Dambusters airmen 'reunited' for portrait exhibition

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Image source, Dan Llywelyn Hall
Image caption,
Portraits of pilot Joseph McCarthy, navigator Vivian Nicholson and flight engineer Robert Paterson

A portrait exhibition of 133 airmen who took part in the Dambusters raid has been created by a Welsh artist.

The World War Two operation, on 16 May 1943, saw RAF bombers break two large dams in Germany using experimental "bouncing" bombs.

The exhibition, Dambusters Reunited, is to go on show to mark the 75th anniversary of the raid.

Artist Dan Llywelyn Hall had the idea while painting Britain's last surviving member, George Johnson.

Eight planes were lost during the raid, 53 men died and three were captured. Another 32 died in later operations.

The Dambusters mission involving Lancaster Bombers from 617 Squadron was later immortalised in the 1955 film The Dam Busters.

In 2017, Sq Ldr George Leonard "Johnny" Johnson, who lives in Bristol, was made an MBE after a campaign to see him honoured.

He is one of two surviving members of the Dambusters. The other is Canadian former front gunner Fred Sutherland.

Image source, Richard Brewis
Image caption,
George Johnson sitting for a portrait by artist Dan Llywelyn Hall

Hall, who is from Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, but now lives in London, was put in touch with Mr Johnson after painting Harry Patch, the last surviving British veteran of World War One, who died in 2009 aged 111.

"The Dambusters have an almost folkloric reputation to my generation and conjure the truest sense of comradeship for me," the artist 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."

Image caption,
A BBC project helped to bring all the men's photos together for the first time in 2013

Hall has since contacted family members of other Dambusters to source photographs to help him paint the portraits.

The exhibition is due to go on show at several locations, including the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln on 13 May.

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