All 133 members of Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, will be “reunited” in a poignant exhibition marking the 75th anniversary of the raids. The Dambusters conducted a night of raids with Sir Barnes Wallis’s revolutionary bouncing bombs, releasing them 60ft above ground, on German dams in May 1943.
Of the 133 airmen who left on the missions, 53 did not return, giving a survival rate of just over 60%. George “Johnny” Johnson, 96, the only surviving British member of the squadron, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last year following campaigns to get him knighted.
He will now feature in an exhibition by Dan Llywelyn Hall, who in 2013 became the 133rd artist to paint the Queen, to reunite all 133 of the Dambusters ahead of the mission’s 75th anniversary.
Mr Llywelyn Hall had a sitting with the veteran in Bristol in February and has since been painting individual portraits of the members of the squadron, inspired by archive pictures and research.
“The Dambusters have an almost folkloric reputation to my generation and conjure the truest sense of comradeship for me,” he said. “After sitting with Johnny I had the sense of him feeling part of a much bigger team as he proudly made many references to his fellow crew. “Curiosity made me explore the other Dambusters and soon enough I had this vision of seeing all the faces together reunited with Johnny.”