Britain’s last surviving Dambuster, who had been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, said he is very grateful to the thousands of people who signed a petition calling for his wartime service to be recognised.
George “Johnny” Johnson, 96, was part of Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, which conducted a night of raids on German dams in 1943 in an effort to disable Hitler’s industrial heartland.
TV presenter Carol Vorderman launched a petition to get Mr Johnson a knighthood, branding the decision to leave him off the list “disgraceful” after finding out that he had been nominated in 2015.
She marched to Westminster in January to hand-deliver the petition containing 235,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street alongside RAF veteran John Nichol.
Mr Johnson said he was “honoured” to be receiving an MBE and “very grateful to all those people that signed the petitions and made it possible”.
Asked about not being given a knighthood, Mr Johnson said: “I think the MBE is as much honour as I could really expect and I thought, if a knighthood comes up, I’m going to having difficulty not only in accepting it but pointing out to all and sundry that it’s not me.
“I’m the lucky one. I’m still alive.
“I’m representing the squadron and it is the squadron that is being honoured with this, not me.”
“In fact, I got to the stage where I felt that I would have to ask – probably the Queen, if necessary – if I might be permitted to dedicate it to the memory of the now 59,000 bomber command personnel that gave their lives during World War Two and have got little or no respect for that.”
The pensioner, who lives in Bristol, is now one of only two survivors to take part in the legendary bombing raids on the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany. The other is Canadian former front gunner Fred Sutherland.
On May 16 and 17 1943, a total of 133 Allied aircrew left for the raid aboard 19 Lancaster bombers, carrying Barnes Wallis’s specially-adapted bouncing bombs, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
Fifty-three men were killed and three were captured.
Mr Johnson, who served as a bomb aimer, said he enjoyed his war, “believe it or not”, and felt he was doing something he joined for – to hit back at Hitler, which was his main concern at that time.