Dambuster Johnny Johnson, 96, was among RAF veterans who took part in a ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday to officially start the project. 150518LSP6-3
Dambuster Johnny Johnson, 96, was among RAF veterans who took part in a ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday to officially start the project. 150518LSP6-3

Veterans of Bomber Command, including George "Johnny" Johnson, who grew up in Collingham, helped to signal the start of a project to erect a full-sized sculpture of a Lancaster bomber near Norton Disney.

Johnny Johnson, 96 — the last surviving British Dambuster — was among ten RAF veterans who took part in a ceremony to break the ground where the sculpture will be installed at Brills Farm, on the border of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire.

The 26-metre long sculpture will be mounted on a steel frame to give the impression that it is in flight and will be called On Freedom’s Wings.

The project is being spearheaded by trustees of the Lincoln Bomber County Gateway Trust.

The ceremony started with a welcome address by Mr Charlie White, of Brills Farm. It was followed by an introduction to the project by trustee and chief designer Mr Ken Sadler, who introduced each veteran.

There was a blessing by the Rev Dee Freeman, before each veteran cut the ground.

As well as the veterans, children from five schools attended, including from Highfields School, Newark, where Johnny Johnson taught.

Pupils from Highfields School, Newark, Brant Broughton Primary School, and John Blow Primary School, Collingham, with a model of the Lancaster sculpture at the site where a full-sized version will be erected.
Pupils from Highfields School, Newark, Brant Broughton Primary School, and John Blow Primary School, Collingham, with a model of the Lancaster sculpture at the site where a full-sized version will be erected.
 

The children scattered wildflower seed across the meadow.

Mr Sadler said: "The whole point of the project is to commemorate what these gentlemen gave for all of us and to inspire the younger generation with their achievements, so it is great that both of them are here.

"We are busy designing at the moment and will hopefully be starting to build in the next month or so.

"Funding is going well. We are currently at around £40,000 but we need to be at £100,000 to get everything finished so we need to keep going."

Johnny Johnson, who was made MBE for his part in the daring second world war Dambuster raid, said: "It is tremendous for all of this to take place within the county. It is a great reflection of what was achieved by Bomber Command and the amazing Lancaster bomber aircraft as they were so influential in beating the Germans into submission."

There was also a speech by RAF Squadron Leader Adrian Wood regarding the RAF 100 baton relay, which set off on April 1.

The relay is being held to mark the 100th anniversary of the RAF.

It is being carried over 100 days across 100 sites in the UK and abroad by volunteers with a connection to the RAF.

Bomber Command controlled the RAF’s bomber forces from 1936 to 1968.

Along with the United States Army Air Forces, it played the central role in the strategic bombing of Germany during the second world war.

Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the Dambuster raid. A total of 133 men flew across Europe in 19 Lancasters to drop specially-designed bouncing bombs on the Mohne, Sorpe, Eder and Ennepe dams.