing that, I suppose, to some degree disappointed us was that all that bombing training we’d done, we weren’t going to use because really the Sorpe had no towers so we had nothing to sight on. Also, it was placed within the hills so that you couldn’t make a head-on attack anyway. So, we were briefed that we had to fly down one side of the hills, level out with the port outer engine over the dam itself so that you were just on the water side of the dam, and estimate as nearly as you could to the centre of the dam to drop the bomb. We weren’t spinning the bomb at all, it was an inert drop. That was the briefing.
McCarthy’s aircraft, AJ-Q, was scheduled to take off at approximately 9.30pm on the evening of 16 May as part of the second wave of five aircraft targeting the Sorpe dam. Unfortunately, the operation did not get off to the planned start.
The first thing that happened, having got out to the aircraft, our aircraft, the one we’d used in training was ‘Q’ Queen – it was ‘Queen’ then not ‘Quebec’ [in the phonetic alphabet] – and it decided it didn’t want to go that night. It developed a hydraulic leak which couldn’t be fixed in time and there was only one reserve aircraft. It had arrived at about three o’clock in the afternoon, that afternoon, had been bombed up, it had been fuelled up, it had done a compass swing with the bomb on. There were no lights; there was no time to fit the lights on it. And so when we couldn’t get ours started or to go properly Joe said ‘For Christ’s sake get out of this and get into the reserve aircraft before some other bugger gets there before we do and we don’t get to go.’ So we dashed out and as he dashed out he caught his parachute handle on the door of the aircraft so we went across with his parachute billowing out behind him. We got out to the aircraft but there was no compass card in it and so he got into a truck, piled his parachute into the back of it and went back to the Flights. We had a very good flight sergeant there, ‘Chiefy’ Powell, and when he saw Joe coming to him he said, ‘What’s the matter Sir?’, and Joe said, ‘Well, there’s no compass card in it.’ So he flew off to the air flights and he got the compass card and brought it back. Then, he went to the parachute section because Joe had said he wasn’t going to take a parachute. He went to the parachute section and drew another parachute to replace the one that Joe had lost and he put that in the truck. He said, ‘Your parachute, Sir!’ That was ‘Chiefy’ telling him he was going to take a bloody parachute whether he wanted to or not but, yes, we were about thirty minutes late getting off.
Settled in the replacement aircraft, AJ-T, they eventually took off at 10.01pm, 34 minutes behind schedule. They were a long way behind the other aircraft from the second wave so McCarthy tried to make up time.

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ED825, AJ-T. George Johnson attacked the Sorpe Dam in this aircraft flown by Joe McCarthy. Seen here as converted for the Dams Raid, this aircraft was eventually lost on 10 December 1943 during an SOE re-supply operation over France. (Cody Images)

