Born: Not known
Died: 11 November 1942
Service number: 1036704
Regiment/Service: 101 Squadron, RAFVR
Family information: Son of George and Edith Johnson, Junction Hotel, Purston
Gordon Erod Johnson was an Air Gunner in 101 Squadron Royal Air Force
Volunteer Reserve. He was killed in action on 30-31 March 1944 in the infamous
Nuremburg Raid. He was 21 years old.
101 Squadron, which was stationed at Ludford Magna between Louth and Market
Rasen, was flying ABC Lancasters. ABC was a device called Airborne Cigar. Each
Lancaster in 101 Squadron was fitted with three transmitters and manned by an
extra German speaking crew member who was to jam the German fighter controllers’
instructions. These planes mixed into the bomber stream on all major raids.
Although the ABC system was known to the Germans, it caused some difficulty
for the enemy controllers. In late 1943 the order ‘All butterflies go home’ was
broadcast from England on the German frequency causing many German planes to
land. 101 Squadron’s leader was Air Vice Marshal E.A.B. Rice whose headquarters
was at Bawtry Hall.
During the Nuremberg Raid only one aircraft in 101 Squadron had a New Zealand
pilot officer - Lancaster LM463 - Gordon Johnson’s plane. In the early morning
of 31 March, with a crew on its second mission, the plane was brought down by
fighter attack. Pilot Officer A. E. Lander bailed out and was taken prisoner.
The plane crashed at Dillenburg. There were six killed and two prisoners.
Soon after the raid set off, the ABC men were warming up their sets, and over
Charleroi in Belgium, they were in operation giving out false messages. In the
first skirmishes with German fighters, in an area from the German frontier to
the Rhine, we lost 10 Lancasters and two Halifaxes.
When Lander’s plane was hit this was his story. “After I told the crew to
abandon the aircraft, I tried to keep the plane straight and level as long as I
could until the flames entered the cockpit. I covered my face with my left arm
but lost control of the aircraft which went into a spin throwing me out of my
seat into a position with my back against the cockpit window. Many thoughts
passed through my mind as I lay there. Anyway, things were getting bloody hot in
there and my clothes were starting to burn, so I put my feet against the pilot’s
seat and, by straightening my legs, I managed to push myself out through the
window and flipped out over the wing. How quiet and cool everything was then! I
realised I still had a chance and felt for the rip cord.” Unfortunately only one
other man in Lander’s crew had been able to get out.
101 Squadron had suffered the heaviest losses of the night. Seven of their
aircraft and 56 men were missing. An Australian pilot ‘Dutch Holland’ said, “We
waited and waited and waited. We were an experienced crew and accustomed to
losing the odd one or two aircraft and this was the era when we in Bomber
Command were losing quite large numbers on every raid. But with nearly one
third of our squadron missing, this was a big kick in the guts for us all. We
waited up until nearly mid-day before going to our huts - stunned, shocked and
silent, each crew member wrapped in his own mental anguish.”
It appears that Gordon Johnson was buried near Dillenburg, west of Bonn and
later moved to Hanover for burial in a War Grave Cemetery. He is buried in
Hanover War Cemetery, Germany, Grave 5.H.3.
Gordon Erod Johnson was the son of George and Edith Johnson and the brother of
Kathleen Johnson of Featherstone.
Story submitted by Tony Lumb.