Britain's Royal portrait painter Richard Stone is in Tauranga this week to capture one of the three surviving members of the now famous Dambusters raid over Germany during World War II.

Squadron Leader Les Munro, who lives in Tauranga, is now in his 90s. The other survivors are Bristol-based Squadron Leader Johnny Johnson and Canadian Flight Sergeant Fred Sutherland.

Mr Stone said he was inspired by the tales of the extraordinary heroism of the three men.

"I want to pay tribute to the ingenuity and bravery of these survivors by painting their portraits for posterity.


"Every day now I read the obituaries of heroic nonagenarians and reflect on what a splendid generation we are losing. If I can help preserve the memory of another one of them, then I should."

Operation Chastise, now better known as the Dambusters Raid, was an attack on German dams carried out on May 16 and 17, 1943 by the Royal Air Force No 617 Squadron. They used a specially developed 'bouncing bomb' invented and developed by Barnes Wallis.

One hundred and forty-four young men took off from RAF Scampton in East Midlands.

Fifty-six failed to return, three were taken prisoner, and 53 paid with their lives.

"The raid is a remarkable story of determination, innovation and bravery. I felt compelled to pick up my brushes and record these brave gentlemen and what they represent for posterity."

Mr Stone has already completed a portrait of Squadron Leader Johnny Johnson, who was a bomb aimer from the original crew. Mr Stone is currently in Tauranga to complete a study of Les Munro. He will complete the large full size portrait on his return to London.

Mr Stone plans to visit Flight Sergeant Fred Sutherland in Canada later this year.

He said the men were initially reluctant to sit as they were modest men, but had agreed to do so as a memorial to those who were lost or have since passed on.

When completed, the three portraits will be exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in London.