Thousands back knighthood for last Dambuster hero
7:30am Wed Jan 11, 2017
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson at Highfields School, Newark, during a visit in 2014.
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson at Highfields School, Newark, during a visit in 2014.
More than 192,000 people nationally have signed a petition to honour the last surviving British Dambuster with a knighthood.
Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, 95, grew up in Collingham and was a headteacher at Highfields School, Newark, after the second world war. He now lives near Bristol.

As a 22-year-old airman, Squadron Leader Johnson was among 133 members of 617 Squadron who took part in the daring raid to destroy German dams with bouncing bombs during the war.

The Möhne and Edersee Dams were breached, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley and villages in the Eder valley. The Sorpe dam sustained minor damage.

Of 19 Lancaster bombers that took part eight were lost, along with 53 crew members.

Squadron Leader Johnson, a former bombardier, is the only surviving British airman who took part.

It has been reported that he was nominated for a knighthood in this year’s New Year Honours but was left off the list.

Squadron Leader Johnson previously told the Advertiser he would accept a knighthood if he could dedicate it to his Dambuster comrades and the other brave men of Bomber Command.

His plane dropped its bomb on the Sorpe dam, seconds before having to pull up to avoid smashing into a hillside.

He received the Distinguished Flying Medal for his part in the 1943 raid.

“If it (the knighthood) happens, I would try to get permission for it to be dedicated to the 5,600 men of Bomber Command who gave their lives for their country, and 53 of my squadron who paid the same price on the Dambusters raid,” he said in 2014.

He added he was surprised and grateful for the more than 30,000 signatures the petition, which is spearheaded by the TV personality Carol Vorderman — an ambassador for the RAF Air Cadets and a qualified pilot — had received at that stage.

Mr Bob MacRae, a member of the Newark Royal Air Force Association, said a knighthood for Squadron Leader Johnson would be recognition of all bomber crews right up to the present day.

“It would recognise the sacrifice the RAF and Royal Naval Air Service aviators have made,” he said.

“It would be particularly appropriate next year in the 100th birthday year of the RAF.”

'Johnny showed extraordinary bravery'

Highfields headmaster Mr Richard Thomson said: “Highfields School supports the campaign to give George 'Johnny' Johnson a knighthood.

“Johnny showed extraordinary bravery. The losses to the squadron in those raids was significant.

“Since the war, Johnny has worked tirelessly to raise funds for the 617 Squadron Benevolent Fund.

“He has donated to the cause all his fees from his many public speaking engagements and the profits from his recently-published memoirs, which is typical of Johnny’s generosity of spirit and his humility.

“I understand Johnny has said it is the squadron and not one individual who merits this honour.

“As the last surviving British Dambuster and, I believe, the last member of 617 Squadron in the world since the death of pilot Les Munro last year, Johnny is now the only representative we have of this remarkable squadron.”

Mr Thomson said Highfields was fortunate to be visited by Squadron Leader Johnson in 2014.

“He was a teacher here in the 1960s and spoke little then about his experience of the war, as was so often the case at that time as people rebuilt their lives,” Mr Thomson said.

“A number of his former pupils — all now grown up, of course — came to meet him again.

“It was a profoundly touching moment for them to be reunited with Johnny, understanding now as adults how he helped to shape the course of history before they were born.

“Johnny is a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless, and all the staff, pupils and parents at Highfields are 100% behind this campaign to honour what he has done for our country and what he continues to do in memory of his lost colleagues.”

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