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MBE honour for Britain’s last surviving Dambuster

TV presenter Carol Vorderman launched a petition to get Mr Johnson a knighthood.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Investitures at Buckingham Palace

Britain’s last surviving Dambuster said his memories of the bombing raids on Germany will last forever as he collected an MBE from the Queen.

Squadron Leader George Leonard “Johnny” Johnson, 95, 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.

After collecting his gong at Buckingham Palace for services to the Second World War remembrance and the community in Bristol, he said he was indebted to the thousands of people who signed a petition calling for his wartime service to be recognised.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace

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 told the Press Association: “I’m glad it’s over but very much appreciative. Apart form everything else I’m very grateful to all those people who signed that petition, particularly Carol Vorderman and John Nichol. The outcome for me is very gratifying for me, it really is.”

He said he was also grateful to Paul Walmsley, who wrote to the Queen on his behalf.

Collecting his award, he said the Queen told him: “Glad to see the Dambusters are still here.”

The pensioner 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.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace

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 – that looked like “glorified dustbins”, according to Mr Johnson – led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

Fifty-three men were killed and three were captured.

Mr Johnson said he still has “strong memories” from that period, adding: “That is something which will live forever as far as I’m concerned.

“I don’t volunteer, but if people ask will I talk to their club or their group, that means they are interested and if they are interested I will talk to them.

“I’ve got to the stage now where I say to the children ‘If I say I don’t want to do this any more, you can send the box in as soon as you like’.”

He added: “I also had an honorary doctorate with Lincoln University which was basically because of my work with the mentally handicapped and that to me meant as much as this did, apart from the fact of meeting the Queen again, which was wonderful.

“I had the honour of an audience with her about three years ago and I felt honoured to meet her for a second time.

“I think she’s a wonderful lady, I have always thought so and it was confirmed so much at that audience at Windsor Castle, that has to be the highlight of my life, that audience.”

Mr Johnson, who served as a bomb aimer, previously said his crew was asked to join a special mission towards the end of his first tour, when he was due to get leave.

They were not told what the mission was until the night before.

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