A new cycling fundraiser has been launched to celebrate the centenary of the last surviving original member of the Dambusters raid of 1943 (Operation Chastise).
Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, who turned 99 on Wednesday, November 25, grew up in Lincolnshire and now lives in Bristol.
He was part of The Dambusters, who were members of the RAF’s 617 Squadron and specially assembled in March 1943 to bomb three dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley.
The raid, on the night of May 16/17, involved 133 aircrew flying 19 specially adapted Lancaster bombers.
The Dambusters Ride was launched by the RAF Benevolent Fund, the Royal Air Force’s leading welfare charity, on Johnny’s 99th birthday and the event is due to take place on May 15, 2021 to celebrate Johnny’s 100th year.
Fundraisers can take part in either a 100-mile or 56-mile bike ride starting and finishing at the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa, the home of the 617 Squadron – register here with a fee of £35 for the physical ride and £25 for the virtual ride.
The route will cover RAF Scampton, RAF College Cranwell and Highfields School in Newark where Johnny was a teacher after leaving the Royal Air Force.
Participants can also choose to take part in the Dambusters Ride virtually, registering to complete either challenge elsewhere in the country over May 15 and 16, 2021.
Johnny said: “I am grateful to have never needed the support of the RAF Benevolent Fund but nonetheless I have always known they are there for those less fortunate than I. I was honoured to hear The Dambusters Ride would be launched on my birthday – what a birthday surprise!
“Not only will this event raise vital funds to support RAF personnel, past and present, it will also pay tribute to the brave men of Bomber Command who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Dambusters raid and throughout the Second World War. Their loss must never be forgotten and it is my hope through this event, a new generation will learn about the cost of the freedom they enjoy today.
“The RAF Benevolent Fund does incredible work supporting RAF veterans and serving personnel and I would like to thank anyone who signs up for this cycle ride.”
Happy 99th Birthday to last surviving British "Dam Buster", Squadron Leader George 'Johnny' Johnson ❤️ pic.twitter.com/AhqS6mtcLE
— Lincoln City FC (@LincolnCity_FC) November 25, 2020
Chris Elliot, Controller at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Johnny showed true heroism in his time with 617 Squadron, so what better way to honour his centenary than by launching a new fundraising challenge that will help support other RAF veterans and personnel.
“Operation Chastise was an important part of the RAF’s history, so in addition to raising much-needed funds, I hope the Dambusters Ride encourages younger generations to learn more about 617 Squadron and their brave sacrifice all those years ago.”