Joe opened up the taps a little bit and we tried to make up as much time as we could. As we were approaching the islands, he said he sensed that the gunners would hear the aircraft, that they’d recognise the noise of the aircraft and so they’d be gunning straight away. He could see these two sand dunes so he went down in between them to avoid the flak. We were toddling along just south of Hamm and this goods train was coming at right angles. Toddling along, and Ron Batson in the front turret said, ‘Can I have a go, Joe?’ I think reluctantly, Joe said, ‘Oh yes, OK’ and so Ron opened up with these little 303s in the front turret. What we didn’t know it wasn’t just a goods train, it was an armoured goods train and it replied with rather more than 303s. We knew we’d been hit. We felt it. We heard it and we felt it but nothing seemed to happen as far as the aircraft was concerned so we just pressed on.
McCarthy and his crew seem to have had a fairly uneventful trip to the Sorpe after their encounter with the goods train.
We eventually found the Sorpe dam. As we were approaching the mist was beginning to develop and it was a bit difficult to find until we actually did find it. Once we got to the target it was absolutely clear, a brilliant moonlight. Then we saw what we were really supposed to do. What they hadn’t told us at briefing was that there was a church steeple on the side of the hill from which we were supposed to attack. So, what did we do? Did we get down low and lift a wing to get over that? Joe said, ‘Not likely, we’ll use that as a marker and we’ll go down from there and get down to sixty if we can.’ Well, doing that and getting the aircraft in exactly the right position was more than a little difficult. If I wasn’t satisfied I called dummy run and we went round again. If Joe wasn’t satisfied he just pulled away and left me to call dummy run and away we went round again. The humourist on our crew was the rear gunner, Dave Rodger, Canadian, and after about the sixth or seventh dummy run a voice from the rear turret said, ‘Won’t somebody get that bum out of here?’ And I thought, ‘Aye aye.’ I learned how to become the most unpopular member of the crew in quick time. It actually took us ten runs to get it right, but on the tenth one I dropped. I said ‘bomb gone’, from the rear turret ‘Thank Christ’, and so up we went to avoid hitting the hills on the other side. We couldn’t see, Joe and I couldn’t see what the explosion was like but Dave could in the rear turret and these bombs, or mines, were fused to explode at a depth of 25 feet, so it was going to roll down, hit the edge of the dam and, at 25 feet, it would blow up. The bombs themselves were a total of 9,000-plus pounds, of which 6,500 pounds was explosive. So when that went off at 25 feet depth it was going to move a hell of a lot of water. Dave said he reckoned that water went up to a height of about 1,000 feet. He said it wasn’t only that because ‘when it started coming down again the full lot came into my bloody turret so I thought I was going to get drowned as well as knocked around by you people.’ We looked around and we came back and we could see that we’d just crumbled the top of the dam. That was all that had happened. Now Barnes Wallis had told us that he thought it would take at least five bombs to crack that dam because of the structure, it was so different from any others. A concrete centre and then it had this tremendous earthenware bank on both sides and then more concrete outside of that. We got ours dropped and Joe was circling at about 1,000 feet and a voice from the rear turret, ‘For Christ’s sake get down, we’re a sitting duck for fighters here'. So down we went.
Johnny released their bomb at about 0.45am on 17 May, having spent almost forty minutes doing aborted and dummy runs over the target. Their bomb was accurate but the effect of the blast was to crumble part of the parapet. Just one other aircraft would find the dam that night. Ken Brown was part of the mobile reserve and attacked the dam almost two and a half hours after Joe McCarthy. It was to prove Barnes Wallis right. More than just two accurately dropped bombs were needed to breach the Sorpe dam.
We came back over what had been the Mohne dam by which time it had been breached and it was just like an inland sea. There was water literally everywhere. There wasn’t much point in trying to map read in that area. It was still coming out of the dam and so there was some satisfaction in seeing that something had really been achieved. We’d heard radio-wise that the Eder had been breached as well. So, we were ‘toddling’ along home and for some unknown reason there seemed to be a town coming up ahead of us. It shouldn’t have been there and we suddenly found ourselves over the Hamm marshalling yards. Well, the Hamm marshalling yards in May of 1943 was not the healthiest of places to be because it was the main centre for shifting all their armament from the factories out to the various parts of the continent. So down he went because the lower we went the less chance the gunners were able to get their guns down to that sort of level. And again a voice from the rear turret, ‘Who needs guns? At this level all they need to do is change the points.’ He was so good at creating a humorous situation out of something that might not have appeared to be so and it was tremendous for the rest of the crew. He kept us together. So, Joe said ‘right’, and then Don Mclean said ‘Oh dear’ as he realised that the only compass card he’d got was the one where the swing had been done with the bomb on board, the one he’d used for the outward journey and, of course, that wasn’t quite right for the way back home. And so Joe said that we were going back the way we came in. We weren’t supposed to but that was the way we were going out. When we got back we also found out where we had been hit by the goods train. We were starboard wing low and we were gurgling along and Joe was having some difficulty in controlling it. The flight engineer looked out of the window and said ‘We’ve got a flat tyre, skipper.’ That shell had gone through the starboard undercarriage nacelle and burst the starboard tyre. A couple of feet either way it would have been into a petrol tank and that would have been the end of McCarthy’s crew. Lady luck was certainly sitting on board that night.
Of course theirs was only one of five aircraft that were supposed to attack the Sorpe and it was not until they landed back at Scampton at about 3.20am that they started to find out what had happened to the other aircraft.
We began to discover why we’d been the only ones there. Les Munro, going in, had been badly shot up over the islands and it had shattered his communications system, internal and external. So he had to come back. Then there was Geoff Rice who was flying low over the Zuider Zee getting out of the flak range when they heard a tremendous bang. The bomb had hit the water and had been pulled off and rolled back underneath the aircraft. It didn’t do the aircraft any good either but he managed to get it home. When they came back Geoff called up to get Control’s permission to land but Les couldn’t. As Geoff was going into land this aircraft came in underneath him. It was Les going in because it was the only way he could get in, so Geoff had to make another circuit and hope by God he could get it back again. Ottley was shot down and Barlow flew into the cables further over. So that was the other four accounted for and the only reserve that got there was Ken Brown. They had even more difficulty because by that time the mist had filled in so much more and they had, according to them, much more difficulty than we had but they did eventually drop.
The only other reserve that was sent to try to do it was Anderson and he just packed up because it got so late and misty. He landed with the bomb on which he shouldn’t have done. He was pushed out the next morning. Gibson pushed him back to his squadron straight away. That wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t a big enough effort. He hadn’t tried hard enough.
The story of Yorkshireman Cyril Anderson is a difficult reminder of the pressures that Gibson and all the crews faced in reaching the highest standards of bravery and professionalism in the most challenging of times. Taking off past midnight as part of the mobile reserve, Anderson was sent to attack the Sorpe dam as so many of the second wave had failed to reach the target. He didn’t reach the dam but turned back when mist was obscuring the valleys, making it difficult to find the target. It was also getting lighter and he decided not to risk his aircraft and crew flying over enemy territory in the early morning light.
Contemporary opinion favours the view that perhaps Gibson was unfair on Anderson. He had been selected for 617 Squadron because of his abilities after just nine operations at 49 Squadron. On returning to 49 Squadron after the Dams’ raid he and his crew completed a further thirteen operations before being shot down and killed on a raid to Mannheim on 23 September 1943.
The days after the dams’ raid were just as difficult for the surviving crews of 617 Squadron. Fifty-six men had been lost, of whom, as they were to find out later, three were prisoners of war. By any calculation it was a huge loss and was bound to affect morale.
During those six weeks we were all concentrating on our own crews so we didn’t mix. We brushed by each other in the various sections, bomb-aimers and so on and chatted now and again a little bit, but we never got to know anybody properly. I didn’t drink in those days so I didn’t go into the bars, so I missed the social life on the squadron as well. But the fact that we had lost eight crews, we started out with nineteen briefed, that was damn nearly fifty per cent. Rather a large loss, one which wouldn’t have been entertained as far as the main bombing force was concerned. You couldn’t afford to lose fifty per cent of your force. We couldn’t afford really to lose fifty per cent of ours but we had to. It was shattering and it really upset Barnes Wallis. Gibson apparently said to him, ‘No, you didn’t kill them. They went knowing that that was the sort of risk they were taking and that is one of the things about operations of this nature. You go out knowing that there is a chance that you’re not going to come back. You take that risk. They did that but they were sound in the way they went out and went about it. It was just unfortunate that they weren’t able to come back.’ I think that eased Barnes Wallis a little bit.
My own feeling was one of satisfaction of having done the best we could. I think it was also that there had been quite a bit of achievement in the whole of the raid itself and I felt that yes, six weeks of training had really been worth it. I think that was my reaction. I think the public reaction was absolutely outstanding. It was literally splattered all over and it was on the radio and everything. Really spread all over the place.

