Tory MP 'fearful' of rewriting of history after racial slur gravestone of Dambusters dog changed

Ellen Manning
·2 min read
Undated handout photo issued by the Imperial War Museum of Wing Commander Gibson and his crew as they board their Avro Lancaster A3-G (ED 932/G) for the Dams' raid,  (left to right) Flight Lieutenant R D Trevor-Roper DEM; Sergeant J Pulford; Flight Sergeant G A Deering RCAF; Pilot Officer F M Spafford DFM RAAF; Flight Lieutenant R E G Hutchinson DFC; Wing Commander Guy Gibson; Pilot Officer H T Taerum RCAF, as British pilots from the Royal Navy and RAF who will form a new 617 Squadron, are training alongside the US Marine Corps on the F35B Lightning II jet at MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina, USA ahead of the aircraft entering service from 2018. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday May 16, 2016. The new 617 Squadron will be a combined team of Royal Navy and RAF personnel who will fly from both land and sea, based from RAF Marham and deployed periodically on the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers. They will return to the UK in 2018 from their current training base of United States Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, USA. See PA story DEFENCE Dambusters. Photo credit should read: Imperial War Museum/Richard Bayford/PA Wire  NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
A gravestone to the canine mascot of 617 Squadron, the famous 'Dambusters', has been changed to remove its name. (Imperial War Museum/Richard Bayford/PA)

A former minister has said he is “fearful” of the rewriting of history after a memorial to a Dambusters’ dog – whose name is a racial slur – was changed.

The mascot for 617 Squadron, a black Labrador died on the day of its famous “bouncing bomb” raid on German dams in 1943.

His name had been used by Wing Commander Guy Gibson as a code word to say the dam had been breached.

A memorial at the Dambusters' Second World War base, RAF Scampton, bearing the dog's name has now been changed by the RAF, who said it did not want to give prominence to an offensive term that went against its ethos.

The move comes amid an ongoing debate over statues and memorials that include racist connotations or background, following the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol during Black Lives Matter protests.

Sir Edward Leigh MP asks a question about his amendment at the conclusion of the debate ahead of a vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit deal in the House of Commons, London. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sir Edward Leigh MP said history needs to be learned from, not rewritten. (PA)

But Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh, whose constituency includes Scampton, has written to the RAF station commander voicing his concerns about the ‘re-writing’ of history.

He said: “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.

Read more: Hundreds pay respects at funeral of Dambusters couple

“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.”

Film versions of the The Dam Busters have also edited out the dog’s name or given him the name Trigger.

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