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Josh Rowles at tent selling medals

RAF student creates commemorative coins to mark the Dambusters 80th anniversary



Fundraising RAF Family Press releases

Acting Pilot Officer, Josh Rowles, has spent the past few months producing commemorative medals and patches in honour of the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, which have been sold to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

The project began for Josh, 24, when a budding friendship with RAF veteran Johnny Johnson inspired Josh to create and sell a set of limited-edition birthday badges to mark Johnny’s 100th birthday. 

Until 2022, Johnny Johnson MBE, DFM, aged 101, was the last surviving member of the aircrew of the 617 Squadron who flew in Operation Chastise in the Second World War.

The Dambusters were members of the RAF's 617 Squadron who were assembled to bomb three dams in Germany's Ruhr Valley on the night of 16-17 May 1943 – also known as Operation Chastise. This year marks 80 years since the risky raid, in which the revolutionary bouncing bomb, the brainchild of engineer Barnes Wallis, was dropped at low level on Germany’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr Valley. The mission was a success, but the cost was high; of 133 aircrew who left, 53 were killed and three became prisoners of war. 

Josh’s latest endeavour arrived in time for the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, after raising over £3600 in Johnny’s name for his first project for the Fund.

Josh, currently studying for his Master’s in Aerospace Engineering, said:  "I felt for the 80th anniversary, I needed to do something to remember all 133 members of the aircrew involved. I set to work on creating a coin design which could become a collector’s item.

"I wanted them to be unique, so I numbered each coin with its own number and had certificates of authenticity printed to display all relevant information. The coin was boxed with a design I adopted to be the logo of the project. It features a Lancaster plane and three lightning bolts representing the 617-sqn badge."

Josh met Johnny at an Air Cadet Wing dinner and from there, a friendship blossomed. Johnny had a passion for sharing his story and with this, Josh’s Dambusters knowledge and interest grew over time. Johnny attended the various youth groups Josh was involved with to deliver presentations on the Dambusters, Bomber Command and general stories from RAF life.

Josh believes it is important for the Dambusters to be remembered, saying: "As a 24-year-old, I am the age many of the Dambusters aircrew were when sent to attack the dams. We live in a very different world thanks to the sacrifices made by the young people of that time, and when we remember the Dambusters, we must not forget the 53 who were lost on that raid."

He continued: "It's historically significant for what it proved, from an engineering perspective, from a morale perspective, but ultimately from a sacrifice perspective. 80 years have now passed, and personally knowing Johnny for me was a privilege so many never had. 

"These coins for me signify the importance of the raid so people can remember either a loved one, a friend or simply just a crew member. We will remember them, lest we forget!"

Josh decided to continue to support the work of the RAF Benevolent Fund, saying: "I enjoy working closely with the Fund; I know the support is there to benefit those around me and the extended RAF Family. My previous project was well supported and raised significant funds and therefore I wanted to continue what I had started."

You can read more about the story of the Dambusters here.

You can shop the collection of coins and support the memory of the Dambusters here.