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RAF proposal to move Dambusters dog’s grave rejected


Councillors have rejected proposals to exhume and relocate a dog buried at the former base of the Dambusters put forward amid concerns about the suitability of the grave’s location once the site is repurposed as accommodation for asylum seekers.

The RAF was requesting permission to excavate “any zooarchaeological remains” from the grave of Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s dog and relocate to RAF Marham in Norfolk. It fears that the grave carries “significant reputational risk” if it stays.

During an extraordinary planning meeting on Wednesday evening, West Lindsey district councillors unanimously voted down an application by RAF Heritage to relocate the dog to an airbase in Norfolk.

The dog belonged to Wg Cmdr Guy Gibson, leader of RAF 617 Squadron which carried out the famous Dambusters raid of 1943.

The black labrador, who had become the squadron’s mascot, died in a road accident on the eve of the raid and he was buried on the grounds of the Grade II-listed Hangar 2 at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

In May, the RAF Heritage submitted an application to West Lindsey district council to move the dog’s grave and memorial to RAF Marham in Norfolk.

Wg Cmdr Erica Ferguson, of RAF Heritage, 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 Cmdr 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.”

Several bodies, including the Scampton Heritage Group and Historic England, recommended the council refuse the application. Historic England said: “The story of Guy Gibson’s dog is part of the wider story of Bomber Command, Wg Cmdr Guy Gibson and the Dambusters raid, all of which are centred at Scampton.

In March, the government announced plans to use RAF Scampton as a site to house up to 2,000 asylum seekers.

West Lindsey district council launched legal action against the Home Office in response, saying it did not consider the base to be appropriate and that it would affect plans for a £300m regeneration programme for the site.

The high court rejected the council’s application for a temporary injunction that would have prevented the Home Office from continuing with its plans while a full legal challenge is heard.