'For Christ's sake get down, we're a sitting duck!'

After many years of reflection Johnny has had plenty of time to sum up his own feelings about the raid.
I had four reasons for saying yes I felt the raid was successful. The first one was that it proved to Hitler and the Nazi hierarchy that what they thought was indestructible the RAF could get through and destroy. The second thing was it did delay, not as long we would have liked it to do, but it did delay some of his armament production. And the third one was that he had to bring in skilled workmen from other war work elsewhere to repair those dams and I think the fourth, and possibly the most important, was the morale effect it had on the people of this country. I don’t know how much we appreciated when we were doing the raid how important it was and it really probably wasn’t until we saw the papers the next morning where it was plastered all over the head- lines and ‘Christ, did we do that?’ That was the sort of reaction that we got from it. There was certainly reaction to the number we’d lost. It was something more than dramatic from that point of view and people say to me now, how do you feel about having been on the dams’ raid? I say I feel honoured and privileged to have been allowed to take part in that raid and that’s the way I look at it still. I’m just sorry that we didn’t have more success with the raid that we had to make. We had the satisfaction with knowing we’d done the best we possibly could and that was what we went out to do.
For his own part Johnny had no interest in self publicity.
My own reaction, initially, was for Christ sake shut up. Gwen [Johnny's wife] was at Hemswell at that stage. She’d been off duty and her colleague who relieved her came back into the billet. Gwen said, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘Oh, we’ve been shut down. Everybody’s been shut down but there’s something on at Scampton.’ And she said she heard the aeroplanes taking off and she went to see. Then she woke up again as the aeroplanes were coming back and she knew we had come back. She had that same confidence that nothing was going to happen. But that day, the next day we had time off. We went to, went back to, the little village in Lincolnshire where I was born, a little village called Hameringham near Horncastle and we went first of all to look at my Mother’s grave, then we went to the farmer that my father used to work for, and he invited us in and they gave us tea and we talked about this and that and he said, ‘What a wonderful raid that was last night.’. I kicked Gwen under the table... don’t say a word. I don’t know why. We were coming back from Lincoln on the bus the night after and there were characters in the bus talking about it and I said I wish those bloody people would shut up. She said ‘Why?’ I said, ‘We were on that raid,’ and she said, ‘Were you now? Why wasn’t I told?’ I said because it was so absolutely secret. Very well...
It was on the radio and everything. Really spread all over the place. And as I say, I think that was one of the big benefits that came out of it, the morale effect on the people of this country in that it was another turning point, something of the war going our way. El Alamein had happened a few months before that and then this came along and a big, big change in what had been a bloody awful war for us so far. I think that was one of the biggest benefits of it all.
On 22 June thirty-three members of the squadron made their way from Scampton to London by train for the investiture and for a party given in their honour at the Hungaria Restaurant in Regent Street by A.V. Roe [the manufacturers of the Lancaster]. The awards included a Victoria Cross for Guy Gibson, Distinguished Service Orders for five of the pilots including Joe McCarthy, fourteen Distinguished Flying Crosses and twelve Distinguished Flying Medals, including Johnny Johnson.
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617 Squadron photograph taken on 9 July 1943, a few days before Wing Commander Guy Gibson left the squadron. (Cody Images)

