Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0135
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T2886 16-09-43 Lancaster
MilRank First Name(s) Name
F/O. Edward Cuthbert Johnson
Milregnr. Nationality Born
119126 British
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
Yes EVD 21 Dec 43 Whitchurch, England Comet Line
Evader Story
						F/O. Edward Cuthbert 'Johnny' Johnson was the bomb aimer of Lancaster JB144. He joined the RAF early in the war, serving first with 50 and 106 Squadrons. In 1943 he transferred to 617 Squadron. During the famous Dambusters Raid he was the bomb aimer on Lancaster AJ-N piloted by F/Lt. Les Knight. During that raid they first attacked the Mohne Dam and then went on to attack and actually breach the Eder Dam, for which he was awarded the DFC. In the night of 15/16 September 1943 the crew of Knight - including Johnson - took part in a raid on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. On this mission they were ordered to bomb from very low level with a 12000-pounder. Due to a change of the wind direction and intense flak the Lancaster had to fly at higher level and flew through some trees on the top of a hill. This damaged both port engines and the elevator rudder. Knight managed to gain some height but shortly after he couldn’t control the aircraft anymore and ordered to bail out. Les Knight was the only one who didn’t survive.

Johnson landed at about ten kilometers north of Almelo in a ploughed field near Archem, between Ommen and Den Ham. The Lancaster crashed in a nearby field. The airman buried his parachute and then immediately started to distance himself from the crash site. He walked all night. At first daylight he hid in a haystack. In the morning he removed his distinctives and badges and then approached the farmer who gave him a meal, a razer set and an overall. Later that day he walked in south-westerly direction (according to other sources he left only after two nights at the farm). Because of the curfew he walked during daylight. He lived from what he could find to eat in the fields he passed and from the meals he received from friendly Dutchmen. In the following days he passed Wilp and via Arnhem and Nijmegen, he reached Elst on 19 September. Here he ended up un on a fruit farm. In his own debriefing report, Johnson reported that he hid here from 19 September until 23 October (according to other sources until 31 October). During the day he worked in the orchard. At the fruit farm he met a girl of the Nederlandse Heidemaatschappij who assured him that she could help him evade in the direction of Spain. After he was told not to trust her, he broke contact. Only at the end of October it turned out that she could be trusted, and the contact was re-established.

On 31 October he left the fruit farm and was taken to Weert. Here he spent the night in an apartment of H.J. De Kort. The day after - 1 November - Johnson cycled to Maarheeze in the company of a military policeman (Marechaussee) and a person in civilian clothes. He stayed for a night in the caravan of Harrie and Trien Semler. On 3 November he crossed the Dutch-Belgian border with marechaussee Vermazen and ‘a man and his wife’, probably Harrie and Trien Semler. The border was crossed near Hamont. At the Belgian side he was handed over to a customs officer who accompanied him by foot to a point where another man was waiting with a bike. They terminated at the house of Family Wijnen in Hamont in Belgium. He hid here for about ten days in two rooms on the upper floor until resistance workers from Neerpelt picked up Johnson on 13 November. He was taken to the house of Bert Spooren, a shoemaker. Here he joined three other airmen:  2/Lt. Donald O. Mills (E0176), F/O. J.M. Elliott and F/O. Robert S. Clements.
It's unclear if all four travelled together to Antwerp and if so, on which date. At least Johnson and Mills travelled together, and this was probably on 18 November. In the port city they stayed four days, before moving on 22 November to Brussels. They stayed two days in the Belgian capital. On 24 November Johnson, Mills and another airman, T/Sgt. Hank C. Johnson, travelled by train to Doornik. They crossed the Belgian-French border by foot with other evaders and walked then to Cysoing. A customs officer in civilian suit accompanied them. They stayed overnight at his house. 

The next day, 25 November, they went by train to Lille and Paris. In the French capital Johnson and Mills hid a couple of days at the apartment of Odile Hochepied at the fifth floor of 11 Rue Descombes in Paris XVII. On 1 December Johnson, Mills, Clemens and S/Ldr. Cyril Passy were guided by train to Bordeaux. From there it went to Dax and then on to Sutar where they stayed in the Larre Inn of Jeanne Mendiara. From here they crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. Edward Johnson eventually reached Gibraltar and left it on 20 December 1943 by plane. He arrived the next day, 21 December, in Whitchurch.

He served out the rest of the war in various ground postings and left the RAF in 1947. He went back to hometown Blackpool, and joined a company selling fireplaces, where he worked until his retirement. Edward Johnson died in Blackpool on 1 October 2002, aged 90.

* Neerpelt in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Bilsen 1994)
* P.C. Meijer, Luchtoorlog rondom Den Ham (Den Ham 1995)
* J. Bussels, De doodstraf als risico. Pilotenhulp in Belgisch Limburg 1941-1944 (without place 1981), page 282-292