Fred Sutherland: tribute from the Johnson family

Left to right: Fred Sutherland, “Johnnie” Johnson, Ray Grayston. Pictured at East Kirkby, 2002. 

Guest post by Philip Johnson, son of Flt Lt Edward “Johnnie” Johnson DFC, bomb aimer in AJ-N on the Dams Raid. (All pictures © Philip Johnson.)

I am 81 now and my memories of my father’s crewmate Fred Sutherland and his wife Marg are based on conversations with my father and the meetings I had with Fred and Marg at the 617 Squadron major events that I was invited to over the years, starting with the premiere of The Dam Busters film in London in 1955.

My father aways called Fred by his RAF nickname “Doc”. My father would retell stories he would hear from Doc and Marg about their adventures and trips. To him, Doc was always an “outdoor in the Rockies” man. Marg would occasionally exchange ideas and information with my mother on their joint interest in fabrics and hand skills (sewing and embroidery). For years, my mother cherished a small doll given to her by Marg (I think from South America or Mexico – a fabric/weaving trip). Marg guaranteed it improved sleep. I still have it working for me.

My last meeting with them both, and the occasion when I spent most time with Doc, was at my father’s 90th Birthday party in May 2002. As a family we were fortunate to be able to enjoy his birthday in the company of Fred and Marg, and also Ray Grayston and his family. What a splendid few days we had at the Petwood Hotel and the East Kirkby Aviation Centre where we enjoyed the final pleasure of a trip down the runway in the restored Lancaster.

There will never be enough words to capture the loss the family of Doc and Marg must feel. It has to be for me to say, on behalf of all my family in UK and New Zealand, “Farewell, knowing you was a special pleasure.”

Here are some pictures to show what Fred and Marg meant to my family.

This rare picture, probably taken while they were still at 50 Squadron, shows Les Knight with his complete Dams Raid crew. Left to right: Fred Sutherland, Johnnie Johnson, Bob Kellow, Harry O’Brien, Sydney Hobday, Les Knight, Ray Grayston. The two men on the right hand side are unknown ground crew. [Amended from original post, 03/02/2019.]

Fred and Marg skiing. A note on the back in Fred’s writing says “Feb 90 at Lake O’Hara”. 

A special gift on Johnnie Johnson’s 90th birthday was a recreation of the well-known wartime picture of the Knight crew by artist Simon Smith. Johnnie, Ray Grayston and Fred Sutherland shown here with the portrait. 

Inside Lancaster “Just Jane” at East Kirkby. Fred Sutherland trying out the pilot’s seat. 

Fred and Marg Sutherland inspecting a vintage Bentley car outside the Dambusters Inn in Scampton. 


6 thoughts on “Fred Sutherland: tribute from the Johnson family

  1. Ian Humphries February 1, 2019 / 1:53 am

    In the 50sqn photo I would be inclined to swap Harry O’Brien with Ray Grayston (their names that is)

    • Philip Johnson February 3, 2019 / 4:32 am

      Ian Humohries – So nice to see a familiar and famous name from the 617 history. The credits on the 50 squadron pic have got a bit jumbled in the process of posting: They should i think read: Doc, ECJ, Bob, Harry, Hobby, Les, Ray – I regret have never known the names of the 2 ground crew members – if anybody knows -PLEASE help it would complete a ‘special’ circle.

      • Philip Johnson February 3, 2019 / 4:34 am

        Cant believe I mis-typed Humphries – need stronger glasses or more nimble fingers!! PJ

      • charlesfoster February 3, 2019 / 11:09 am

        Philip and Ian — Thanks for corrections. Post amended. CF

  2. Chris and Diane Stephens February 1, 2019 / 9:10 pm

    From our family friends in England (Chris and Diane Stephens):

    Hi is there any way that you can pass on our respects to the family, the world has lost a very brave and honourable man, we were both very sorry that we did not get the chance to meet him, thanks ~Chris

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