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I wouldn’t have missed it for the world says Horncastle hero Johnny

George Johnny Johnson at RAF Coningsby

George Johnny Johnson at RAF Coningsby

He had a blue handkerchief in one hand and proudly clutched his war medals in the other.

His eyes scanned the slate grey horizon, looking for that little black dot.

Suddenly, there’s a shout: “We have visual, we have visual.”

He may be 91 - he’ll be 92 in October - but George ‘Johnny’ Johnson’s eyes sprang to life.

He held on to his grandson Richard and great grandson George.

Seventy years ago, he’d held on to his seat in a Lancaster bomber even more tightly.

Horncastle born Johnny is the last British-born survivor of one of the Second World War’s most famous events - the Dambusters.

He took part in the raid on German dams by the 617 Squadron of Lancaster bombers, a mission that many would argue turned the tide of the war.

Johnny was lucky. He returned to base. Many of his friends didn’t.

Last year, he was at Woodhall Spa for the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters.

Last Friday, he was back again...this time at RAF Coningsby for the teaming up of the world’s only two surviving flying Lancasters - one from the BBMF and the other from Canada.

As 2pm came, Johnny - and other veterans - waited patiently.

So did thousands of people lining the perimeter fence.

There had already been one disappointment when it was confirmed the BBMF Lancaster would not take off, because of the poor weather.

There were rumours of an even bigger disappointment. The Canadian Lancaster might have to abort its landing and touchdown in Middlesborough instead.

“Don’t worry,” said Johnny. “She’ll be here. She’ll be here.”

We should have known. Sure enough, that black dot started to grow....into the unmistakable shape of a Lancaster.

The long-distance drone of the famous engines was transformed into a powerful roar.

It was like music to the ear of the veterans.

His eyes glazed over. Johnny reached for his handkerchief. The tears started to flow.

“Isn’t it brilliant? Absolutely brilliant.”

Finally, the Lancaster pierced the gloom and touched down.

There were cheers from the spectators. Johnny looked relieved.

Thirty minutes later and his hand brushed the side of the Canadian bomber as it was pushed into position, alongside its British counterpart.

Johnny had shrugged off illness to attend.

The sight of the two Lancasters - side by side - brought memories flooding back.

“I’ll never forget that night,” he adds.

“I’ll never forget the lads who lost their lives.

“Seeing this today. It brings it all back.

“Sometimes, it feels like it was yesterday.

“The Lancaster is the best aircraft in the world.

“Two of them together. We’ll never see it again.

“I’m so proud - and so privileged to be part of it.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Neither would thousands of others.

 

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