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'You go out knowing that there is a chance that you're not going to come back. You take that risk.'

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George Johnson. (Michael Jowett/Aces High Gallery, Wendover)



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Les Munro. (Michael Jowett/Aces High Gallery, Wendover)

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The famous photograph of Guy Gibson and his crew setting off on the Dams Raid on the evening of 16 May 1943 (Cody Images).

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An Upkeep 'bouncing bomb' attached to Guy Gibson's aircraft, AJ-G, before the Dams Raid. (Cody Images)

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A stunning shot of a 617 Squadron Lancaster attacking the Arbergen railway bridge on 21 March 1945. (Cody Images)

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King George VI inspecting photographs taken after the Dams Raid with Guy Gibson and Air Commodore Whitworth, Officer Commanding RAF Scampton. (Cody Images)

'We knew we'd been hit. We felt it. We heard it and we felt it but nothing seemed to happen...'

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On another of 617 Squadron's famous raids, this famous trio of photographs shows target indicators dropped by Leonard Cheshire at very low level over the Gnome-Rhone aero-engine factory at Limoges on 8 February 1944. (Cody Images)

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Later in the war; a Grand Slam bomb being filled with Torpex explosive at the English Steel Corporation factory in Sheffield in 1945. (Cody Images)

'I had four reasons for saying yes I felt the raid was successful... One was that it proved to Hitler and the Nazis that what they thought was indestructible the RAF could get through and destroy...'

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Survivors of the Dams Raid photographed at a celebration dinner given by A V Roe at the Huingaria Restaurant in Regent Street, London on 22 June 1943, the same day they had been to the Palace for the investiture. Barnes Wallis (sitting, second left) and Guy Gibson (sitting, centre front), Les Munro (standing, back row, third right). (Cody Images)

Further Reading


Voices in Flight: The Dambuster Squadron
(Hardback - 196 pages)
ISBN: 9781781593714

by Colin Higgs
Only £19.99

They were the Dambusters – the pilots and crew of the RAF's elite 617 Squadron. They flew the most difficult missions. They breached the Dams! They sank the Tirpitz! They were the only squadron to drop the immense Grand Slam bombs and with them they destroyed bridges, viaducts and even Hitler's impregnable U-boat pens.

In this unique book, introduced by Dams raid survivor, George 'Johnny' Johnson, authors Colin Higgs and Bruce Vigar present no less than nine exclusive interviews with men who flew and fought in 617…
Read more at Pen & Sword Books...



Further Reading


Dambusters
(Commemorative magazine)
ISBN: 9781783400133

Only £6.00 RRP £6.99

The mission became popularly known as the Dambusters raid, and was immortalised in a 1954 war film. It was one of the most famous air operations of World War II.

Casualties for the raid were high. Eight of the original 19 Lancaster bombers were damaged or shot down, and of the 133 aircrew, 53 were killed and three captured.
On the ground, too, almost 1,300 people were killed, including 749 Ukrainian prisoners of war based in a camp just below the Eder dam.


Read more at Pen & Sword Books...
Dambusters veteran George 'Johnny' Johnson talks about

Of further interest...