Last surviving British dam buster returns to Lord Wandsworth

Johnny Johnson visits his alma mater for parade and talk with history classes

Ninety-three year-old Johnny Johnson, the last surviving British Dam Buster, recently visited his alma mater, Lord Wandsworth College.

He was treated to a parade by the College’s Combined Cadet Force and honoured with a fly-past from neighbouring RAF Odiham. Johnny spoke to history classes about his experiences in the Second World War, took part in a Q&A and was taken around his old boarding house by current pupils. 

RAF Odiham honour Johnny with a flypast

He said “Lord Wandsworth College provided me with the makings of my life and it was here that my life really began. I shall always be grateful for that initial grounding.”

Johnny joined the RAF in 1940 and, after training in the USA and Canada, he became a bomb aimer on the Lancaster planes. This involved sitting beneath the nose of the aircraft to identify targets and guide the pilot. In 1943, he joined a new squadron – the 617 – who became the Dam Busters.  

Johnny in the 1940s

On the 16th/17th May 1943, the squadron set off on what was called ‘Operation Chastise’ to bomb dams in the industrial heartland of Germany and jeopardise their war effort. The operation was daring, dangerous and required skilful flying at low levels at night, without being detected.  Johnny’s plane was tasked with bombing the Sorpe dam. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for acts of valour, courage and devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.

Headmaster Adam Williams said: “Johnny’s visit this week was inspirational to all of us here at Lord Wandsworth. He describes himself as ‘not old, just older’ and is a bright-eyed man, sharp as a tack, with a genuine interest in teenagers fulfilling their potential. His stories of courage and perseverance had us all enthralled. He is a man for whom our Foundation made a genuinely huge difference, as it continues to do for so many of our pupils.”    

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