I started by asking George what he remembered the most about the mission and he told me what it felt like in his seat.
“I remember that I had the best seat!” he replied, “I had cushions underneath me and I just rolled in and lay face down, ready to aim for the dams.”
So if yours was the best, what was the worst seat? I asked him.
“That would be the rear gunner. He was in a transparent dome at the back and very exposed to the enemy defences.”
And were the defences very scary? Were you shot at as you approached the dams? I asked.
“Not on our dam,” he replied, “but the bombers attacking the other dams were very badly attacked by guns positioned on them. In fact, our Squadron Leader, Guy Gibson, had to pull up alongside the other planes he was with to check them for damage they were being hit that much!”
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson (far left) and his friends during WW2
The bouncing bomb in action, courtesy of George "Johnny" Johnson DFM
It was now time for our photo so we had to stop the questions, but before I left George I wanted to ask him one final question, which was how many missions he had flown and how did he manage to keep his nerve through all the danger he faced.
“I flew 50 missions and to survive I just concentrated on my job and let the other chaps in the plane do theirs. We all relied on each other to get through it.” He said, which I thought was a very brave thing to say indeed.
We then went on to talk about his training.
What was your training like? I asked.
“It was only six weeks. We trained in Lincolnshire at a place called Sutton Bridge,” he said, “The mission required us to fly very low over the water so we had to learn this before we even tried out the bombs.”
And how did you do that? I asked. Did you just fly lower and lower until you got the hang of it?
“Yes, kind of. We noticed some electric wires and the pilots used to take us flying under them as a challenge, even though we weren’t supposed to. It was great fun.”
George then kindly signed a photo “to Mr B from George “Johnny” Johnson D.F.M.” (which by the way means Distinguished Flying Medal) and then we posed for a photo which you can see here.
So what do you think about George’s role in the Dambuster raid? Would you have been scared of the bridge defences or been nervous to have had such an important job to do? What would it have felt like to fly in the dark with all your friends and the people back in England relying on you to do your job right?
Teachers, if you or your pupils have any questions about my brief chat with George, or would like to know more about my WW2 workshops, where pupils can see George’s signed photo and hear more about the meeting, please email me here.
Meanwhile, if you would like to find out more about the Dambusters raid, here are some links with more information: