The last remaining ‘Dambuster’ is making a new film – telling the story of the daring Second World War raid in his own words for the first time.
George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, now 96, will talk about role he played in the Operation Chastise attack in Germany on May 17, 1943.
Mr Johnson will tell of his crew’s near-impossible mission to destroy three German dams, in an attempt to flood the factories supplying the Nazi war machine.
The last remaining Dam Buster George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, pictured left, will tell his story of participating in Operation Chastise in May 1943 which saw three German dams attacked
Squadron Leader Johnson, pictured left in 1962 and right in May 2013, is the last surviving member of the Dam Busters mission. He was a bomb aimer during the daring mission
The documentary, which has been two years in the making, will particularly focus on the crew’s line of attack on the Sorpe Dam, the most difficult one to take out.
Mr Johnson describes, in the film, how the attack on the Sorpe Dam was made, and discusses the consequences of the operation.
And he will also share details of the top secret training exercises he and his crew received in the specially adapted Avro Lancaster.
Filmmaker Andrew Panton, from Thornbury, South Gloucester, has been working with Mr Johnson for the last two years, putting together material for the film.
He said: ‘Johnny has been featured in several Dambuster documentaries over the years.
Johnson, circled, will tell his story for the first time about the attack on the Sorpe Dam
Johnson, pictured, will explain what happened after he left RAF Scampton on May 16, 1943
The bomber crews approached the dams at night flying as low as 60 feet
‘But his complete story of the attack on the Sorpe Dam has not been featured in film or told in his own words.
‘This film enables Johnny to tell the whole story from his perspective and is brought to life with new animations and graphics.
‘This will help the audience get a feel for what he had to do that night as the bomb aimer and the challenges they faced as they made the attack on the Sorpe dam.’
Sorpe was one of three dams targeted in an attempt to flood the factories supplying the Nazi war machine during the Second World War.
Mr Panton has teamed up with an animator in Poland to create the film, which has been filmed against a ‘green screen’.
Carol Vorderman, pictured, is part of a campaign to see Mr Johnson awarded a knighthood
This technology has allowed animators to include re-enactments of the raids using actors and a 3D animation of crew flying in the Lancaster bomber used in the raid.
Mr Johnson describes how he set off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, with a group of specially selected air crew, late on the night of May 16, 1943.
They had all been trained to fulfil one special mission – to destroy three dams, deep within Germany’s Ruhr valley.
These provided vital power to German industries, and destroying them would inundate many of the factories themselves.
From the start, the mission was considered almost impossible, requiring the crew to fly low level at night, as low as 60 feet, across many miles of enemy territory.
And to add to the risk, the weapon they were dropping was a brand new one, that had never been tried operationally.
And while Mr Johnson and his crew beat the odds to survive, eight Lancaster bombers were lost during the overnight raid, with 53 air crew killed out of the 133 that took part.
Mr Panton, who first met Mr Johnson four years ago, said: ‘The aim is to produce a film that will serve to help educate current and future generations about RAF 617 squadron aircrew.
‘Some of them were as young as just 19 years old. I want to show what the aircrew did that night in May 1943 to help shorten the Second World War.’
He added: ‘The line of attack on the Sorpe Dam was very different from the lines of attack on the Mohne and Eder Dams.
‘It was not until the night of the operation that Johnny and his crew discovered the sheer scale of the challenge in making the attack.
‘They were expected to fly along the ridge of the dam and make an inert drop of the bomb which was very different from the attacks on the other two dams.’
Mr Panton, who works as a software design manager, has been a keen film maker from a young age and as a teenager had a cine camera.
Over the years he has made many corporate films but since 2002 has been working with war veterans to tell their stories through documentaries.
Mr Panton went out to Normandy as part of the 60th anniversary commemorations where he met a number of war veterans.
From there he began to make documentaries telling their stories – mainly for their families.
Some of the documentaries have been featured as part of WW2 exhibitions in museums in the north of the country.
Mr Panton has been working on Mr Johnson’s documentary in his spare time, at weekends, during his holidays and in the evenings.
The documentary is now in the production stage and it is hoped it will be finished this summer.
Mr Panton hopes the documentary will go on show at venues across Bristol later this year.
‘These films will provide living memories of what these men did and achieved and preserve this part of history for future generations,’ he said.
Mr Johnson was presented with an MBE for services to World War Two last year after a campaign led by TV presenter Carol Vorderman for him to be knighted.
The Dambusters: How bouncing bombs – and incredible flying by RAF pilots – flooded the Ruhr valley and delivered a crucial blow to the Nazi war machine
On 16 May, 1943, 19 Lancaster bomber crews gathered at a remote RAF station in Lincolnshire for a mission of extraordinary daring – a night-time raid on three heavily defended dams deep in Germany’s industrial heartland.
The dams were heavily fortified and needed the innovative bouncing bomb – which bounced on the water over torpedo nets and sank before detonating.
To succeed, the raiders would have to fly across occupied Europe under heavy fire and then drop their bombs with awesome precision from a mere 60ft above the water.
19 Lancaster Bomber crews armed with Bouncing Bombs set off to attack several dams in Germany on May 16, 1943
The Eder Dam, pictured, was destroyed as part of Operation Chastise on the early hours of the morning on May 17, 1943
This is a list of all the bomber crews who took part on Night Flying Programme 16.5.43. The names with a line through are the crews who did not return while the numbers in the far right hand column are the times the crews returned back to base in Lincolnshire
Eight of the bomber crews were lost while a further three were forced to turn back. Of the 133 men sent out, 53 were killed and three were taken prisoner by the Nazis
The Mohne and Eder Dams in the industrial heart of Germany were attacked and breached by mines dropped from specially modified Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron.
The Sorpe dam was was also attacked by by two aircraft and damaged.
A fourth dam, the Ennepe was reported as being attacked by a single aircraft (O-Orange), but with no damage.
Up to 1,600 people were estimated to have been killed by floodwaters and eight of the 19 aircraft dispatched failed to return with the loss of 53 aircrew and 3 taken prisoner of war.
Wg Cdr Guy Gibson, Officer Commanding No. 617 Sqn, is awarded the VC for his part in leading the attack.
The raid, orchestrated by Guy Gibson and the RAF’s 617 ‘Dambuster’ Squadron, was seen as a major victory for the British, and Wing Commander Gibson is recognised as one of the war’s most revered heroes.
Their success was immortalised in the classic 1955 film The Dambusters, its thrilling theme tune and gung-ho script evoking the best of British derring-do.
The flight crew were forced to approach their targets at 60 feet and at a speed of 232mph to hit the target