Dambusters veteran George ‘Johnny’ Johnson says he’s proudest man alive

At the double: George 'Johnny' Johnson (left) with fellow Dambusters survivor John 'Les' Munro.
At the double: George 'Johnny' Johnson (left) with fellow Dambusters survivor John 'Les' Munro.

The evening sun just manages to penetrate the cloud-laden skies above Woodhall Spa.

George ‘Johnny’ Johnson breaks off a conversation. His eyes mist over as he looks up to the heavens.

A Lancaster bomber flies overhead, jet black - until a ray of golden sunlight illuminates a giant wing.

As the plane turns and arcs majestically over the Kinema in the Woods, Johnny can be heard saying: “Magnificent...she’s absolutely magnificent.”

There is a tear in the eye of the Horncastle-born hero.

It easy to understand why.

It is the last airworthy Lancaster in Britain.

Johnny is the last British survivor of one of it’s most celebrated missions - the Dambusters .

Now aged 91, he is back in the area for the anniversary of a raid which helped turn the tide of the Second World War against Nazi Germany.

The Lancaster soars into the distance, As Johnny looks on, it is almost 70 years to the day - and the exact hour - since he took off from RAF Scampton and joined the other members of the now legendary 617 Squadron to destroy three giant dams in the Ruhr valley.

The mission involved 133 airmen - and 19 Lancasters. Almost 60 men - and nine planes - failed to return.

Some were shot down by German defences. Others crashed. One smashed into a pylon.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” adds Johnny. “A lot of good men - brave men - lost their lives.

“It was a success but no-one felt like celebrating. Mind you, I was tee-total back then. I’ve made up for it since, though.”

Johnny was a bomb aimer. Incredibly, the crew had to transfer aircraft at the last minute after the original developed an oil leak.

Because of the delay, they were diverted to attack the Sorpe Dam.

Johnny’s plane made nine approaches before he dropped the one - and only - bomb. It exploded but the dam held.

It was the only dam that wasn’t breached.

Johnny flew almost 60 other missions. The Dambusters is the one he will never forget.

He can still remember the noise of the German guns, the screeching noise from the Lancaster engines - and the empty seats at breakfast the morning after

“It’s not something you forget,” he says. “It’s like it happened yesterday. I’m proud to have taken part, the proudest man alive.”