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Welcome to BBC Points West with Alex Lovell and David Garmston.
Johnny Johnson from Bristol is the last British veteran
of the those daring raids into the Nazi heartland.
Now, Michael Buerk takes him back to Germany.
The Dambuster raid was one of the most extraordinary raids in history.
But the whole bombing campaign against Germany
in the Second World War remains strategically and
Johnny meets a man almost killed in the raids,
as even some Germans call for Mr Johnson to be knighted.
The police stage a series of raids to cut off the drugs
A boxer on the ropes but still fighting.
A fund to help an athlete diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is in the red corner but I am still strong in the blue.
Peaches Golding is the first black woman in Britain to be appointed
Good evening, and welcome to a special edition of Points West.
The growing calls for Britain's last surviving Dambuster,
George Johnny Johnson from Bristol, to be honoured.
Over 300,000 people have now signed a petition demanding a knighthood
for the man who took part in one of the most daring flying missions
When we hear "Dambusters", we automatically think of the 1950s
But that was just a dramatisation of one of the many missions
which RAF Bomber Command flew over Germany.
The actual Dambusters raids began late one May evening in 1943.
19 Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron took off from Britain to attack
three different dams, the Mohne, the Eder, and the Sorpe.
Johnny Johnson's squadron was heading for the Sorpe,
an altogether different design not at all suited to the bouncing bomb.
One which needed a completely different, more audacious approach.
As part of our 60th birthday year, we invited internationally acclaimed
reporter Michael Buerk, who began his broadcasting career
here at BBC Bristol, to take Mr Johnson back to Germany.
They went to the place where he dropped his bombs and met
Johnny Johnson may be looking at the present,
He's back, three-quarters of a century, to a moonlit night,
As a young man, he was part of RAF Bomber Command.
Part of the sustained, lethal campaign against the Nazis'
war machine that all but destroyed many of Germany's cities.
A huge lake held back by the great Sorpe Dam.
It's a tourist resort these days out of season.
But 74 years ago, it was the target for the most famous
The mission involved dropping specially invented bombs designed
The Mohne, Eder and Sorpe Dams, captured in the 1950s
As a bomb aimer, Johnny Johnson's job was to hit the Sorpe Dam.
Our briefing was to fly across the dam to drop the bomb
as near as possible to the centre of the dam.
After six or seven of those, a voice from the back of rear turret,
"Won't someone get rid of that bomb out of here."
And, on the tenth run we were actually down to 30 feet.
But ten times, you headed over the hill, over the town,
down very sharply, 30 feet, drop it precisely in the middle,
Ten times you tried before you got it right?
It was something we hadn't practised at all in training,
So it was practise, practise, practise here.
Did you on this raid or any other have any thoughts for the people
Not doing the actual operation at that time.
Fritz Wortmann, then 14, was hiding in a tunnel
The perfect air raid shelter, or so he thought.
TRANSLATION: We went to the dam and got down to about 50 metres.
After a certain time we heard the sound of engines.
The intensity kept going up and down.
Until suddenly there was a deafening explosion.
The doors inside the dam burst open, and there
Johnny's bomb was spot-on, but not enough to breach the Sorpe.
Eight Lancasters were designated to hit the dam that night.
But the other Dambusters blew great holes in the Mohne and Eder Dams.
This old footage taken by an off-duty German soldier shows
the breach at the Eder Dam two days after the attacks.
Industrial valleys were flooded, depriving war factories
of the water that they needed, badly frightening
ARCHIVE: Wing Commander Gibson VC who led the great
Lancaster raid over the dams, escorts the king during a visit
by Their Majesties to an air station in the north of England.
It was a godsend to a nation desperate for a victory.
Johnny was there that day, personally congratulated by
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at RAF Scampton.
..And resulted in enormous damage and dislocation to Germany's...
No matter 1,300 German civilians had died.
No matter the damage to Nazi war production was only temporary.
The war's supreme feat of precision flying had dealt Hitler
Now as two old men by the side of a lake where they both nearly
Friends now, until the end of their days.
And later in the programme, Michael will explore why Mr Johnson
may have been overlooked for a knighthood and why the men
of Bomber Command have never received a campaign medal.
Four people have been arrested in simultaneous raids in London this
morning in connection with the supply of class A drugs
The constabulary made the arrests with help
Our Gloucestershire reporter Steve Knibbs joined the operation
in Peckham and Lewisham in the early hours of this morning.
This is the culmination of a long investigation.
Stand-by, stand-by, strike, strike, strike!
30 police officers from Gloucestershire carry out
simultaneous strikes on four buildings, to arrest four people
they believe are heavily involved in supplying drugs into the county.
Within minutes, all four targets are arrested.
Three men and one woman, all on suspicion of
All, apart from one of them, are also suspected
With the suspects in custody, specialist search teams
and scenes of crime officers look in every nook
At the moment we've seized a quantity of cash,
various mobile phones, documentation regarding
These arrests were part of Operation Sideswipe,
aimed at targeting so-called dangerous drugs networks.
Effectively, gangs who prey on vulnerable users
They'll often take over someone's house to deal from,
so-called cuckooing, all under threat
This is one of the most significant operations launched
by Gloucestershire Constabulary in recent years.
