Dambusters veteran, Johnny Johnson, explains how the raid very nearly postponed his wedding – permanently!
Johnny had scheduled to wed his then fiancée, Gwyneth, during a prescribed break from service in April 1943. What he didn’t know was that famed RAF pilot and Wing Commander of 617 Squadron, Guy Gibson, had other plans for him and his crew, then led by Flight Lieutenant Joe McCarthy. They were about to be recruited into one of history’s most famous flying squadrons.
Johnny says that: "Before we'd quite finished our first tour, Gibson rang Joe and asked him, “Would he join this special squadron that he was forming for one special trip?"
"When we got to RAF Scampton [for training] one of the first things we heard was 'no leave'. Oh god, there goes my wedding. I knew what sort of nonsense I was going to be in then because when we’d heard we were joining this squadron I'd written to Gwyn and told her that we were joining just for this one trip but I would be there. I got a letter back saying 'if you're not there on April 3rd, don't bother'.
"Joe took us up as a crew to Gibson’s office and in his American style said, 'We've just finished our first tour; we’re entitled to a week’s leave. My bomb-aimer's supposed to be getting married on April 3rd and he’s gonna get married on April 3rd!'
This from a Flight Lieutenant to a Wing Commander was a bit heavy but that was Joe. We got our leave and I got my wedding."
Nonetheless, Johnny now had to go on an incredibly dangerous mission as a married man rather than a bachelor.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Normal Burrows, an air gunner with 617 Squadron on the Dambuster raid, who was killed in action.