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.”

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.”

A coronavirus outbreak has been declared at RAF Coningsby after several cases were confirmed.

These cases are contributing to the high case numbers in East Lindsey and the local public health team is liaising with the Ministry of Defence’s health protection staff.

The district of East Lindsey also currently has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the county.

Tony McGinty, Assistant Director for Public Health, said: “The local public health team are aware of this outbreak and are liasing with MoD health protection staff, who lead on COVID-19 issues on all military sites.

“The cases associated with this outbreak are contributing to the high case numbers we have in East Lindsey at the moment but we are confident that the outbreak is being well managed.”

An RAF Spokesperson said: “There has been a small number of COVID cases at RAF Coningsby which account for a small percentage of the increase in cases in the region.

“RAF Coningsby continues to work closely with Public Health authorities and has robust measures in place to protect our people and the wider community while they carry out their essential duties defending the nation.”

East Lindsey District Council leader Craig Leyland spoke about the coronavirus situation in the area.

A statement from East Lindsey District Council leader Craig Leyland also called on people to follow the guidance.

“If we all come together, we can help limit the spread of COVID-19, help look after one another and help to ensure we exit this lockdown period as smoothly as possible,” he said.

A statue of Lord Hugh Trenchard has been unveiled at RAF College Cranwell to mark the 100th anniversary of the college.

Builders from Lindum installed the seven foot tall bronze statue of the Marshal of the Royal Air Force – the RAF College’s principal founder – who established it in 1920 as part of his plans to expand the Air Force after the First World War.

The statue was erected on the west side of the officer’s mess after 18 months of fundraising by Sir Christopher Coville, Chairman of the Cranwellian Association Executive Committee.

The statue was created by established artist and sculptor Vivien Mallock and was commissioned by the Cranwellian Association.

The Trenchard Statue. | Photo: MOD Crown Copyright

Sir Michael Graydon, President of the Cranwellian Association, said: “The story is relatively simple, we canvassed ideas after early discussion with the college about what we might do to commemorate the 100th anniversary; initially, proposals were for something inside the college, for example a Michaelangelo-type painting on the dome in the rotunda.

“There were many other, including flying scholarships for air cadets, but in the end the majority favoured a statue of our founder – and after confirming a consensus of the membership at our AGM, we all went for it”.

Deputy Commandant and Station Commander RAF College Cranwell, Group Captain Gordon Bettington, said: “We are absolutely delighted and grateful to see 18 months of work by the Cranwellian Association come to fruition with the installation of this incredible work of art.

“It is a permanent reminder of the first 100 years and encapsulates how important and significant Lord Hugh Trenchard, MRAF was and is to RAF College Cranwell. His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of all those who enter the RAF Officer Training Academy”.

Viscount Trenchard, Grandson of Lord Hugh Trenchard. | Photo: MOD Crown Copyright

RAF College Cranwell was the world’s first Air Academy and continues to select and train the next generation of officers and aircrew. It is also home to No 3 Flying Training School.

+ More stories