RAF Cranwell serviceman rides 200 miles for last ‘Dambuster’s 100th birthday

An RAF serviceman based at the Air Cadets headquarters at RAF College Cranwell has completed a special cycle ride to celebrate the birthday of the last surviving ‘Dambuster’.

Wing Commander Mike Ainsworth. EMN-210519-125550001

Wing Commander Mike Ainsworth 55, from Barkston, took part in the Dambusters Ride by riding from RAF Scampton to Bristol on Saturday, May 15.

The Dambusters Ride was created by the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity, to celebrate the 100th birthday of Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson DFM, the last surviving member of the Dambusters raid.

He covered the 200 mile distance in 17hours 18m 39s.

It forms part of Mike’s intention to cycle 5,600 miles this year to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund, covering the distance both on the road and on a turbo trainer.

Mike said: “I wanted to set myself a big challenge as I’m an experienced cyclist, so I settled on 5,600 miles. This represents 100 miles for each crew member from the eight Lancaster bombers that did not return from the Dambusters raid. I’m also turning 56 this year, which makes my target especially fitting!

“I’ve been in the Royal Air Force for 35 years, so the RAF Benevolent Fund is a cause very close to my heart. I grew up on RAF bases as my parents both served and one of my earliest memories is watching The Dam Busters film at RAF Halton as a young boy, so I’m honoured to be paying tribute to those who risked their lives in the Dambusters raid.”

He added: “Within the challenge, to signify the four dams attacked on the raid, I will undertake four 100-mile rides on four consecutive days over the main weekend of the official Dambusters sportive in July.

“I will be joined on some of my rides by my friend Mary Temple with whom I have ridden several 100-mile rides including training for the Prudential Ride London 100 sportive in 2019 to raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Centenary. In that year the Fund helped more than 71,700 current and former members of the RAF and their families.”

You can follow Mike’s progress and sponsor him via his fundraising page: rafbf.enthuse.com/pf/mike-ainsworth. To learn more about how you can get involved in the Dambusters Ride, visit rafbf.org/ride.

Johnny Johnson has given his support to the ride. He said: “I am grateful to have never needed the support of the RAF Benevolent Fund but nonetheless I have always known they are there for those less fortunate than I.

“Not only will this event raise vital funds to support RAF personnel, past and present, it will also pay tribute to the brave men of Bomber Command who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Dambusters raid and throughout the Second World War. Their loss must never be forgotten and it is my hope through this event, a new generation will learn about the cost of the freedom they enjoy today.

“The RAF Benevolent Fund does incredible work supporting RAF veterans and serving personnel and I would like to thank anyone who signs up for this cycle ride.”

In 2020, the RAF Benevolent Fund introduced a 24-hour emotional support helpline and created an online mental wellbeing zone, as well as offering Headspace memberships to partners of serving personnel. The Fund has also offered a grant of £2,500 to each RAF station to provide an activity and wellbeing pack for RAF children and launched Airplay Connect, an online version of its youth support service.

Lisa Hunt, Regional Fundraiser at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Mike is going the extra mile – quite literally – in his fundraising efforts this year, and we are beyond grateful for his support. By taking part in the Dambusters Ride, he will honour Johnny’s life and service and other members 617 Squadron. Thanks to people like Mike, we will be able to continue supporting the whole of the RAF Family practically, emotionally and financially for years to come.”

Other riders celebrated Johnny Johnson’s 100th birthday by doing a 56 or 100-mile bike ride on Saturday taking in landmarks in the east of England that were significant to 617 Squadron and to Johnny.

The 100-mile ride started and finished at the Petwood Hotel in Woodhall Spa, visiting RAF Scampton, Highfields School in Newark and RAF College Cranwell.

Others signed up to do a virtual challenge.

The top individual fundraiser could win a flight in a classic Tiger Moth. The top fundraising team won VIP tickets to the RAF Benevolent Fund’s ‘Dambuster Dinner’ at the Petwood Hotel in October 2021.