It's taken months of gathering intelligence and analysing that
intelligence, and detectives say it proves their determination to show
that Gloucestershire isn't an easy target for those who want to deal
These people think they can come in to Gloucester and commit
the crimes they are doing, selling drugs to our
young vulnerable people, and exploiting people.
This is why it's important that we do take the fight back to them.
They know who we are, and we look at arresting them
and seizing their assets that are obtained through
All four arrested today are still in custody,
as the investigation into serious drug dealing in Gloucestershire
continues in and away from the county.
Steve Knibbs, BBC Points West, London.
Peaches Golding says she's delighted at being chosen to be
She'll be the first black person in history to be a lord lieutenant
when she takes up the role in six weeks' time.
The ceremonial role means she's the Queen's representative
in the city, and Peaches says she'll do all she can to
I think the term you guys use is "gobsmacked".
That just doesn't happen to ordinary people like me.
So, I guess, what it does prove is ordinary people can do
She says her father who was a civil rights campaigner has always
inspired her to fight for fairness and equality, something she says she
will continue to do as Lord Lieutenant.
Congratulations to her. A fundraising campaign's been
launched for a Bristol boxer who's been diagnosed
with incurable cancer. Dean Francis, who won many
titles in his career, has been told been by doctors
there's nothing more they can do. But now the boxing world is helping
him in his biggest fight yet. Of all these champion
boxers from Bristol, one has been handed
the fight of his life. Dean Francis has bowel cancer,
and it's spread to his liver. He has between six months,
and three years to live. When they initially
told me, I was numb. Me and my wife were
looking at each other. I am going to approach it
in the same way, positive, Cancer is in the red corner but I am
still strong in the blue. And his support in that corner
led by a world champion. He has always been
a mentally strong person. He would come in the gym dancing,
so confident about himself. I wanted to be like him,
just the way he spoke to people I'm going to be just as strong
for him, we will together. We are convinced we are
going to beat this. The plan is to raise
?100,000 online, to explore At times, it makes me emotional
when I think about how much people My only wish is that,
when I was fighting, they were around so I could have
sold more tickets! But, yes, honestly,
it is heart-warming! The fight is still very
much in Dean Francis. Against the ropes, yes,
but he's never been beaten easily. His spirit is so admirable,
incredible. I am sure his positive vibes will
beat it. Gloucestershire's triple
Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin has received
a CBE for services to equestrianism. She was presented with the honour
by Her Majesty the Queen. Charlotte is the most successful
British dressage rider ever. It's been confirmed that
Gloucester Rugby head coach It follows Saturday's 30-27 defeat
by Harlequins at Kingsholm. Fisher later tweeted
that it was "time to make Bristol City take on Norwich
tonight at Ashton Gate, looking to climb out
of the Championship relegation zone. They dropped into the bottom
three for the first time this season on Saturday,
following their goalless City have won just twice
in 21 league games. We return now to our main story,
and the growing campaign to award a knighthood to Britain's last
surviving Dambuster George "Johnny" Earlier in the programme,
our guest reporter Michael Buerk took Mr Johnson back to Germany
to revisit the dam he bombed and to be reconciled
with his former enemy. It's hard for any of us to imagine
what Johnny and his fellow airmen would have seen and felt,
as they flew low over the Sorpe Dam. We've created this 360 degree video
which hopefully will give If we run this video for you,
instead of approaching the dam from across the water like the other
two missions, Johnny's aircraft had to negotiate this hilltop
village into the valley so that he could drop his bomb
in the middle of the dam. They hadn't been able to practise,
and it took ten attempts before Johnny finally succeeded
in hitting his target. They then had to make
their escape over the forest. This 360 film is on our
Facebook page now. So to Michael's second film
in which he explores why the men of Bomber Command have never
received a campaign medal. And he joins us afterwards
to discuss why Johnny Johnson may have been overlooked
for a knighthood. It was by far the most dangerous
campaign of the war. Half those who took off to bomb
Germany never came back. Of those who returned,
only a few, now mostly 57,500 RAF Bomber Command
airmen were lost. Historians believe these aircrews
were responsible for the deaths of a quarter of a million
German civilians. Nobody doubts the bravery
and sacrifice. But what did it achieve,
and was it justified? It's still controversial today,
and the reason perhaps Bomber Command never
got its own campaign medal. Just this thin and nondescript
class, grudging, 70 years later, given to Bomber Command veterans
three years ago. Johnny Johnson, last of
the British Dambusters, despises it. Disgusted is the best
way I can describe it. I feel that there has been no
attempt to recognise the sacrifice ARCHIVE: The largest convoy ever
taken to Russia is feeling its way through the danger belt
north of Scandinavia. The worst journey in the world,
Churchill called it. The veterans of the Arctic convoys
who took arms and munitions to Stalin's Russia were finally
recognised at the same time. It gives me huge pleasure
to give you that. They were given their own full-blown
campaign medal, the Arctic Star. It has made the surviving bomber
boys feel even more rejected and fuelled the arguments over
what they did, arguments I do think the reluctance to issue
a Bomber Command medal at this stage does reflect how controversial
