An online petition for the knighthood of George Johnson, the last surviving British member of the dambusters, was recently launched online. As a matter of fact, in just a short time, the petition, posted on Change.org, has reached a massive number of signatures — 35,000.
92-year-old WWII vet George Johnson was a strapping 22-year-old soldier when he took part in the air raid on several German dams (the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe) in the bid of crippling the country’s industrial arm way back in 1943. The campaign, dubbed Operation Chastise, made use of the experimental “bouncing” bombs invented by Barnes Wallis.
In 1955, the war film, The Dam Busters which immortalized RAF’s 617 Squadron deeds during the said operation, was released. The said classic made Operation Chastise one of the most well-known events in the annals of WWII history. Additionally, the 617 Squadron became popularly known as the dambusters.
For his part, George Johnson said he feels flabbergasted by the knighthood petition set up for him. However, the WWII vet also expressed his concern over why he was singled out from among the 133 members of the dambusters squadron.
George Johnson recounted how, in March of 1943, he joined the then newly-formed 617 Squadron as a bomb aimer. On the 16th of May on the same year, he was among the 133 squadron members to take part of the offensive campaign that would make them known as the dambusters. That day, they had to elude not just the fire from the enemy’s anti-aircraft but power cables as well as go through the very mountainous terrain just so they could drop the skipping bombs, all weighing four tons, directly on top of the dams in the Ruhr Valley.
The dambusters lost 19 planes, suffered 53 deaths and 3 comrades were captured all because of the mission.
Fortunately, George Johnson was among the dambusters who survived and now, a petition has been made on his behalf calling the British Government to knight him.
Conjointly, the petition for the knighthood of the last surviving British member of the dambusters had received supports not just across the country but from places as far as Los Angeles as well.
Nevertheless, the WWII vet stated that he will only accept the knighthood if the conditions involved are right. According to him, if the campaign is indeed a success, he hopes that it will be used to recognize the sacrifices of the 55,000 servicemen in the bomber command who died throughout the Second World War. The retired Squadron Leader added that the lives of these WWII soldiers has been mournfully neglected.
On the other hand, the person who spearheaded the petition for George Johnson’s knighthood is amazed at the swarm of positive response his online appeal has got. According Stephen Hadley, he launched the plea when he heard that British Prime Minister David Cameron granted his barber an MBE for his hairdressing services. He went on to say that he started the knighthood call for the last surviving member of the dambusters hoping that it would reach 100 signatures as he thought that number was enough to get his point heard.
So, he was very surprised that the plea, to date, has now 35,000 signatures. Even the RAF Association has backed the online call for knighthood. Mr. Hadley laughingly went on that he was planning to send a thank you note to everyone who responded but given the great number who heeded, he couldn’t do that anymore.
He finally closed on his statement by saying that if a barber can get the award, then, so should the last surviving member of the dambusters.