17 July 2020 16:42
Image copyright Other Image caption The RAF said the gravestone had been replaced "as part of an ongoing review of its historical assets" Replacing a gravestone honouring the Dambusters' dog - whose name is a racial slur - was "absolutely disgraceful", critics said. The black Labrador dog's name was removed from the memorial by RAF Scampton because it "did not want to give prominence to an offensive term". More than 3,300 people have signed a petition calling for the name of 617 Squadron's mascot to be put back. Dambusters historian and author James Holland praised the RAF's move. He said removing the pejorative name was "not changing history" and should not overshadow the "heroism" of the dog's owner, Guy Gibson.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Labrador, hit and killed by a car on 16 May 1943, was owned by the squadron's wing commander, Guy Gibson (centre) The Labrador died on the day of the famous "bouncing bomb" raid on German dams in 1943 and a memorial is at the Dambusters' World War Two base in Lincolnshire. But the decision to remove the name has prompted fierce opposition. Posting on Facebook, Sharon said: "Absolutely disgraceful! Utterly dismayed at this decision. History cannot be changed, but [it] is what we learn from to make our future.
"We should concentrate on the here and now to make this a better place." Another user, Dorothy, said: "Horrendous. What is the world coming to? The dog is part of history. Why on earth should they find it offensive? "Are we not supposed to buy black dogs or cats now for risk of becoming being called racist?" Dee described the move as "a disgrace". Image copyright PA Media Image caption The dog - which the BBC is not naming - was a "drinking buddy" for squadron members and would be given beer before passing out, the RAF Museum said Sarah Hobday, who started the online petition, said she wanted the original "memorial plaque back where it belongs". Mr Holland, who presented BBC TV documentary "Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the German Dams", described the headstone replacement as "brilliant". I think that is sensitive, it's honouring the fact that the history is still there," he said. "For those who are against it, I would say that it's also impacting on how we regard Guy Gibson. Because the accusation is that Guy Gibson was a racist by having a dog called that name. Whereas actually he should be remembered for his heroism in what he achieved, which was absolutely remarkable. "I think it's much better that we don't allow ourselves to be distracted by a pejorative name of his pet dog that was run over the night before the raid." Image copyright PA Media/NZBCA Archives Image caption The dog's death was kept from the airmen as it was feared they might see it as a bad omen Follow BBC East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Send your story ideas to [email protected] ES News email The latest headlines in your inbox twice a day Monday - Friday plus breaking news updates Enter your email address Continue Please enter an email address Email address is invalid Fill out this field Email address is invalid You already have an account. Please log in Register with your social account or click here to log in I would like to receive lunchtime headlines Monday - Friday plus breaking news alerts, by email Update newsletter preferences The headstone of a grave to the Dambusters' dog – whose name is a racial slur – has been changed. The animal was buried at RAF Scampton base after the 617 Squadron undertook probably the most famous raid in the history of the force consisting of a low-level night attack on German dams in 1943. Wing Commander Guy Gibson used his dog's name as a code word to say the dam has been breached, with the Labrador Retriever dying on the same night as the raid. The headstone bearing the dog's name N***** has now been removed, while film versions of the The Dambusters have either edited out the name or given him the moniker Trigger instead. Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh, whose constituency includes Scampton, wrote to the RAF station commander saying: "Undoubtedly we are both more sensitive and more sensible today when it comes to the delicateness of racialist and derogatory terminology which had been used with unfortunate informality in the past. "It is perfectly understandable that this is a tricky matter to which there are no simple or easy solutions." "I am, however, very fearful of our ability today to erase or re-write history," "The past needs to be explained, taught about, and learned from – not re-written. Wing Cdr Gibson's dog was much loved by the Dambusters and was killed while he was on a raid risking his life to defend our country."