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Application submitted to relocate Dambusters’ dog from historic site

An application to remove the grave of the Dambusters’ dog at RAF Scampton has been submitted to the local council.

The 617 Squadron, based at the RAF site in Lincolnshire, undertook a low-level night attack on German dams in 1943 and was one of the most famous raids in the history of the force.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson used his dog’s name, which is a racial slur, as a code word to say the dam had been breached – with the Labrador retriever dying the same night of the raid.

The application was submitted on Tuesday to West Lindsay District Council to remove the grave from Hangar Two, one of four Grade II-listed C-Type hangars at RAF Scampton, and move it along with any remains to RAF Marham in King’s Lynn.

It comes as West Lindsey District Council goes to the High Court on Thursday in a bid to stop the Home Office’s plans to redevelop the site and house asylum seekers at RAF Scampton.

The plans were officially announced in March to house asylum seekers at the RAF base despite talks of a £300 million redevelopment that would see the base used for heritage and leisure activities.

The application to remove the grave, submitted by the RAF heritage team, said: “As there is now no guarantee of a sustainable heritage focused future for Scampton with careful management and interpretation of the story of the raid and Wg Cdr Gibson’s dog, we believe the grave site is at risk and carries significant reputational risk given the racial slur now associated with the dog’s name.

“We feel it would be better to return the marker and any remains to 617 Squadron. The dog was one of the Squadron’s mascots and would take care of the story for the foreseeable future.

“Ideally the grave would remain at Scampton as part of the important story in the location hugely significant parts of the RAF, and indeed the Nation’s, story but the future is now too uncertain to recommend this course of action.

“Recent video footage of a group known as ‘Abandoned’ who broke onto the base and accessed the Officers Mess increases concern over the future of the heritage fabric of the site.”

In 2020, the original gravestone, with the racial slur on, was replaced with a gravestone that told the story of Wg Cdr Gibson’s dog.

In a statement from Scampton Holdings Ltd, representing RAF Scampton, it said: “In the hearts and minds of a significant proportion of the British public the dog’s story is synonymous with the Dambuster story.

“The links between RAF wartime aircrew and pets are well known, with many squadrons keeping dogs as mascots to provide comfort in down-time amidst stressful flying operations which went hand-in-hand with the loss of friends and colleagues.

“The dog featured in both Guy Gibson’s biography and in the 1955 film The Dam Busters.

“Scampton Holdings Limited continues to work closely with West Lindsey District Council and both entities strongly encourage the Home Office to engage in open and honest discourse about the future of former RAF base Scampton to ensure that the heritage and history of the site is preserved in Lincolnshire for the region’s people and its economic growth.”