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Johnny Johnson: 1921-2022

8 December 2022

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City supporters will have the chance to pay tribute to Dambuster Johnny Johnson at Saturday's home game against Wycombe Wanderers.

Johnny, the last surviving Dambuster, passed away earlier this week and will be remembered at this weekend’s match with a minute’s applause before kick-off. City's players will also wear black armbands.

Supporters are kindly asked to get to their seats earlier than usual to join in with the tribute.

Born the son of a farm foreman in Hameringham, Johnny proudly called himself a Yellowbelly and, although he had a very unhappy childhood - his mother died when he was three and his father was very physically abusive - he was saved by the local squire's wife and the local headmistress when they sent him off to Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire, which at the time was agricultural college. Now a public school, Lord Wandsworth College lists England rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson among its former pupil. Johnny was also good at sport, playing full-back in the school football team while also turning into a decent cricketer and middle-distance athlete.

Johnny volunteered for the RAF in November 1939 just after his 18th birthday. After initial training he was sent to the United States for pilot training - which he failed. On returning to the UK he retrained as a gunner and then as a bomb aimer, and in March 1943 he was selected along with the rest of his crew to join Squadron X (later named 617 Squadron).

They knew nothing about the target, only that they had been specially selected and it was to be a very low-level attack. The training was all about low level flying at night, eventually down to 60 feet. Johnny used to tell stories about how they flew so low they were blowing the heads of the tulips around Spalding.

On 16 May 1943, 617 Squadron attacked three major dams in Germany. They broke two. Of the 132 aircrew who took part in the raid, 53 did not come home. The rest is history.

During the Second World War Johnny flew 50 bombing missions before becoming an instructor. During his war service he flew from a number of stations around Lincoln including Scampton, Coningsby and Woodhall Spa. He always said that Lincoln Cathedral had a special place in their hearts, as when flying back once, they saw the towers in the early morning gloom: they knew they were home safely.

He retired from the RAF in 1963 and lived in Collingham, becoming a teacher, first with primary school children in Newark and then as a specialist education officer for people with mental difficulties at Rampton and Balderton. After final retirement he lived in Torquay, his wife Gwyneth's hometown where he became a local councillor and chairman of the Torbay Conservative Association. After Gwyneth's death in 2005 Johnny moved to a retirement village in Bristol.

In 2014 he wrote his autobiography, The Last British Dambuster, and then spent his time speaking about his wartime experiences and appearing in TV programmes. 

A father of three with seven grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren, Johnny was also a very active fund raiser and a keen supporter of the International Bomber Command Centre, which can be seen from the LNER Stadium at the top of South Common off Canwick Road.

Johnny’s last visit to the LNER Stadium came in 2017 as the Imps hosted Bromley, where he was introduced to supporters before enjoying the action from the directors' box as a guest of the Club's Board.

Rest in peace, Johnny.


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