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Lancaster Bomber ED825

Discussion in 'Allied Bomber Planes' started by Kelly War44, Nov 4, 2007.

  1. Kelly War44

    Kelly War44 New Member

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    He stands knee deep in a shallow trench on a gently sloping field outside the small farming town in northern France. An old man with his memories of a very special aeroplane. "It was noisy sometimes, smelly sometimes, and sometimes dirty," he says. "But God, it was reliable. It went out and it came back." But not this one. Not that one last flight 64 years ago... Scattered in the soil around George "Johnny" Johnson are a few tiny fragments of what had once been a most famous aircraft on the most famous mission of the Second World War. Lancaster bomber ED825 had been one of the Dambusters and a much younger Sergeant Johnny Johnson had been its bomb aimer when it carried its bouncing bombs to destroy dams deep inside Germany. The Dambusters flew into history, made especially famous by the 1955 movie. ED825, meanwhile, flew several more missions until it vanished, shot down "Somewhere over northern France" seven months after the raid. But now, 64 years later, the remains of the plane have been discovered - and the Daily Mirror has reunited it with one of the men who flew in it on that famous night. Now 85, Johnny made an emotional journey with some of his family to Doullens to be reunited with the plane that had carried him on that mission of such unforgettable heroism. There are no wings, no fuselage and no obvious pieces of plane wreckage. The occupying Germans who shot the plane down had stripped it for scrap metal as soon as the wreckage had cooled. Instead, the dislodged soil has offered up just a few small fragments of the Lancaster and a handful of old British coins and whistles belonging to the sevenman crew who died when it was hit by flak as it passed over Doullens. Johnny never knew the men who died on that freezing winter night, but his memory is crystal clear as he recalls his own more successful and infinitely more famous raid. Born in Lincolnshire to a farm manager, Johnny had imagined his future would be in farming, but when war broke out he decided flying was his call. He failed to make the grade as a pilot - and after months of sitting on his hands retrained as a bomb aimer. Johnny, now a retired teacher from Torquay, recalls: "I did it because the training course was the shortest there was and I didn't want to waste any more time. I was just back from a bomb aimer's course when I was selected to join the crew of a Flight Lieutenant called Joe McCarthy. He was a superb pilot and we finished our first tour with 97 Squadron, in which we had made about 30 trips." Early in 1943 Johnny made the leap that would take him on one of the most historic flights ever. He recalls: "I was asked if I would be interested in joining this new squadron that was being formed for one special trip. I was - and before I knew it I was transferred to 617 Squadron." The mission was shrouded in such secrecy that even phone calls were monitored. But while Johnny could cope with the blackout, the news that all leave had been cancelled was a bitter blow. He was due to marry Gwyneth Morgan on April 3. Leave was eventually granted, but there was little time for a honeymoon as the intensive training had already started. He says: "I had been used to being at 12,000ft and only seeing the target at the last moment. Now we were at 100ft or even lower and I could see everything. It was amazing. Nobody else was able to fly low so it felt very special." But it was not until two nights before the famous raid that Johnny and the rest of 617 Squadron were let in on the extraordinary plan that had been hatched by scientist Barnes Wallis. "On the night of May 15 Wallis showed us the plans for his bouncing bomb," Johnny recalls. "Sticking down where the bomb bay should be were these two arms and a hole on one side. When we saw it, we thought 'What the hell are these for? Then the bombs arrived, like enormous dustbins. The arms were to clamp them to the aircraft and spin them to get the bounce, like skipping stones across a pond." Johnny and the rest of his crew were ready for their May 17 lift-off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire when disaster struck. Their own Lancaster would not start and they raced across the tarmac to the backup plane. That plane was ED825. They were 20 minutes behind the other crews, but made it to the Sorpe dam in Germany's Ruhr region. "We were to drop the bomb at the centre of the dam," he says. "It took us seven runs to get that right. When it finally went, I shouted: 'The bomb's gone!' and a voice from the rear turret muttered 'Thank God'. I didn't see what had happened. But the rear gunner did and he said the water shot a thousand feet in the air." The raid was outrageously daring but 53 of 133 men involved in the attacks on the three German dams lost their lives. To Johnny it was worth it. He insists now: "We forced them to half drain the entire dam, but we started out with 19 crews and almost a 50 per cent were lost. It shattered the squadron. "Barnes Wallace said afterwards, 'I've killed all those young men and I will never do anything like that again. And he never did."

    Source - Sunday Mirror
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Great post Kelly, what Barnes Wallace says at the end i can understand where he comes from as he is talking from the heart, but as we all know War brings out the worst in many ways which results in such tragic ends.
     

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