it is, and the possible upset it would cause
in Germany if they do, oh, they're decorating these people
who destroyed our parents' cities. There is an embarrassment
and uncertainty about how we should The city was attacked
nearly 80 times. And now they are going
to reap the whirlwind. For years, it was the only
way Britain that could Five million Germans
lost their homes. But critics say Bomber Command's
impact on the war effort was less than claimed,
and the continued destruction of German cities when the war
was nearly won unjustifiable. Johnny Johnson is
having none of that. Do you think that one of the reasons
that Bomber Command wasn't properly recognised was almost a sense
of shame at the death and destruction that
Bomber Command caused? But I am quite convinced that
Bomber Command fought the war I have a better version for what I
called retrospective historians. Were you personally aware
of the circumstances The answer to both
those questions is, no. Johnny Johnson had
a troubled childhood. An ordinary boy swept up by the war
into the most famous RAF Not a hero, he says,
not brave really. You say your lack of fear,
your lack of emotion I had the misfortune or tragedy
of losing my mother a fortnight From my early youth,
a lot of the emotion They flew into history on the most
famous bombing raid of them all. He is the last one left in Britain,
the last one who can I feel very satisfied that I did
what I could during the war. And I feel, in fact,
honoured to have had the chance to take part,
certainly, and in A chance to do my bit
towards the war effort. That, I think, is the one
thing I feel a proudness. Yes, proud that I
was able to do that. Michael, thank you for coming
in to talk to us about this. What was it like to take
Johnny Johnson back to Germany? From my point of view,
a real privilege. Living history, the last
remaining British Dambuster, of the most famous bombing mission
of the war, any war. To actually go back with him
to the very point where That's so patronising,
but really bright as a button. And to be there, you can see what it
meant to him, see it in his eyes. You don't get the emotion,
he is of that generation. As a television viewer,
or being there, the emotions going through his mind
even if he wasn't, even if his As journalists, we have
to keep out of politics. But what do you think
about this honours business? Well, his point of view
is that he would love a knighthood. On behalf of all the people who lost
their lives in Bomber command. And all those who went
through it all and survived And they never got this
campaign medal for all sorts And he feels, I think, as a lot
of people running this campaign, if he got a knighthood, this would
be the recognition that has so far A higher casualty rate
than any other units in the war. A lot of people feel
they weren't recognised, Then, the human cost
of it, in Germany. We could do a moral maze programme
about this, couldn't we? They bombed Bristol, bombed,
Coventry, that kind of stuff. It was the only way we could hit
back for a large portion of the war. I think it becomes more morally
questionable when you get to the end of the war,
when this huge bombing campaign was going on,
and it was not particularly precise, Anyway, we were winning the war,
should it have gone on so long, should so many more
have been killed. Some morally questionable
areas there. But Johnny wasn't
having any of that. From his point of view,
you had to be up there When Points West started
going on air, this would What you brought out of your film
was a beautiful moment, this sense Yes, the other thing
that was interesting, in Germany, We haven't got one,
they have got one there! The chap who runs the Dambusters
Museum who came to see us, he thinks Johnny ought
to get a knighthood. He thinks Bomber Command
ought to be recognised. If the Germans think that,
there is the interesting argument that perhaps we should
think that too. Welcome back to the west,
what was it like to come back? I came down White Ladies
Road, and it all came You are welcome at any
time, just don't ask to present the news,
Michael! I did ask to present
the news all those years ago and they turned me down,
I'm afraid. And you can watch even more
of Johnny's journey back to Germany She is in London tonight. If Michael
would have asked to do the weather, he would have had a cracking
picture. Some of them sum up the day. Here it
is, blue sky with Cloud pushing towards us. Stretching all the way
back to the Atlantic which means normally you have some rain in the
forecast. That is what is happening in the next few hours, a rain band
pushing in, and a warm front bringing milder air. We see a tangle
of other fronts. Downhill in terms of the weather but uphill as it work
in terms of temperatures. As the rain pumps in tonight, it boosts the
temperature up to 11 degrees tomorrow morning. A different start
to this morning. But the continued to see more rain.
Flight and patchy through the day, some hill fog. Drier interludes
particularly in Gloucestershire before further rain by the end of
the day. Look at these temperatures, it will feel like spring even though
you have some rain, 13 degrees. The rain pushes away tomorrow night.
Into Thursday, a ridge of high pressure builds in, meaning we are
looking at a cracking day on Thursday. Some cloud at first. Some
breaks in the clouds from the north in the afternoon, sunny and bright
styles coming through. On the breezy side but not significant winds. 14
Celsius. It will feel very nice. Friday, continuing to hold onto the
milder air. There could be some patchy rain at times. Bright spells
at weekends. Colder at the start of next week.
Thank you so much for being on tonight.
You've been watching a special edition of Points West.
Thank you for your company this evening.
We leave you tonight with just a few images of Britain's last
Dambuster George "Johnny" Johnson on his emotional return to Germany.
I could be a boxing champ, AND build your computer.
I am more than just the beard or the nation's favourite dish.