‘Desecration’ of the Dambusters
Fears that heroes’ base will become migrant centre
THE Dambusters’ historic HQ is in danger of being ‘desecrated’ amid a proposal to turn it into a refugee accommodation centre, a leading historian warned yesterday.
James Holland said a replica of the office of 617 Squadron’s commanding officer, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, containing original artefacts, has been ‘cleared out’ and metal railings put around the officers’ mess.
Fears are mounting that RAF Scampton – from where 19 Lancaster bombers departed for the raid in 1943 – is being made ready to process 1,500 asylum-seekers by the spring.
Last night, the son of one of the regiment’s wartime veterans described it as a ‘kick in the teeth’ for the men who fought and died in the elite unit.
While the Lincolnshire airfield is only officially being considered for use as a refugee centre, there is concern the decision had already been taken after government contractor Serco posted an advert for staff to be based there. Mr Holland, a bestselling author,
‘A kick in the teeth for the brave men that served’
said: ‘It’s the utter desecration of one of the most important pieces of real estate in our aviation history, not just for the Dambusters but for a century of service.
‘It was the site of a World War One airfield and is the single most intact and complete 1930s airfield in this country.
‘Refugees need to be housed – but it doesn’t need to be at a historically rich airfield in a county desperate for levelling up projects.’
Home Office and Ministry of Defence sources yesterday insisted they have ‘no intent to demolish the officers’ mess’.
An RAF spokesman said the museum and replica of Guy Gibson’s office were closed last year, and all historical artefacts ‘suitably preserved’.
The base itself was also shut down.
Mr Holland, chairman of the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival, said he is among many historians who plan to sign open letters – being organised by aviation historian Victoria Taylor – to Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman, calling on them to rethink the refugee centre proposal. Pub landlord comedian Al Murray who copresents the We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast with Mr Holland, is also understood to be among those who will sign.
Yesterday the son of a 617 Squadron hero branded the refugee centre proposal as ‘shocking’.
Flight Lieutenant Ernie Twells served with 617 and 619 Squadrons during the Second World War. His missions included the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz, and raids on U-boat pens and V1 and V2 rocket sites.
His son Ernest, 77, from Barkestone, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘My dad would be very, very upset. It’s a kick in the teeth for the brave men that served.’
The move threatens to derail a £300million plan by West Lindsey District Council to safeguard the airbase’s heritage. Richard Butroid, a Lincolnshire county councillor, said that if the Goverment went ahead with the refugee centre ‘they are going against investment and jobs – and Scampton and its heritage will be decimated’.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We have always been upfront about the unprecedented pressure on our asylum system. We continue to work with local authorities to identify accommodation options.’
A spokesman for the RAF said it valued its heritage and would ensure the ‘ unique history of Scampton and its personnel will not be forgotten’.