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Flying at 100ft: "It was tremendously exhilarating"

Johnny Johnson, bomb aimer in 617 Squadron on the Dambusters raid, describes his experience during the raid's dangerous low flying training in a recent and exclusive interview with the RAF Benevolent Fund.

"If you can imagine flying at 12,000, 15,000 or 20,000ft – we were told that the height was going to be 100ft. Wow!" says Johnny. Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb relied on a low drop point over water for the bouncing effect to work.

The men in the squadron would have to fly much closer to ground level than they ever had before, an incredibly dangerous task in a large aircraft full of men, but one that Johnny apparently found more exciting than scary. This was especially so when normally in the RAF low-level flying could be rewarded with a court martial.

"I'm probably in the most comfortable position in the aircraft,’ says Johnny. ‘I’ve got cushions to lie on and a shoulder rest cushion in front of me. I'm lying there watching the ground go whoosh! Straight past. It was a wonderful experience and it was tremendously exhilarating."

Johnny’s crew even found the opportunity for some thrilling variations in their low flying routes - namely some light-hearted air stunts.

"There is a small town in Lincolnshire known as Sutton Bridge, so-called because of the bridge that goes over the canal at that stage. Flying up from the south, before you get to that bridge, the electric cables also go across the canal and the practice became – not scheduled, mind you – flying under the cables and over the bridge. Great fun, it really was. Stupid we were, but it was great fun."

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Warrant Officer Joseph Brady an air gunner for 617 Squadron on the Dambusters raid who died, age 27, after his plane was hit by flak and crashed.

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