Carol Vorderman has launched a petition demanding a knighthood for George Johnson, the last surviving British member of the Dambuster raid. Why?
For sure, Mr Johnson volunteered for what turned out to be a remarkable and dangerous operation to demolish German dams in May 1943. But, in case Ms Vorderman had forgotten, there was a war on and he was not the only person to volunteer for that – or for other dangerous missions. He was the bomb aimer, he dropped his bomb on target on the Sorpe Dam and received a Distinguished Flying Medal – which is about par for the course. He served with 617 (Dambuster) Squadron for most of the rest of the war.
After the war he served in the RAF until 1962. He then became a teacher and county councillor. As media interest in the raid increased he has been interviewed several times on TV. All very worthy, but nothing exceptional – other than living to a ripe old age.
The harsh truth is that most of the wartime generation all did brave stuff, and some of them exceptionally brave stuff. At the time they were acknowledged in the usual way, with medals and (occasionally) honours that were considered appropriate then by their peers.
It is also the case that recently, and possibly longer, the award of honours seems pretty random and, one suspects, knighthoods either come with the role (in government service) or for other activity deemed suitable by the honours office. As far as I am aware no honour has yet been issued for simply living longer than one’s peer group.
This whole story smacks to me of a celeb-seeking clickbait. Ms Vorderman is, allegedly, brainy. But raising her profile on the back of the courage shown by a pensioner 70 years ago is neither wise nor attractive. That 50,000 people have clicked on her petition is yet another demonstration of the vacuity of much of social media. That the mainstream press has picked it up is, I fear, yet another example of the creation and propagation of a non-story.
A better story would at least remind readers that 617 Squadron was disbanded recently as part of the continuing purge of the British armed forces. If Ms Vorderman really want to honour courage she might better direct her efforts to helping charities like Combat Stress.
Or she could contemplate that rare thing for a celeb – dignified silence.
(Image: Carl Milner)